Emotions are there to protect us, although I am still trying to fully understand how anger has protected me. Getting inappropriately angry has proven to be quite painful for me through life, and has always acted swiftly.
In my acrobatic and stunt careers, I managed to get hurt, some may say an occupational hazard. Several broken bones, major dislocations and scars of which all I have recovered from, but some leaving a visual reminder. Not always, but many of these accidents/lessons proceeded after an angry moment.
During the Australian Freestyle Championships in the mid 80’s, in my early 20’s, I was building and shaping the big jump, nobody was helping me, and time was running out to get enough training in before the event, and as the morning continued I was just getting more angry. Then after little assistance, other competitors were questioning my work, and I was feeling rushed, plus I probably partied too hard the night before and hadn’t had enough sleep. In my fury I disregarded all advice and tested the jump, it ended terribly for me, landing on an icy flat surface, perfectly on my feet, but the height was too much and I drove my tibia bone through my heel bone, and crushed it to half it’s size. The doctors told my father I would have a club foot and never walk properly again, fortunately Dad didn’t relay that information and believed he could get me going again. Through Dad’s constant painful chiropractic care and Cyndi’s nutritional advice I recovered. It took a year before I could compete again, but I recovered, only losing about 5% of movement. Does that mean I finally resolved that particular anger issue?
Much later in another time of anger, I jumped on a snowmobile and crashed it breaking my collar bone, it was at this point in time, I swore I would never operate machinery, or do anything dangerous if I was angry. Take a deep breath, be mindful of what I am angry about, resolve, then get on the motorbike and go around the race track. If I am unable to resolve, then it’s probably best I take more time out.
When the reason for anger is confused, which it was most possibly in those examples, it is dangerous for me. But when the anger is specific and I understand it, then it is a powerful tool for creating positive change.
I remember an instance when I was a coach on the Australian Freestyle Team on a World Cup in Canada. Meals were provided by the event organiser, and it was first in best dressed. We arrived as a team for dinner and wanted to sit together at one table. There was only one table left so we started to seat ourselves. The waiter came quickly and said we couldn’t sit there because it was reserved for the Russians. The Australian’s didn’t have a reserved table, and we had more victories than the Russians. I could feel the heart beating and the blood rushing at the suggestion we as a team were not as valued. I took charge, told the waiter to get the manager and then I told the team we were sitting together and to sit down at that table. The management saw my intent and did not move us. This may not have been that important, but it started a chain of events that stopped any following preferential treatments on World Cup. Not as significant as Rosa Parks stance in taking up a seat on the bus in the white area, which set off the civil rights movement in the USA, but the same idea.
So anger can be good when it sets off a positive change. My son, the toddler, tests my anger constantly, and I quickly assess my anger when it rises, which none of it has to do with my boy, it all has to do with me losing control and I just don’t like it, but am learning to deal with it. I feel the anger and as quick as possible make sense of it and act accordingly. Just like when you get angry with your health and change bad habits.
This blog originally featured on the Changing Habits website.