Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Overcoming Your Temper

So you're ready to take the next step and make your relationship exclusive, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, but you don't want to say the wrong thing to your adoring girlfriend such as, "You bitch-ugly lying whore!" or make the wrong move such as breaking her skull like a fine China. Fear not! For I have devised an easy-to-follow philosophy for overcoming your unnecessary aggressive tendencies.

Most people have some sort of temper. Some people are more reserved and only activate their tempers the few times it might actually be justified. Other people wear their tempers on their sleeve and fly into a blind rage at the slightest provocation. Waitress accidentally brings a Diet Coke instead of a regular one? That bitch is going down! You'll be sure you're waiting for her in her shower when she gets home, growling menacingly with every breath. Eventually, though, you have to make the conscious decision that you don't want to be this sort of barbaric monster anymore, and once you do, you can begin to counter your aggression with patience and reason. Until then, it will just be boiling close to the surface, ready to break out at a moment's notice.

The other night, a customer was walking out the door and he said, "Have a good night!" as he was leaving. The next guy in line, whom you could tell was a hot-head anyway by the unnatural red glow of his skin, the sneer of derision permanently branded onto his face, and the veins bulging out from his neck, forehead, arms, and such, said, "Did he just call me a faggot?"

::Sigh:: "No, he said 'Have a good night.'"

"No, that fucker just called me a faggot! He better not be out there when I leave!"

"Nobody called you a faggot. Even if he did, what difference does it make? You know you're not; who cares what he thinks? He doesn't know you."

"Nobody calls me a faggot. I'm going to go out there and break his face."

"If you get into a fight in my parking lot, I'm going to have to call the cops on you, and I don't want to have to call the cops on you."

"Call the cops if you want, but he's not going to get away with that!"

So the guy leaves. I see the car the other guy was in pulling out, so I figure it's done and start taking the next two people in line. About three minutes later, the same car goes flying across the lot with this skinny little fucker hanging onto the passenger's side window trying to throw punches into the car while holding on for dear life. Basically, this kid tried to take on a car because he thought someone called him a name. Someone didn't mentally develop much past the fifth grade.

The whole time his girlfriend was shouting at him to get back in their car and leave it alone. If I was her, I wouldn't be his girlfriend very much longer for two reasons. One, someone who is that touchy about being called a faggot is probably hiding something from himself, and two, someone that volatile won't take too long to turn it on her. Even if he doesn't, it's just embarrassing. It's an embarrassment to her to have to cart around this angry, violent neanderthal of a man who routinely makes spectacles of himself in public over improperly perceived transgressions. It's an embarrassment to her when everyone regards her with pity because they know the only future he has is a prison sentence and the only thing he's going to give her is an illegitimate child and no support.

So when you have a violent temper, how do you learn to curb it? The first step is to realize what an embarrassment it is for yourself and the people you associate with. This might be a problem, though, because when you're in a rage, your anger makes you feel justified. If other people don't seem to agree, you feel like they're not understanding it from your perspective and you try to build their wrath to match your own. However, in hindsight, you generally realize that your level of hostility was well above what the situation called for, and then you feel embarrassed.

The key is to realize that you don't want to feel that way anymore. You don't want to be that way anymore. Then you can recognize your temper for what it really is. It's nothing more than righteous indignation resulting from a bloated sense of self-entitlement. Self-entitlement is something that America breeds, and it's one of the downfalls of a capitalistic society. Everybody thinks they are entitled to whatever they want, no matter how unrealistic it might be. If they don't get it, it makes them mad. It feels unjustified and they feel slighted because they've been brought up to believe that everyone gets exactly what they want, exactly when they want it. The more enlightened and rational thinkers realize this is not the case, but as I've said, certain people benefit from keeping the majority of the population unenlightened and irrational.

This being said, you're left with a choice. Do you want to continue being one of the ignorant masses, demanding unrealistic expectations from society without any real contribution? Or do you want to find a rational and equitable solution for a problem you're presented? Everybody feels anger. Although it is technically a negative emotion, there are times when hostility is justified. However, these incidents are very few and very far between. Name-calling should not result in a murderous rampage. Your favorite restaurant being fresh out of flounder should not result in dinner and a show. A waitress spilling your coffee shouldn't result in
this. Civilized people don't use violence, hostility, and agression to solve minor problems in everyday life. In fact, it generally just makes problems worse.

So once you have come to realize that your temper needs anywhere from a bit to a great deal of scaling back, the hardest part is learning to control it. This is the hardest part because it involves balancing your anger with logic. Before you build that rage, first figure out if the level of hositility is justified for the infraction. If you take the moment to rationalize, you'll realize that you were about to make an embarrassment of yourself over something that should have resulted in no more than a grumble of disappointment. If someone offends you, find out if there is a peaceful way to reach an accord. If someone calls you a name, realize that they know nothing about you and ignore it. If someone tries to get you to return their level of hostility, refuse them the satisfaction.

Nothing pisses off a temperamental person more than not returning their level of hositility and not rising to their challenge. An angry person wants to feel justified in their anger, so they want you to get angry with them or even get angry at them. The problem is that anger escalates into violence. If you return their anger, they'll either feel justified or threatened to take it up a notch, and then you have to take it up a notch to meet their anger, and it spirals out of control very quickly. However, if you return their hostility with calmness, it just makes them look stupid. I don't know how many people I've had yell and scream at me over their own ignorance, but when I refuse to match their hostility, spectators tell me they do two things: 1) Wonder what that person's problem is, and 2) wonder how I can just stand there and take it. To the latter, I shrug and tell them that I realize that it is their problem and not mine, so I don't let it affect me.

If someone calls you a name, they're doing it specifically to try to get a rise out of you. Simply refuse to give them the satisfaction. Why let them think they have that control over you? Name-calling shouldn't bother anybody once you realize it for what it is. Even if they do happen to randomly tap into one of your hidden insecurities, it's not like they know it. If you refuse to react, then they won't know it. Don't let it bother you because they don't know you. Recognize that the problem is theirs and not yours and you should be able to temper your reaction.

Finally, cut down your alcohol consumption. Alcohol is not necessarily a requirement for abuse, but if a person is already inclined, alcohol will certainly accelerate the process. The key to controlling your anger is through a sound, rational thought process, and the first thing alcohol inhibits is the rational part of the brain, leaving nothing to counteract the natural aggressive tendencies. In other words, the more you drink, the more inclined you will be to fight, and the less of a reason you will need to do it. I'm not asking people to stop drinking, however I will ask that people cut down on their alcohol consumption, especially if they're already prone to violence. Like with anything else, you reach a saturation point where you can't get any more drunk, and then it becomes far less enjoyable. If you are going to drink, drink just to get the early buzz, where it takes the edge off but you still have most of your facilities. You'll save money and have fewer regrets in the long run.

That's it. If you want to control your anger, you have to realize it for what it is, in most cases anymore, a response to an overinflated, false sense of self-important entitlement. You have to use logic and reason to determine whether your impulsive response to a situation is justified or if it would lead to nothing but embarrassment for yourself and those around you, and then you have to use the same logic and reason to choose a more dignified response. Stop reacting to other people's problems as if they reflect somehow on yourself, and cut down or cut out your alcohol consumption if you're a naturally aggressive person. I used to be prone to self-righteous, angry outbursts, but I have made the determination myself that it was not the type of person I wanted to be. I hated being that way, and it embarrassed me, so I taught myself to employ logic and reason to a situation to calm my temper and be a more rational, peaceful person.


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