Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Anger Management

Griff Rhys Jones

Anger is a funny thing. Or at least 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?

25 comments:

Reluctant Blogger said...

It feels horrible when you lose your temper with children, doesn't it? I hate it when I do so. I feel bad about it for ages afterwards whereas of course they forget almost immediately and start reminiscing fondly about it within days: "remember the time you threw that washing up bowl at Joe and missed and it flew over the garden wall and hit the neighbour on the head. That was so funny."

I have a horrible temper. I lose it rarely but when I do I think I really could kill someone. Let's just hope the only person about at the time is the MIL.

Your life is stressful at the moment, Steve. You are bound to be crabby occasionally and lose it. It is actually quite important for our children to see that sometimes they push us too far. Best obviously if we don't kick doors down but a bit of screaming like a fishwife and the odd swear word is fine.

Don't beat yourself up. You are one of the nicest people I don't know. If you know what I mean.

Daisy said...

i would be careful trying to "manage" your anger...instead you need a release for it...usually some physical activity works...even taking walks would help but you need to do that activity without your family or friends so you can process through whatever it is that is bothering you that day...sounds simple but it really does work...and you are right in your assumptions throughout this post...

Steve said...

Thanks Gina, that's a lovely thing to say and much appreciated.

You're probably right about showing it sometimes. I'm sure even Karen has said that it's important to be honest in how you react and sometimes kids need to know and see when they've crossed the line. However that's fine for the "big" stuff but I do find myself snapping at silly, little things as well. But I recognize this is down to fatigue and stress... as causes however they're quite hard to elminate or even just manage at the moment. I will say though that when the boy sees me or Karen losing it, it does make him calm down amazingly quickly!

Daisy, it might indeed sound simple but I have no doubt that you are correct. I need to head out on my bike a little more often. Or install a punchbag. I can't quite see me joining a gym but I'm sure there's something I could do at home.

Brother Tobias said...

Like Griff, I tend to assume that my Victor Meldrew moments are eccentrically endearing, whereas they are almost certainly not.

I did find an occasional calculated show of controlled anger was valuable at work; there were instances of bullying from my line manager which he learned not to try on me.

K wants to get a punch bag to vent hers; I hope she doesn't develop too good a hook!

Steve said...

As always Brother T you have summed things up rather nicely. "Eccentrically endearing" is, I think, exactly how Griff saw his outbursts. Hence he'd look back on them and laugh at his own silliness not realizing perhaps that other people were not in laughing moods at all. I don't think my Basil Fawlty moments are at all endearing though - hopefully that ability to see them for what they really are works in my favour.

KAZ said...

I'm amazed about Griff - I always thought he was Mr Doormat/nice guy.

I'm a bit of a drama queen and I'm told it makes you live longer to have a good strop.
However, I don't want people getting hurt, so I'll watch next week.

Steve said...

Kaz, Griff is the last person I would want to wipe my shoes on... he'd have my leg off with his bare hands (if not his bare teeth). Great chap to have on your side in a scrap though. His emails are quite vicious apparently.

EmmaK said...

It's a tough one this...because the reality is that letting out one's anger really does make one feel better. And keeping it in, well frankly I think that leads to heart attacks and cancer. It's probably not that good to let it out on the kids although I do. I must install an inflatable Sarah Palin in the basement and give her a good kicking when I get the urge.

TimeWarden said...

I know that anger is negative energy better utilised on something positive but it doesn't stop me swearing like a trooper when I'm pissed (sorry, upset!) over something or with someone!

From experience, the person who does most shouting usually comes off worse! Not least, he can quite often have a sore throat for several days afterwards!!

The Sagittarian said...

"I didn't have the confidence to be angry"...wow. I recall being a rather tearful first time Mother dropping a tantrammed 2 yr old at day care with positive glee...and feeling guilty, until one of the wonderful childacre wimmin told me that I should be glad that my daughter felt confident enough to express her anger. That she knew we would love her and that it was ok to be angry. At the time I felt like taking the bus and not coming back...but I can see what she meant. I work with a person who can be angry one minute and forgotten about it the next, oblivious to the hurt she has caused.
You don't strike me as one of those selfish " it's all about me and how I feel and you have to deal with it" types of people. You strike me as a guy who is doing the absolute best he can for his family, and sometimes that is stressful. But I guarantee your family wouldn't swap you for anything.

