An Angry Mob of One

Expressing anger is difficult for some of us. Like Suna.

No, no, I’m not angry about anything right now! Everything’s just fine. If you’re looking for drama, I’m not serving that up today. I’m just thinking about anger.

The book club meeting I attended on Zoom (of course, no in-person meetings for me!) today got on the topic of things we struggle with, and I brought up the fact that I totally suck at getting angry. The very nice women in the meeting were quite supportive of me, and the consensus was not to expect to be great at something you don’t have a lot of experience with. They were right!

Even as a child, I was discouraged from getting angry. If my little brother pestered me, I was told to, “Just ignore him.” And if I did get angry and yell or hit back after he slapped me, I’d get spanked. So, I fairly quickly learned to bottle up any anger I had and to arrange things to be as peaceful as possible in my little world.

Hence, I ended up an Enneagram Number Nine. As the website says:

Key Motivations: Want to create harmony in their environment, to avoid conflicts and tension, to preserve things as they are, to resist whatever would upset or disturb them.

Enneagram Type 9

That probably also explains my initial resistance to change, even the good kind!

Another thing it explains is why I’m always trying to attain some sort of spiritual transcendence; it’s another way to escape the real world. At least I have the sense to know that “the only way out is through,” and am coming to terms with the whole “life is suffering” concept.

I just want peace, calm, and goodness.

Anyhow, I am just not good at getting angry. Not one bit. I can’t be like Anita, who often declares she’s angry at this that or the other, but she just expresses herself strongly. I keep thinking, “Why is she angry at that? I’m sad, or…some other emotion.” That’s because if I try to express anger, it scares the pee out of people. You know, I also learned from my family or origin how to have a very sharp passive-aggressive tongue. Oopsie.

I can actually remember the two or three times I let my anger spill out. After one time, I was never able to bring myself into a particular community again. I just left and never came back. I’ve only let myself express anger at my spouse a couple of times in all these years. I just get snippy on occasion then over-apologize for it.

Dang, I need to learn how to legitimately express anger when it’s appropriate without alienating people forever, or turning into a sniveling ball of self-abuse. Those seem to be my main anger outlets. I’m just not equipped to be an angry mob of one, I guess.

As my colleagues in the book club pointed out, it helps to remember you’re angry at a situation. (And I point out that it helps to remember people are doing the best they can; though when I’m angry at an institution, that’s hard to apply.) If kindness is my main value, I should apply it to both the object of my anger AND me, right?

This is pitiful, I know, but I Googled “effectively express anger” (because, how else do you figure things out these days?) and I got this:

  1. Address An Issue Immediately Before It Escalates. …
  2. Take A Walk. …
  3. Try A Simple Breathing Technique. …
  4. Try Getting In Some Rigorous Exercise. …
  5. Journaling Can Be Another Great Way To Process Anger. …
  6. Meditate On It.
    Here’s the source of this list, so you’ll know I didn’t do this lack of parallel construction

Well, I do all that! That’s not expressing anger, it’s dealing with anger. Those are all the tools I use to maintain the peace and not rock the boat.

I turned to that oracle of knowledge, WikiHow, who went through all the above anger mitigation techniques that I already do, then FINALLY gave some advice on how to express it! That’s what I wanted!


Choose to express your anger assertively.
 Assertive expression of anger is the most constructive way to express your anger. Assertiveness cultivates mutual respect for each other. You can still express your anger, but you do so in a way that doesn’t accuse the other person. You have mutual respect for each other.

  • Assertive communication emphasizes that both people’s needs are important. To communicate assertively, give the facts without making accusations. Simply state how the action made you feel. Stick to what you know and not what you think you know. Then ask the other person if he is willing to talk. [9]
  • For example, you might say: “I was hurt and angry because I felt like you were belittling my project when you laughed during my presentation. Can we talk and work this out?”

    That one’s from How to Express Anger without Hurting People (with pictures).

Enough with the background colors. I didn’t mean to make you all sick.

Yeah! That’s it! Work on my tone!

