December 13, 2013

On Feeling Pissed Off. {Adult}

I sit looking across at a bookshelf that I have adorned with over 25 books of yoga asana and philosophy, 20 books from various spiritual disciplines and teachers, 10 books of science (to balance out the fluffy stuff), and 15 books from my favorite authors talking about life (to humanize the fluffy stuff).

Every single one of these books has shared a moment with me before. By a moment, I mean that I have held every single book in my hands, and—at some point or another—felt completely un-alone.

Most of these books have completely changed my life, and these books have come to know a part of me very few people have. I have cried with these books, told these books everything, listened to them intently, and carried them on airplanes, beach trips, bath-times, bed-time and show-and-tell time.

I have to wonder why it seems I need so much healing—as if without a bookshelf full of these books, and a yoga bag full of mat, and a schedule full of yoga outings, my life would collapse entirely and I would maybe not die like I think I would (sometimes I can be quite dramatic), but I would certainly become incredibly pissed off, and then increasingly numb and lifeless.

Of course I have no experience of being anyone else besides myself, but it sometimes feels as if I, personally, require much more healing than other people; or I’m just one of the few people who are admitting to this need.

It feels as if my intent to heal is the thing I spend the most time doing and that my experience of living is entirely created by this. Without the intent to heal driving my life forward, my friends would be different, my job would be different, my hobbies would be different, the way I take care of my body would be different, just…everything.

This is why I’m curious about why I sometimes do things that piss me off.

Perhaps I should define what it feels to be pissed off.

To me, feeling pissed off is feeling vaguely knotty in the tummy-line. My face furrows in a canonical way: my mouth downturns itself, my brow furrows down and in, and my eyes squint with vengeance. The internal information I receive is similar: I feel disheartened—despondent about the way things are, and hopeless that they will ever change.

If you were looking for examples for what things piss me off, here you go: reading things with the subtext, things in the world suck!; watching 90 percent of movies, commercials and TV shows; listening to 45 percent of music; overhearing other peoples’ conversations; listening to radio personalities in the morning; and not being honest when I talk to other people.

The list is probably a bit more extensive than that, but those are generally the things that make me feel even the teensiest, tiniest bit pissed off.

(I’ll be honest here: it didn’t feel all that wonderful to write about being pissed off. I don’t know how it felt to read it, but I would like to pause at this point for both of us to have the opportunity to return to intent of healing. I would like you to have the option to have an only positive experience reading this article.)

I used to think feeling pissed off was almost mandatory. As if being pissed off somehow indicates to other people that we are paying attention and are smart enough to know something to be pissed off about—that this was my duty as an American with the right to vote and change the world and stuff.

How could I possibly believe in anything and stand up for it unless I was pissed off?

Being pissed off really easily defines the line between us and them—those who we are pissed off at, and those who we are pissed off with. That distinction alone creates our entire political landscape.

And not only that, but sometimes feeling pissed off can almost feel…good.

When I see all these articles online that are headlining Lululemon’s issues with its founder, the constitutional and human ethics of Yogaglo’s new patent and consumerism during the holiday season, part of me wants to click on them. Part of me is excited to start hoarding did you hear about…?! information, and develop fact-sounding opinions about the topic at hand.

I know that when I read this stuff, all I’m going to feel is pissed off.

But part of me actually really cares.

Of course part of me really cares. Of course it does.

I’m a human being who lives in America in 2013. No matter what I keep on my bookshelf, I have agreed to participate in this culture. Freely. I have done that freely. And I could freely elect to pack up and head out to a tree-house community in Costa Rica and say goodbye to all of this, and maybe I will make that decision one day. But today I live in America.

Living in America feels almost android-esque sometimes (at least, to me, it does). It feels emotionless and task-oriented and programmed. It feels competitive and mostly unkind.

There’s almost this sense that without being pissed off, nothing would get done. There would be injustice flying rampant and the world would spiral into fast dystopia because no one would be pissed off enough to start the revolution.

In some ways I think that’s true—in our given cultural climate, being pissed off is what holds other people accountable—the blokes running this thing really are only accountable when people are pissed off in their general direction.

(In sixth grade algebra, we learned about the associative property of addition. It goes a little something like this: love + me = life; life + me = America; therefor, love + life = America. I love my life, I live in America, therefor, I love America. Just so we’ve all got our heads on straight.)

Now, is it America’s fault that I almost crave the feeling of being pissed off? No. And while we’re at it, why don’t we just abandon the use of the word fault altogether, because this assumes that something is inarguably wrong about something, and I don’t feel like talking like that.

(May the time we are spending writing and reading this article be one little corner of a peace-muffin. May it be refreshing and delicious and may it feel like home. If that’s not what this feels like to you and you are waiting for me to dismiss you from the table, you are excused: no more reading required. Otherwise, carry on with me.)

I think America is more like the backdrop that my feeling of being pissed off is reflected onto–America does not create that want. I think the craving of feeling pissed off runs much deeper than America–it runs in the bloodline. It runs in my veins because I have veins—in other words, it is inherent in the vein-system.

It is thick, it is coursing, it grows our hair and enamels our teeth and heals our scabs.

I feel so distinctly individual when I am pissed off. I feel better than other people and worse than other people and I know where my allies are and I know where my enemies are.

If you gave me 800,00 little army guys and cleared off a counter top, I could place them in a general formation of myself and those around me and tell you exactly how I fit into everything.

Being pissed off almost contextualizes us and tells us where we are relative to others.

It almost defines our experience of being human, because if we never experienced that–if all we ever experienced was supreme unity with everyone and everything around us, then I think we are no longer human–we are some other form of energy somewhere in the ether holding together the entire space-time continuum.

Feeling pissed off is an important experience for us simply because it’s a feeling I think we will always have. Until the day we die, or the day we curl up into an alcove and spend the rest of our time in exuberant meditation, we will encounter the feeling of being pissed off.

It just seems to me as I’m looking at an entire bookshelf full of words aimed at relieving me of my suffering, that life is sometimes much more unpleasant than it needs to be, and I am accountable for the way I feel about my life.

When I honestly sit and ask myself what I want in my life, my answer is always the same: I want peace, I want freedom, I want love, I want thankfulness, I want forgiveness. Those wants all exist so far beyond the feeling of being pissed off–they resonate so much deeper and fuller.

I am offering myself the opportunity to bow out of the dart-throwing. This is not to say I will never throw a dart again, oh, no—I will throw darts. Many, many darts.

But the cool thing is that even after I throw darts, I know that there is a part of me so deep that wants only forgiveness and love, and so I will be forgiven.

And so my bookshelf has once again taught me something: the point is not to remove the feeling of being pissed off; the point is to learn how to deal with the feeling when it arises, because really, that’s all I can do.

I want to access the moment right before I click on a link that I know will piss me off, or right before I start a topic of conversation that is going to make me heated, or in-between the decision of morning radio and ambient new-age pandora station.

My bookshelf isn’t helping me reduce my impulse to feel pissed off.

It’s reminding me that with regards to this life that I was given: I can’t get it wrong, and I can’t f*ck it up.


Want 15 free additional reads weekly, just our best?

Get our weekly newsletter.


Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Angry, Frustrated Woman — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Brentan Schellenbach  |  Contribution: 9,380