Awhile back I wrote about the book called The Surprising Purpose of Anger: Beyond Anger Management: Finding the Gift. I went back and reviewed the book again because I’ve been playing tennis recently and quite frankly I have felt personal disappointment because I have been unnecessarily hard on myself and angry when I make unforced errors to the point where my behavior can be unbecoming.
When I become conscious of a personal shortcoming I try to take it on as a challenge so I can improve upon it. This was clearly a shortcoming and something I needed to address as it is very atypical because I am usually quite calm, rational, and a voice of reason. Oftentimes I’m the one who is working to help someone who might be in an emotional state to work through their issues. In this regard, the tables have turned and I don’t want it to interfere with something for which I have been finding great enjoyment and fulfillment.
With that being said, I don’t want it to go away completely because there are some powerful energies that I can tap into that I think can keep me engaged and effective, and I don’t want to get too passive. I’m trying to find that happy medium where I can harness this aggressive part of me to be more engaged and energized while not letting it get the best of me and compounding my propensity to commit unforced errors.
I love reading books on my Kindle because I can always go back to them and review my highlights and notes and I did just this after trying to get to the bottom of what was triggering my anger issues on the court. The premise of the book is that when someone is feeling angry there are often unmet needs that are at the root of the anger. It’s almost always about you and not the other person or situation.
The question, of course, is what are my unmet needs such that this frustration and anger are breaking through?
To answer this question, I first had to familiarize myself with the different needs we have and as I go to the end of the book in my review I hit the motherlode. For some reason when I read it before I didn’t pay much attention to this aspect of the book, but now that I have, this knowledge and awareness should pay dividends for the rest of my life. The author creates important categories of what it means to be human and what we feel when we are experiencing them as well as how they are met or why we need them.
Let’s first take the Charlie Munger approach and look at something based on what it’s not. According to the author, this is what we feel when our needs are not being met:
I think we would all agree that these are all feelings of some form of dis-ease. They are signals that something is not serving us. It’s either something we have left unaddressed or lacking. Whatever it is it can eventually negatively impact our lives.
As Peter Gabriel sings in Digging in the Dirt,
Something in me, dark and sticky
All the time it’s getting strong
No way of dealing with this feeling
Can’t go on like this too long
Rather than judging the feelings or wishing them away or trying to numb them or distract ourselves from them it’s best to inquire as to why they are present so we can do something about them.
Now that we have identified the feelings/signals that we have needs that are not being met, the question is what are those needs? Fortunately, the author identifies these as well.
Here they are by category.
- Choosing dreams/goals/values
- Choosing plans for achieving one’s dreams, goals, values
- Movement, exercise
- Protection from life-threatening forms of life: viruses, bacteria, insects, predatory animals
- Sexual expression
- Celebrate the creation of life and dreams fulfilled
- Celebrate losses: Loved ones, dreams, etc. (mourning)
- Contribute to the enrichment of life
- Emotional Safety
- Honesty (The empowering honesty that enables us to learn from our limitations)
This is a very rich list that encompasses joy, wonder, doing good deeds, creating our own path, leaning into the future, feeling a sense of belonging, and having our physical needs met. Some of these may be missing because of our conditioning growing up or choices that we have made that have turned into self-defeating habits. This list provides a great opportunity for us to dig in the dirt and “find the places I got hurt” as Peter Gabriel sings. We also need to be willing to look at how we have hurt others as well because if we feel guilt or shame about our actions or inactions then it is difficult to play and celebrate and feel like we are living a life of integrity. The only way out is through and as we work through these issues we can start turning lemons into lemonade. I’m still in the self-discovery process so I have a long way to go. My Saturday tennis game was quite competitive and very enjoyable. And despite being a bit more controlled, I was still not at the place where I wanted to be which tells me I have a lot more work to do.
I will end on a positive note as my return to the book was catalyzed by negative and self-defeating behavior on the court but it ends with the potential to better feelings and well being. So what are the different feelings we have when our needs are being met?
Here you go:
Let your feelings be your psychological barometer.
Right now for me, it’s about 68 degrees and partly cloudy with a good chance of the sun breaking through the clouds later in the day.