As far as emotions go, I’d say happiness is definitely one that takes maintenance, like a house plant. Sadness comes in like the weather, washing over us like a cold rain, or swelling within us like a rising tide. Both are dodgy, independent emotions, pulling our strings with little involvement from us directly. But anger, that’s an entirely different animal.
Anger is a ball of heat that we summon up like Wanda Maximoff does with her red energy blasts. But it doesn’t manifest as something cool like that — rather as regrettable texts, emails, Slack convos, or emotional monologues peppered with comically placed swears, eye rolls, and obscene gestures.
Anger can feel great. It can feel right, even, filling us with a sense of empowerment and righteous justification. But unlike happiness or sadness, which can be experienced in more solitary ways, anger effects others, which makes the price of that specific emotion very high.
It’s so easy to walk around angry, and there’s certainly a lot to be angry about. But letting anger off the leash will likely have two outcomes:
1. You’ll get eaten up first.
2. Everyone who gets close to you will get eaten up as well.
As you’re reading this, possibly thinking of the last time you got so angry that you WISHED you could throw magic red Wanda balls at the source of your anger, you might have a question or concern that you’d like me to field for Hot Probs. If so, feel free to share it HERE. Don’t worry, it’s 100 percent anonymous, and there’s no question that I’ll look down on. And maybe I’ll help you, or maybe I’ll just give you that laugh you need to get through the rest of the day.
The Hot Prob:
I have so much anger that I carry around with me. Multiple times a day, I find myself distracted by old memories that upset me. Even if it’s something small, I’ll sit and fantasize about what I could’ve and should’ve said. It’s draining to be so angry all the time. But how do I let it go?
Well, good thing you’ve come to me with this problem because I’ve got a little secret for you: I, Kelly McClure, have never been wrong in my life.
Doubt it all you want, but it’s true. In 44 years of life, and varying degrees of success, I have never entered into an argument or disagreement that didn’t place me 100 percent on the gleaming pure side of justice and undeniable correctness.
Have I lost jobs because I’ve never been wrong? Absolutely. Have a few of my relationships ended because it seems that some people can’t deal with my perfection? Affirmative to that, too. Has it been fun? Nope, but I’ve realized in 44 years that my stubborn anger has been the real problem.
The very reason I created this column is because I learned so much by spending so much time being wrong — about almost everything a person could be wrong about.
Over the years, I was so good at being a capital B b*tch that I should have a shelf full of awards for it. I wasted so much of my life trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with everyone else that I recently, like in the past 10 years or so, realized that the problem was me. And that sucked because once you realize that YOU are the fuel for your anger, you have work to do.
I don’t know what it is that you might be angry about. You could be angry in a way that I was — angry at the world. Angry because the butter slid off your toast. Or, you could have justifiable grievances that you replay over and over in your mind, wishing you had an opportunity to put things right.
But guess what: It’s all the same. Whether you’re angry because someone stepped on your toe 20 years ago, or angry because you don’t like the way someone at work speaks to you, that anger is your responsibility, not theirs. You will never “teach them.” You will never “win.” All you’ll end up doing is giving yourself an ulcer, and a heap of bad days, when you could just shrug it off and move past it. (Not saying this is easy to do, by the way)
The best advice I can give to you, or the children that I will never have (because I now have like three remaining eggs) is that if you’re angry and want to “get back” at someone, the only way to do that is to ice them out of your mind. Erase them and put your energy towards building a life of contentment, however that looks for you. Your parent probably calls this “killing them with kindness,” but I don’t think we need to be killing anyone with anything here.
An even better route is to work towards a life so happy and self-confident that no one, and nothing, can touch it. That’s so much more valuable than anger. That’s pure power.
Kelly McClure is a writer who has written for NY Magazine, GQ, The Hairpin, Rolling Stone, and more. Find more of her work here.