MOTHER OF MANY said...

bbbbbbbbbbbbbb

MOTHER OF MANY said...

I think you may have just got a comment from the 7 year old.....
sorry !

Steve said...

Emma, yeah I agree; I think as others have already said finding an appropriate outlet is very much the answer. A Sarah Palin punchbag sounds a very marketable idea... could relieve stress and net you a small fortune in the process!

TimeWarden, so that explains why I'm gruff voiced all the time (as opposed to Griff voiced)! There's nothing like having a good old swear though. Cuss words are very cathartic.

Aww, thanks Amanda, now I've gone all shy. You reminded me of a quote from this years Big Brother when one of the contestants slammed another housemate by dismissing her with "I'd swap you for Scrabble". I sure hope my family aren't planning to exchange me for a cheap board game. Chess I could understand but Monopoly? I hate it!

Ally, I thought it was quite an expressive comment actually!

kate5kiwis said...

woah steve, love your comments. especially resonate with what the luffly gina and the sagittarian said.

i grew up in a home where peeps got cross and shouted and it was lively and it all blew over really fast, and there was much love.

my personality is to try to diffuse a bomb before the match is struck. i love harmony and everyone feeling loved.
but i can get a bit shouty under pressure too.

it's good to think about these things. thanks X

Steve said...

Thanks Kate. You're dead right - always better to diffuse a bomb before it explodes but sometimes you just don't have time or the know-how to cut the right wire (blue or red? blue or red?!). I guess at that point your only choice is either to pick it up and throw it into a nearby river or bit of wasteland or fall on top of it and protect those around you as best you can from the blast. I'm all for chucking it over into nextdoor's garden myself... I guess what I've learnt from all this is that anger is fine, provided it's balanced by loads of love. Here endeth the lesson!

Inchy said...

It's in the car where I run the risk of becoming a bit like Ben Stiller's 'Mr Furious' from the 1999 film 'Mystery Men'.

"Don't mess with the volcano my man, 'cause I will go Pompeii on your... butt"

I've always suffered from extreme frustration behind the wheel of a car, which can be tricky as I drive around 500 miles a week to work and back, but strangely when I take my motorbike, I am adrift in a sea of tranquillity, albeit a rather rapid one.

Steve said...

Inchy, even my normally beautfully natured wife turns into a hissing Medusa behind the wheel of the car and has been known to damn bus drivers and fellow motorists to the lowest circle of hell in her quest to own the entire road - or at least the portion of it that she needs to drive upon in order to get to and from work.

Your motorbike experience sounds interesting. I'm wondering how practical it would be for me to drive a motorbike around the house at the weekend...

Inchy said...

Somehow I can't imagine Her Kareness putting up with these sorts of shenanigans.

http://tinyurl.com/53u3xx

Steve said...

I don't think Her Kareness would be amused at all, Inchy.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

I saw snippets of this programme as a friend was round, but it certainly struck me that anger is pretty self-indulgent unless used justifiably cos someone really has p****d you off.

Worse still it struck me that people often use anger as a means to control others or have the final say (ie if they lose their temper the other person is likely to back down or even agree so they have effectively ended any debate/usually got their own way).

Of course it could be a hormonal imbalance such as thyroid problem, so I think anyone with unreasonable levels of anger should actually get themselves checked out to be sure.

I am sure you are doing your utmost to demonstrate the difference between justified anger and a hissy fit to control the other person in your dealings with the 7 year old. Or no more smarties and bright orange tic tacs for him! (another possible cause if junk food makes him hyper!)

Steve said...

Or worse still, no more smarties and bright orange tic tacs for me, Laura!

Oliver said...

I recall being incredibly pissed at a party thrown in Griff's honour.

When I was ejected, I asked him why, and he calmed: 'Because, my friend, you are totally drunk!'

A decent chap, I think.

Steve said...

Oliver, you can't say fairer than that!

Ranting Teacher said...

I am definitely getting angrier as I get older. At this rate I'm going to self-destruct in about 2012. Probably around January 23rd. Tea-time.

Steve said...

But you'll miss the Olympics, RT...! Hmm. You know, I might just join you...