I know exactly what I’m going to do. Don’t tell anyone. I’m going to put on a ski mask, find where they live in Brooklyn, show up at their door when they leave for work about six in the morning, and hit them with a baseball bat. I might not even wear a ski mask. I want the person to know it’s me.
And what did this person do to me? In this particular case, something small. Not even worth talking about. He blocked an opportunity for me that I no longer care about. But still, he did it. He did it to hurt me. And now I’m angry.
It’s not like other people in Brooklyn. People who maybe aborted my baby. Or people who fired me from a job. Or people who wrote articles slandering me. I barely think of them. It was nothing like that.
What a waste of time, this anger thing is. It inserts itself into the oddest moments. It turns daydreams into nightmares. It turns nightmares into waking up in the middle of the night, heavy breathing, sweating, an erection.
And that’s this one person. What about the other people. “I did this, this, and this for him, and now he won’t even do X, Y, or Z for me.” I can sit here all day long with that. What a waste that would be. I can make a big list. I can be angry all the time if I want.
There’s my favorite Zen story: two monks by the river. A prostitute trying to cross. One of the monks carries her across, sets her down, then the two monks keep on going. The monk who didn’t carry her gets more and more agitated. Finally, “why did you do that? You know we are not supposed to even touch women like that!”
And the monk who carried her said, “I left her by the river. Why are you still carrying her?”
That’s the secret of productivity and forgiveness. To always think, why am I still carrying her?
But to elaborate further (like I do), I’m a strong believer in several methods of forgiveness.
A) Taking a break. I’m upset RIGHT NOW. So take a timeout. “I’m going to think about this later when I’m maybe more rational.” i.e. not three in the morning, waking up from a dream about a baseball bat. Blood all over my midnight hands.
Always think of the exact moment you schedule for yourself. 3PM today I will think about it. Then see what happens then.
B) Understanding. In the incident I’m thinking of this morning I know why the person is upset at me and did the things he did. I went on two dates with his wife long before he even knew her. So even though I’ve never done anything to him, he has some anger towards me. There’s nothing I can do about it. He feels he is the victim. But I don’t have to be a victim.
C) The Alien Technique. I like to wake up pretending I’m an alien. My mission from the mother galaxy is to land in random bodies across the Universe and figure out where I am and solve their problems. Today I woke up in this body. Odd, I feel anger about something.
I explore it in my body. Oh, it’s nothing. Better to focus on getting this body in shape, happy, productive. I have 24 hours in this body. Who is this beautiful woman lying next to me. What food can I eat today? What’s the best things I can do with it. Clearly the wrongs I suffered in the past are not worth spending time on. I’m an alien only here for 24 hours after all.
The Alien Technique is surprisingly powerful. I have modifications on it. But that’s for another post.
D) Forget. Someone wrongs me. I say , “ok, I’m going to forget about this eventually”. And I always do. Some people say “forgetting is not the same as forgiving”. Who cares? I just want to think about other things today. The method is not so important.
E) Accept. They might be angry for things that have nothing to do with me. If someone is beaten or unloved as a kid, they are going to beat or punish in some way the people around them later. Doesn’t mean I have to be around them. But accepting who they are and their lot in life allows me to move past the small trivialities of how they treated me. They are the real victims, sadly, as I get to move forward in my life.
F) Relate. People might actually be justified in what they do to me. Maybe I really did wrong them in the distant past and now they want to punish me back. It doesn’t really justify what they are doing but I can relate. Heck, maybe I would’ve done the same thing. Relating makes the anger subside.
G) Expectations. Sometimes my expectations of people are too high. Most people are crappy people. They can’t help it. We have a big challenge in our lives.
Well then, what should I expect from people? Nothing. Every day I try to focus on having high expectations for myself. An easy way to do that is to lower the expectations I have for everyone else and not be so quick to judge their actions.
H) Kindness. Often I can forgive people by doing an act of kindness to them. You don’t always want to do this. It sounds like you’re kissing the ass of people who whip your ass. But often, if someone has made you angry, a simple “hello” or “good job!” will diffuse the situation. Kindness is the most powerful weapon created for humans when used correctly. And honestly.
I) Selfish. If someone has wronged me I can be completely selfish about it. It gives me the perfect opportunity to practice the principles behind “dealing with crappy people” (see above link). Every time I get to practice those principles, I get better at it.
The better I am at dealing with bad people, the more productive I eventually am (less daydreams about murder, for instance), the happier I am, the better I am able to move on and enjoy other things in my life. The less crappy I become. People can change. I’ve changed. This is how.
J) Pick Yourself. I hate situations when one person has decision-making authority over something important to me. Whether a company I have will get bought. or a TV show I pitch gets picked up. Or a book I write will get published. Or a girl I like doesn’t like me back. Or whatever. These situations sometimes make me angry.
The best way is to reduce the situations where one person has this power. If you want to write a book, then self publish. If you want to do a TV show or a radio show, just record yourself and put it on youtube. If you want your company to get sold, talk to 30 people, not just one (or keep improving your business). If you want a promotion, apply for another job. You’ll either get your promotion or you’ll get a better job.
In every situation you are in today, try to pick yourself where you can. Or figure out how you can make it a situation where you are picking yourself.
Right now I’m specifically thinking about four things I’m angry about. Maybe five. Ranging from tiny things to big things. But that’s great. I have ten ways above to deal with them. It might take a few minutes to figure out which technique i’ll use for each situation. Maybe I’ll use more than one technique for some of the situations.
But it’s early in the day. And I’ll have work, kids, food, writing, reading, laughing, to occupy the rest of the 24 hours I’m allowed to stay on this planet. And then I’m gone.
Then when the mothership lands I’ll prepare for my next alien mission.
See also: “The Crappy FAQ”