Anger, frustration, irritation, withdrawing, anxiety and fear. These symptoms are the tip of an iceberg of emotions too vulnerable to experience or express. Below anger sits sadness, pain or shame.
When we grow up with the notion that anger is unacceptable, we turn it inward. But this does not mean the source of anger lies outside of oneself. The trigger may be from the environment but the source of the primary emotion of sadness or pain lies inside, as a need that is not being met, an old wound that’s touched in the present.
As tense as anger seems, violence is superficial and the most counter-productive strategy for getting the underlying need met. I’ve tried getting my needs met by yelling, bullying, punching, throwing items at walls, throwing items through walls, throwing items through walls while yelling but never with interpersonal success.
I, like many people have fallen into habits and games that are attempts to self-regulate. For some this is fantasy about the future, for others it may be micro-managing and making micro-requests of others to get a temporary power boost. For me it’s been a lot of withdrawing and ignoring people, not to mention years of intellectual bypasses I’ve built and am still trying to deconstruct. All these things tend to weird people out at best, and mostly just push them away.
If most people can’t even get along with their families, we expect it to be better when hippies get together and form an intentional community, right? WROOONG! Shaming humans for emotions other than unconditional love interferes with our social feedback mechanisms, sorry hippies.
My thesis is that intentional community can be enjoyable and even useful to the rest of the society if they develop interpersonal structures that relieve and educate the audience. There are two parts.
One is emotional and needs literacy. This means educating one another in what judgements, feeling and universal human needs are. There are lists, you can google those and become familiar with those. It is probably the single highest leveraging 45 minutes of education you can buy. It can benefit your bloodline for generations to come.
The second is relaxed playful settings where people can practice, overseen by at least one person who can remain neutral. The practice is at making observations, noticing judgements, tracing feelings to the needs at the source and finally making requests. The end game of these two steps is that people can leverage their anger (a useful indicator) to make clear and successful requests. You don’t have to ever be vulnerable with anyone but yourself if you choose so, just a clear request that can be shot down two or three times before you found a taker.
I’m thinking circles, man circles, women circles, mentoring, counseling, mealtime brainstorming, whatever you choose.
It is ok to be angry, it is ok to withdraw, it’s ok to walk around with unmet needs for a long time. You are ok, however you are right now. At the same time it is the birthright of every human to experience at least some years of peace in the company of others. To have weeks on end where our intelligence is uninterrupted by ruminating thoughts that make us seem distant, chaotic and dumb.
This is because territory is not zero sum. When people truly meet, they transcend the sum of who they are as individuals. The more perspectives there are, the better the garden comes into focus.
Out beyond, in that garden, ill meet you there ;)