After reading the information, I conclude that it makes sense, and sounds a lot like things I’d read in all my “how to get along with people” courses and such. I know I try to do that, and sometimes do. I just need to work on my tone, maybe.

In any case, if you have an anger problem, whether inability to express it or expressing it too much, how have you dealt with it? There’s so much anger in the world right now, it might be helpful to band together and make an effort to say what upsets us without turning the audience away completely.

I shall now go look at nice, happy animals and stop with all this self-analysis.

Brave Suna, Part 2B: Public Bravery

Since we’ve added a very appropriate new focus of concern for the people of the country where I live, I’ve found it harder and harder to concentrate and more and more difficult to see the positive in things. This is the other area where I need to be brave. Let’s hope the horse stuff helps me.

It’s been bad enough watching people turn dealing with a pandemic into a partisan thing, but now I see the exact same thing going on with protests about the death of a black man at the hands of a police officer (and more). People seem WAY more interested in deflecting from the actual issue (systematic racism) to other issues, in the most polarizing way possible. I am just sick about it.

First I Want to Say This

NOT ALL POLICE OFFICERS ARE SOCIOPATHIC KILLERS.
NOT ALL PROTESTERS ARE LOOTERS.
THIRD PARTIES, LIKE ANARCHISTS, WHITE SUPREMACISTS, RUSSIAN AGENTS, AND THE LIKE WANT TO DISTRACT US FROM THIS:
OUR SOCIETY MUST TAKE CONCRETE ACTION TO DEAL WITH RACISM OR WE ARE NOT A JUST AND FREE SOCIETY LIKE WE CLAIM TO BE.

Well, Suna, what qualifies you to say this?

Does personal experience count? I KNOW more than one ethical and principled police officer. In person. I’ve hugged them. I KNOW more than one passionate and peaceful protester who is willing to take action to improve the lives of black and brown people in this country. In person. I’ve hugged them. I’ve given birth to them.

That said, I am totally aware that telling people how to think and feel is not a useful tactic, because people will believe what they are already primed to believe. I’m primed to believe good things about liberals, socialists, actual communists (the very few real ones, not the “all media members are commies ones”), non-sensationalist news outlets, and intelligent people with backgrounds in the subjects they are talking about. I also think there are capitalists who try to do good in the world, and businesses that aren’t out to smash poor people.

So, news that fits in with my world view is more likely to be believed by me. I totally get it that if you are primed to believe liberals hate Good Americans, and all the associated beliefs, you will believe other angles. We’re just stuck with that. Can’t fix it all by myself.

What Can Brave Suna Do?

Or brave you, or anyone, for that matter. I get conflicting advice. One school of thought is to not let myself get all worked up about things not in my sphere of control. I can’t change people’s minds. I can’t cure diseases. I can’t make people learn to be less racist (other than me). So, I should just let go and stare at nature some more. Bravery, in this case, is being brave enough to live the Serenity Prayer, darn it.

I’m trying.

But, I need the wisdom to know what I can and can’t control, right? Another set of advice I get tells me I need to speak up. I need to let the world know that the stereotypes of people like me are not all true. I need to not only say I’m an ally but BE an ally to people struggling. I need to listen to them and to learn where I can do better and maybe even make a difference.

And sometimes when I listen, I hear that, dear old white liberal lady, it’s not your time or place to protest. You have lived a life of privilege and have no clue what it’s like to be marginalized. Shut up and let the people who know the issues first hand figure out what to do. It’s not your job. I get that.

It’s hard to be a person with empath traits when there is a lot of hurting going on. You take on the pain and suffering of others around you, even if you don’t experience it yourself, but of COURSE you aren’t directly experiencing it. You want so badly to help, to make the world a better place for all of us, but you may not even have the right tools.

A sure-fire way to get eggs thrown at your house? Or worse?

So, what can you or I do to be brave about our convictions in public?

It feels really inauthentic, and to be honest, chickenshit, to do nothing when you see your friends’ neighborhoods being destroyed, your children putting their lives in danger to support others, other people’s children being killed just because they look a certain way, your friends’ husbands feeling uncomfortable in their own neighborhoods. All that. It won’t do. It sure won’t make our society any better.

