I hate confrontation.
Most people aren't fond of confrontation, it seems too close to conflict. Someone's feelings could get hurt, and we all avoid that. People know me as a low key person, and that's true, I'm very nonconfrontational. The exception being if you’re someone I know on a deep level, or you’re a complete stranger that I don’t plan on seeing again. Maybe that’s one of those “all extremes are the same” things. In either case, you’ll get to see my anger problem.
An anger problem, at least in my case, isn't just an anger problem; it's an expression problem, and it affects all of my emotions. Anger is just the quickest to identify when it goes off the rails. Expressing anger is a healthy part of being human. Learning how to do it in a way that’s healthy, however, is very, very tricky. If love is blind, then anger is blind, deaf and mute. It has no interest in reason, being proactive about your situation, or doing damage control. When I’m angry, I want heads to roll.
That’s the reason I avoid confrontation. Even if I’m right and have perfectly valid, rational objections to what’s going wrong, the words I'll pick are pure emotional bile. It’s a phoenix in the fireplace. For the most part, that beast is contained and can even be wielded in my favor, acting as a kind of makeshift confidence I use when my own sense of self worth is lacking. Every once in awhile it blows out of control, then shrinks to ashes while I’m left to sweep up the pieces and rebuild.
It’s not a matter of if, only when, I lose it.
The world is full of complex people with problems of their own, and I'm not breaking any boundaries by having them myself. For the most part, we keep our emotions within socially acceptable range, but once in awhile, something or someone gets under our skin.
That's where I am now. It is a small and insignificant situation to anyone other than myself. For me, it's a frustrating waste of my energy. I find my own behavior childish, and despite the fact that I know better, I simply haven't figured out how to *be* better. There's an interesting correlation to being and behavior; one showcases the other. Having an intellectual nature doesn't stop you from being human or having human emotions. I haven't figured out how to bridge the gap; I can know how my actions differ from my rationale, but I can't align them. When I try, I feel more like a liar than when I'm genuinely lying to someone, does that make sense?
Maybe that goes back to the idea of belief; that a liar wants the victim to believe it. I don't really care if you believe my lies or honesty. I had to come to that in order to deal with my own life. But to try and behave in a way that doesn't align to the way I am as a human being, that feels like a dishonesty I want you to believe; that I want to believe. I haven't reconciled that yet, so that's just going to hang here.
I’m emotionally reactive about everything. If laughter is spontaneous and involuntary, so are my tears and insults. I think I come off as a relatively placid person because I have spent so much time trying to smuggle my time bomb around casually and leave before it goes off.
I only really started noticing this boiling behavior when I looked at it in terms of depression. Depression can keep you in a kind of stasis for a while, and likewise, you can contain it. Much like our firebird, that tidal wave can only be dammed for so long before it spills out into everything.
The only benefit I've ever had from having anger is that occasionally, it becomes a powerful motivator. My first ex told me I wasn't funny. For that matter, so did Jay. Friends of mine who I can't (or don't, to be fair) talk to have had all sorts of opinions about me and what I'm capable of, what I look like, and so on. Being competitive with my older brothers taught me how to harness those criticisms and make them an advantage.
There's other sources for that advantage though, namely encouragement.
So here's the thing about motivation from either source. Self awareness plays a pretty big role, as well as having a pretty good grip on how people perceive you. In terms of spite, you're proving people wrong. In reacting to encouragement, you're proving them right. Whether or not the person talking to you understands that is completely on them. How you handle it is on you.
About a year into comedy, I had hit the point that I think every new comic does where you start doubting if anyone is going to notice you're there. There's a lot to say about that, but I have to save it unless this post wants to turn into a novel. What I will say is that I had encouragement, not flattery. I had a comic I respected tell me I was "consistent". That doesn't say anything about how funny my material was, but it indicated that my efforts weren't being wasted.
There's nothing wrong with telling someone that they've got this if they keep trying. You don't need to blow smoke up their ass and say that they're already great, or that they're ahead of their time, that kind of bullshit. You don't even have to lie and say you like something that you don't, or tell them they have potential if you're honestly not sure they do. In fact, don't do that. You're hurting them more than "hurting the scene" because they can't get better if they're going off of purposeful misdirection in order to spare their feelings.
I highly recommend aiming for encouraging someone to be better over getting them to change out of spite; it's just more constructive and has a much lower risk of negatively impacting someone who's suicidal, which is very common in creative fields if not especially in comedy.
But even if encouragement is ideal, that doesn't make anger, spite, or negative drives disappear. I’m not really sure how to release my internal squall so it doesn’t consume me, but I think the healthiest thing to do with my anger is actually to force confrontation. The trick here is only to be confrontational when I also have empathy for the other person. If I can genuinely feel for the other person, even if I believe they’re in the wrong, I’m much less likely to go for their guts.
This has been a learning process, and I often miscalculate. I don’t realize how mean the words coming out of my mouth sound until they’re circling in the air like vultures. I’ve never been physically intimidating, and when I was bullied as a kid, I learned how to come up with words cruel enough to weaken a fist. I learned how to be the loudest not in volume, but in impact.
When I tried to stop that drive to insult as an adult,I forced myself to wait things out until I figured out how to say what I wanted to. Putting things off led to me not wanting to say anything at all, because I’d burned out for the time being and didn't feel like it.
Someone told me to express my feelings when I had them even if I didn’t have words to, which is both the best and most difficult advice I’ve ever tried to apply in my life. Verbal talons are only one side of having an anger problem; ironically, the other is the difficulty of expressing myself with words at all. It’s tough to formulate a calm, rational argument when there aren’t words in your head, just little pictures of explosions and war footage you’ve seen.
There is no “right time” to say you’re upset, and it makes very little sense to finally verbalize it when you don’t feel it. I get that this conflicts with the idea of “cooler heads prevail”, but cooler heads may not care, or diminutize the issue, or worse, dismiss it entirely. If you never address your anger, you’ll never really be controlling it. The misguided advice of “just let it go” is a platitude people tend to use without realizing that if you want to let an experience go, you have to experience it.
Sometimes I can’t do better in the moment than closing my eyes and telling the other person, “I’m Upset.”
I consider that basic sentence a huge leap forward from being able to look someone dead in the eye during the same rage and coolly saying, “Even when you’re trying your hardest, you’re still a fucking failure.”
I’m no longer looking to attack people when I confront them, and I think that’s why I’ve grown more comfortable doing it. As a result, even if it ends up being a long conversation, uncomfortably public or otherwise inconvenient. The opposite of Anger is kindness, but kindness doesn't mean you have to be nice.
Kindness comes from the root words for "kinship". The roots for "nice" are similar to that for "naive". Being kind to an angry person is expressing patience, not putting up with their bullshit.
I’m convinced that feelings are, and will almost always be, inconvenient. That’s sort of why they pop up, it’s your way of expressing your “being” in the moment. You have to recognize what it means to express yourself and attempt to be aware of why. Asking yourself why will teach you a lot. Trying to be more confrontational is my way of tending the fire. Maybe if I take care of it consistently, it’s less likely to blow out and leave ashes where some of my friendships used to be.
About A Blog
I'm a Denver Comedian, occasional cartoonist and person of interest to someone, probably. These articles are really too long.