Griff Rhys Jones had always assumed it was until he discovered differently during “Losing It” last night, a BBC documentary and personal exploration into his own and the world’s anger.
Jones has always struck me as “a decent bloke to work with”. I don’t know why I formed that opinion because I’ve never ever met the man, I guess, like everybody else you get pulled in and gulled by the TV persona. Now, after watching this astonishingly honest programme I’d have to say that, while I still think he’s an eminently decent bloke, he’d be absolute hell to work with. And worse to live with.
By his own admission he is a grumpy old git. And at first he staunchly defended his right to be so. Everybody gets angry, he said. Everybody feels anger. Even a psychologist friend confirmed that if he ever met someone who was calm and serene all the time he would be deeply suspicious of them. It is not natural to not get angry. Anger is a natural response to stress and let’s face it the modern world goes out of its way to create stress for all of us.
But as Jones interviewed friends, family and work associates a picture soon formed that he was something beyond the modest proportions of just “a grumpy old git”.
One of his agents recalled the first time she met Griff. He’d burst into the office in a foul mood about something and promptly kicked a hole in the office door in his rage.
“I did what?” Griff’s iron-heavy jaw dropped. “I don’t remember doing that!”
This became a pattern. People recalling some of Griff’s more flamboyant expressions of anger and Griff having no recollection of them whatsoever. For Griff, you see, once the anger was out it was dealt with and forgotten about. For Griff, looking back, circumstances weren’t as bad as maybe his anger portrayed it. For Griff there was even a chance to giggle at his mad antics whilst mad once he was calm again.
Unfortunately nobody else had this luxury. As his agent pointed out, having to constantly mop up these spillages of anger was a “heavy burden for anyone”.
Griff looked pole-axed. For the first time taking on board that maybe his tantrums weren’t as lightweight and inconsequential and natural as he’d at first thought. They affected people. They hurt people. They were not nice to deal with. As he said of his agent: “I kept waiting for her to add that ‘despite all this we had a great laugh and a good time’ but... she never said it. Not even when I fished for it.”
Sober barely covered it.
Next week Griff will be looking at various ways in which he can deal with and manage his anger and I shall certainly be tuning in because – admission time, folks – I have noticed that over the past couple of years I too have been experiencing anger. More than is usual for me.
During my teens I just didn’t have the confidence to be angry. I was small, weedy, under developed, shy and awkward socially. Expressing anger – no matter how justified – was just not permissible for me. I wanted people to like me. I was desperate for it. So I suppressed my anger. I was too small and weak to be angry. Showing anger when you’re a teen – and perhaps also when you’re an adult – seems to be tied into physical strength. You need to be able to back up and defend your anger. I mean what would I have done if someone had got angry back? Run away very quickly I suspect and then apologise profusely.
In time I forgot how to be angry.
But weirdly, with a 7 year old in the house who is showing classic signs of having an angry personality rather like Griff (i.e. gets furious whenever things happen that are outside of his control) I am finding that I am rediscovering my own anger. For the first time since I myself was a child I shout. I bang about. I swear under my breath. I walk around with my teeth clenched (ah – Dr Hassan, I think I’ve discovered the cause of my worn down teeth). I seethe below the surface.
Is this good? Is this bad? Do I have a right to express this anger? I guess it all depends on how I go about it. Certainly I have a right to own it. Certainly it proves to be useful occasionally when it stops me being pushed around at work or in the street. But do I want to be angry with my family? Is that right? Griff’s (I’m not going to say long suffering because I don’t think she is) wife admitted that when Griff is “off on one” she tends to walk away and let him get it out of his system. Do I really want Karen to react like that with me? Not, I hasten to add, that I’m in anywhere near Griff’s league... but the worrying this is, Griff didn’t think he was in that league either until he scratched below the surface...
Now that I’m holding my hands up and owning my anger... is it time for me to start managing it?