Anger can give way to dialogue
Editor, The Smithfield Times:
I am hoping all of the registered voters vote so that our government can be truly representative of who we are. I would like “the world at large to be more civil.” And I am able to think of only one occasion in my life when someone was screaming at me the way we’ve seen on TV.
He was my 30-year-old neighbor who was rising over the handlebars of his ATV screaming at me, angry because I had filled in a ditch he had dug at the edge of “my half of the road” and the edge of the woods. He was trying to manage the dirt road on which we live and I was trying to make sure a hazard on my land was mitigated.
It was a couple of weeks before I was ready to call him and see if we could work things out. We are, after all, neighbors. We started back in just where we left off. He was forcefully expressing his opinion and I was trying to show alternatives. Eventually, after about 1½ hours, we were in a place where we were communicating with each other and hearing what the other person had to say.
At this point in my life, he is the man with whom I communicate most regularly. We text and talk about the state of the U.S., the things happening immediately around us due to our situation (rain, insects, animals, the river, etc.), and sometimes we talk about personal stuff. I am grateful for his presence in my life.
My neighbor was truly angry and now we are compatriots. I think a lot about the anger and vitriol I see on TV and am aware that most anger is fueled by either hurt and/or fear. It is a second-level emotion. It protects us from feeling emotions that are more difficult for us to manage.
Anger causes people to move away from us (unless the other person engages in the fight); it gives us space. Hurt and fear are connected to feeling vulnerable, which is a really uncomfortable feeling. A trouble with relying on anger to protect other feelings is that the other feelings are left unaddressed — and there will always be a supply of anger.