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Lions Roar : July 2016
yer who delivers long speeches about how horrible the world is today, everything’s only getting worse, blah blah blah. Then the revenge fantasies started up, with the creation of a series of perfect retorts that I visualized myself riding back and yelling at my night-ruiner. Then I heard yet another inner lawyer—this time apparently a Buddhist—argue back: “You should be above all this. You just taught a meditation class! Clearly, you’re doing your practice all wrong....” So my mind ping-ponged back and forth between “I’m going to tell that guy what’s what” and “I shouldn’t be feeling this angry.” Anger, though, doesn’t pay attention to any such shoulds. Anger and other emotions like fear are core survival impulses, and they will never be displaced by logic or reason or being told to just “go away.” Such inner speeches are decoys, false refuges that keep us from feeling the actual, physical sensations of our emotions. The experience of anger is difficult to sit with, and it can feel easier and safer to retreat into our heads and listen as our thoughts prattle on about the unfairness of life. But as I can attest, our resentments don’t alleviate our anger. After spending my childhood with a drunk, violent father, I carried outraged victimization stories around for years. All they did was continu- ally reactivate my rage rather than relieve it. Let’s look at another example of poor emotion regulation. A few years back, I got a call from my bank: “Hello, Mr. Korda. We recently had a teller who revealed customers’ PIN numbers to a known felon. Funds were subsequently emptied out of some accounts, and yours was involved. We’re going to send you a form that you should fill out, and then wait to get your money back. And, we recommend that you purchase our identity-fraud protection plan.” I became furious and laid into this poor bank employee. But in addition to being unpleasant, my reaction was a complete waste of time and energy. All I needed to do was ask to speak to a supervisor. I eventually did and got everything sorted. My temper tantrum hadn’t relieved any stress. Instead, I’d walked around furious for days afterward, feeling mistreated. And the decision to call and offer the identify-fraud program hadn’t been the bank employee’s choice—she was simply following protocol. All my venting provided was an illusion that I could externalize and thereby relieve my anger. PHOTOBYANTOINEBOUREAU/MILLENNIUMIMAGES,UK LION’S ROAR | JULY 2016 53