Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.
So writes Mark Twain; commenting on a very true action that anger does. Anger is dangerous. Anger can destroy you, if you’re not careful. A true gentlemen should only have righteous anger; anger about something worth being angry about (and I still haven’t figured that one out yet, so even that might be wrong)–and then seek to right whatever injustice has pissed them off. All I have been able to figure out about this sort of anger is that it does not involve the ego, or the self.
Getting broken up with, or rejected? Entirely of the ego. Your heart, and your ego. It’s okay to be angry about such things for a little while, of course, but don’t let it rule over you.
Here’s a fact: ego wounds are like head wounds. They bleed a lot, and they hurt a lot, but in reality, they’re not usually life-threatening if they’re treated properly. However, If they’re not treated properly and fairly quickly, they become infected with pride. We Orthodox know that pride is the most dangerous sin of all.
I suffered the worst rejection I’ve had in years about a week and a half ago. I’ve been rather irked about it, since. I’m not going to get into it, since the details are not terribly relevant to the topic at hand. Suffice to say, it has been slowly eating away at me since then. Two days ago, I woke up so angry that I felt like I was going to spontaniously combust and cause the town to burn down for a fifth time. I knew I was in huge trouble then. I needed to break the cycle.
When you have enough anger that you feel like you’re going to spontaniously combust, or where you feel like you should break something simply to feel better, you have a problem. Your ego is taking it too far.
The key is to stop, and distract yourself. Most anger, I feel, comes from a cycle; something happens, you feel angry about it, and the more you think about it, the higher your anger becomes; a sort of logarhythmic scale of wrath. The key, of course, is to break the cycle. We’ve all seen Star Wars enough to know how that cycle can end.
Here’s some of the things you can do to break the cycle:
1) Pray. Immediately. First, of course, Pray for the person you’re angry for. Then pray for your mother, father, sister, brother, cousin…et. al. Pray for someone you’re close to that you care about. It doesn’t have to be a whole akathist or an entire paraklesis service, but even something simple like a string of Jesus Prayers will help.
2) Tea is pretty calming, too. Make yourself a nice cup of tea. (The fact is that prayer and chai do really solve most things, or can at least break the struggle going on in your mind long enough for your soul to speak up)
3) Talk to your priest. (Or a priest you’re particularly close to, if you’re not anywhere close). Confession, of course, is the point here. Sometimes you won’t be able to make a confession over the phone or skype, but at the very least, you can make arrangements for one. If you can’t reach a priest, and you have a close friend who is good at grounding you back into reality, talk to them. Their outsider perspective will aid you in coming back to yourself. Heck; talk to them, anyway.
4) Paint or write out your emotions in the form of canvas or poetry, if you happen to particularly talented at it. Even if you’re not, it helps. DO NOT SHOW YOUR WORK DEPICTING THIS EMOTION TO THE PERSON THAT CAUSED IT. It’s not for them, it’s not about them, it’s about healing yourself. Even writing a journal entry or pages in a memoir that you’re working on can kind of spill the emotions out of your system to a place where you can more critically examine them.
5) Read something or watch something that changes your emotion. Read something that takes you to an entirely different place (this is one reason I really love Science Fiction and Fantasy, because they’re worlds where your problems seem entirely irrelevant. Dealing with the Dark Lord Sauron is a much bigger issue than a breakup, and much more world encompassing) Watch an episode of a tv show that makes you laugh. The point here is to break the cycle with a different emotion entirely.
6) Go for a walk in the woods/park/desert. Look at pretty things. Behold the wonder of God in Nature.
7) Confession. Yes, it’s on the list twice, but it’s important.
While I’m still hurt by what happened, the anger has subsided. The cycle of anger has been broken, and I can focus on lent as normal. Well, as normal as lent can get, anyway. (So far, this lent has been kicking my butt. I always thought that Lent would get easier the longer I was Orthodox. I could not be more wrong.)