“It’s a waste of energy to be angry with a man who behaves badly, just as it is to be angry with a car that won’t go.” –– Bertrand Russell
I guess like most people I do not like getting angry, not only because it takes so much energy to be angry but also I do not like the idea that the person who made me angry is living rent-free in my head and is controlling me! And I always like to be in control of ME!
“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” — Mother Teresa
And what of pain? Pain, like anger, is also exhausting. But unlike anger that robs us of wisdom, pain most of the time, makes us pause and if we pause long enough to think, we actually gain wisdom from pain.
Just recently I was angered by someone, and then I got angry with myself for allowing the person to control my emotion. Then there was regret over the angry words that came out, and with regret comes pain.
It is so easy to say, ” We have to learn to control our anger!” But it’s seldom easy to follow through. It’s perhaps easier to control our actions, but how easy is it to control our words which sometimes cut too deep that the wounds don’t heal?
“Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” — Ambrose Bierce
Have you ever been extremely angry with somebody that you imagined you were Daenerys riding Drogon which was breathing fire on to your enemies?
(Fortunately for me, I have not been that angry with any one person in a long time, but only with a group of people terrorizing my beautiful island of Mindanao, oh yeah. I was so angry that in my imagination, I didn’t even have to be Daenerys. I was happy just to be Drogon!)
Don’t you find it exhausting when you dislike this person so much, but this person just can’t disappear from your life? You hear people talking about him/her, and it’s worse when he/she is doing so well while you aren’t?
For us, humans, anger towards somebody is most often accompanied by its best friend, jealousy. Those two are perhaps the ugliest, meanest pair ever. They will keep you awake at night, make you lose your appetite, then your energy.
If you’re smart or meet the right people who can help you get rid of that ugly pair, then lucky you. If not, that pair will ruin your life.
A few months ago, I started reading Oliver Sacks’ An Anthropologist on Mars. For some reason I could not finish reading it, but a couple of weeks ago I picked it up again and read the chapter called “A Surgeon’s Life,” which is about Dr. Carl Bennett (a pseudonym), a surgeon who has Tourette’s Syndrome.
This chapter was truly an eye-opener for me, and I’m writing about this because I am hoping this can somehow also make my readers re-evaluate how we judge our fellow human beings.
Dr. Bennett is highly respected by his colleagues and patients, and despite his tics, is able to perform surgery efficiently as if he didn’t have Tourette’s at all. He said the outward expressions of his Tourette’s that most people see are not the worst problems he has to face. The real ones are those within — panic and rage. In his words,
“It’s not gentle….You can see it as whimsical, funny — be tempted to romanticize it — but Tourette’s comes from deep down in the nervous system and the unconscious. It taps into the oldest, strongest feelings we have. Tourette’s is like an epilepsy in the subcortex.; when it takes over, there’s just a thin line of control, a thin line of cortex, between you and it, between you and that raging storm, the blind force of the subcortex. One can see the charming things, the funny things, the creative side of Tourette’s, but there’s also that dark side. You have to fight it all your life.”
At home, Dr. Bennett can give expression to this rage, not directed at people but at inanimate objects around him. His wall, his refrigerator are witnesses to this rage. One wall is covered with knife marks.
Scary? I find this very sad. That a human being who does not want to be violent CANNOT CHOOSE not to be violent.
Dr. Bennett is fortunate enough to have a family that understands and accepts him and helps him deal with all of these. But not everyone is as fortunate as Dr. Bennett. I wonder how many people out there have undiagnosed neurological disorders, committing crimes which they could not help doing? They don’t even know why they are doing it, or perhaps they think they know why they are doing it; but do they really?
I wonder if a brain scan is required of every criminal, how many of these people we would find to have neurological disorders?
This question led me to think how the human brain is very much like a computer. Just as computers have software-related problems such as viruses and bugs, the human brain can have chemical imbalance or viral infections. And just like computers that can have hardware-related problems such as overheating, a malfunctioning chip or a motherboard failure, our brain can also suffer from head or brain injuries.
When your computer is defective, do you try to save it or do you discard it, right away?
It seems computers are luckier than humans because we can easily see that our computer has a problem, and our initial reaction is to find out what caused it and how to fix it.
But with a human being, if his brain has a problem but it’s undiagnosed, we right away judge the person according to his actions without asking whether he has control over his actions or not.
What is worse is we label these people as crazy, nuts, wacko, lunatic, deranged, etc. without even knowing what caused them to become such people. Perhaps you have heard or read about people who were known to be gentle or kind, and all of a sudden murdered somebody. People express shock or disbelief, saying it was totally out of character.
Now, going back to my first question: Have you ever been extremely angry with somebody that you imagined you were Daenerys riding Drogon which was breathing fire on to your enemies?
If you have or you still are extremely angry with somebody, ask yourself whether it’s possible this person has a hardware or software-related problem in his brain, and perhaps he has no control over some of his thoughts and actions, just like, sometimes, you have no control over some of your own thoughts and actions.
And when you realize that we are all in the same boat, then you would hopefully understand your fellow human being, and perhaps forgiving will be a little bit easier (but, of course, be smart about it!)
I wonder if that is what prompted Jesus to utter these words when he was crucified: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”
When he said those words, He became the epitome of compassion and forgiveness.
A couple of years ago a friend and I talked about whether human beings have free will or not. Back then I wasn’t really convinced that we don’t, but mostly because I did not have the time to think about it and read about it more. But now I think my friend may be on to something. 🙂 He wrote a book called Without Free Will. It’s well-written and thought-provoking. Check it out.