Saturday, 6 August 2016

Entitlement to anger

‘If we were to live, we had to be free of anger. The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may be the dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcoholics these things are poison.’ (Alcoholics Anonymous)

Someone asked me, ‘when something bad happens, are we entitled to be livid?’ The thing about being livid: we’re entitled to be livid, just as we’re entitled to kick a dog when it’s down, or to command the tide to turn back. The question is not one of entitlement but one of morality and utility. Being livid when something does not go to plan does not further a solution; it does not promote our mental health; in fact, it is often deleterious to both. There is the question of kindness, too. We may act poorly, but there are consequences; we have freedom of choice (that’s the entitlement bit) but the choice is tied to outcome and the response of the world to our choice. If we are cruel, or unfair, or punitive, the world will likely respond in kind. Regarding the source of the anger, it is impossible to go through life without expectations of some sort. When I hire people to do a job, I anticipate the person will do the job; the more spectacularly they fail, the greater the anger. However, just as when I’m driving and there is a sudden obstruction in the road necessitating a swerve to the left, when I encounter something that is not in accordance with what I anticipated, I respond: either by changing the situation (if I have agency) or accepting it (if I don’t). What helps this is by approaching any situation with a ‘plan B’, in other words knowing what I will do if things do not proceed as anticipated. When something fails, I switch to plan B. To develop the driving analogy: if you’re not going too fast, there is time to swerve if there is a sudden obstruction. Ultimately, however, there is always God. By that I mean that I switch my allegiance to God and away from material circumstances. I trust that God will provide me with everything I need spiritually to be at peace whatever happens, rather than relying on getting my own way in a volatile, mercurial, and sometimes treacherous world for me to be at peace.



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