One thing I can do is model the behavior I’d like to see in others and hope someone notices, I guess. I sure can’t order people to notice their biases (I DO try to notice mine). We can all give that one a try.

Plus, I guess I must speak up publicly. As much as I really dislike being labeled and insulted, I will calmly state what I believe, and when I hear false information, present another viewpoint. That may not be much, but it is one way to make it clear that the vast majority of us, no matter what label we put on ourselves, just want ourselves and our neighbors to live in peace and safety, even if they look different from us, worship differently from us, or love differently from how we do.

Why is that so hard? Humans, you disappoint me, deeply. And I’m human. I’m not proud of it right now.

I’m physically sick. I’d flee, but there’s no place to go. Must be brave and stick it out with the rest of the humans, many of whom are in much worse shape than me. George Floyd doesn’t have that option anymore.

Pandemic Pouting

Honestly and truly, I have been doing my best to be a good citizen (or sheep, depending on who’s perspective you’re taking) about this whole COVID-19 issue. I really haven’t gone anywhere other than back and forth from the ranch to the office, I’ve Zoomed with people I want to talk to, I’ve dutifully sat on the porch and enjoyed nature…all that stuff. And I’m truly grateful for the family and friends who care for us all.

Yes, I still have the dogs.

Still, it’s okay to mourn things you’ve lost, even if you know it’s for the best. Here’s a great blog post by Rev. Joanna Crawford that hits home. She concludes:

You can’t logic away feelings, nor should you. We have to just live with complexity. Relief that the government is doing the right thing to protect lives. And sadness for the loss of the ordinary dumb things that before we could just take for granted.

You Can Be Sad With Decisions You Agree With, Boots and Blessings, April 20, 2020

So right this minute I want to declare to the world that I’m really, really sad to see more and more of my favorite Austin restaurants closing forever. Sure, it’s all for the best that we can’t eat out (and in my case can’t even be in Austin), but damn, I will miss the Threadgills Old Number One where so many of my friends have played, the Magnolia Cafe in the beautiful (but expensive) location, etc. I’m very sad for all the people who worked there, their suppliers, and the people who owned the place.

I still have sunsets, even ones with ominous clouds.

I’m sad that oil futures went negative. Income from wells was the source of income that let Lee retire to focus on doing good in the community. Everything’s closing down. Whether I agree or not that fossil fuels are great, I know many people who earn their livings in that business, and who will not be bringing home paychecks for their families. (I am relieved that our nephew, Chris, has many skills that are useful outside of oil fields and can start his business renovating old houses soon.)

Nature is still everywhere, even in our dirty little pond, which is full of tadpoles and bugs.

I’m pissed off that because people are unable to pay their rents (Lee’s second source of income), we’ve had to lay off Mandi (who is fine; she’ll make more on unemployment than we pay her, and we do plan to bring her back). Laying off your friend is never the highlight of one’s day. Speaking of layoffs, I’m also pissed that my boss in Austin, you know, the best boss I ever had, got laid off, leaving a big hole in my team.

Did I mention I still have dogs?

And darn it, I miss seeing my friends and my family. I miss Anita and Declan and Rollie and my Austin neighbors and coworkers. I miss my Cameron friends and my sister.

While we’re at it, I want to GO SOMEWHERE. ANYWHERE. I think I’m gonna get in my car and just drive down dirt roads for a while, just to see some other scenery than FM 485 and Travis Avenue in Cameron.

And I have the Hermits’ Rest. And the porches. And Kathleen, heading to the porch.

Yeppers, I still have many wonderful small things to be grateful for, and I am glad I am able to keep myself relatively safe (many don’t have that chance; have you read about how the Navajo Nation is overwhelmed by the virus?). But:

It is absolutely okay to mourn the many small things you’ve lost.

I’m not gonna dwell on this stuff. Just putting it out there to help me let it go, take a deep breath and get back to that one step at a time thing. Hoping the same for you.