Friday, October 6, 2017

"Confronting confrontation" (an essay on anger, sincerity and emotional filters)

"Confronting Confrontation"


What a furious countenance!  Passion. Intensity. Still not angry!


I don't think one can ever really successfully say "I'm a nice guy" .  It's suspicious in its self-aggrandizing presumptions.  I mean, that's up to everyone else isn't it?  At best you can endeavor to be an amicable, well-intended person.  I'm reminded of a very funny and perceptive comedy routine by Louis CK when he ruminates on how you don't get to deny when someone else says "you're an asshole ", rather, that indicates that it's time to reflect how you got there. (Enjoy the routine by clicking here).

I am a naturally gregarious person. I love spending time with people, both old and new.  I am grateful to be in some beautiful, supportive and inspiring social circles.  I'm blessed to say that I'm on good terms with almost everyone I've met (I think so anyway. See what I'm saying?  How this can be problematic?) If I'm being honest I'll admit to bearing a striking resemblance to someone with codependency issues. Alright, whether I'm "being honest" or not, I probably have a bit of working through codependency to do.  

All jokes aside (despite that I want to have fun here) I think the honesty is what I want to talk about and how the codependency could tie in with how we choose to present ourselves, to what layers of us get revealed. 

I'm generally a jovial and optimistic person.  Real "anger" inhabits me with the infrequency of Halley's Comet. Obviously, I get frustrated by mundane circumstances or people throughout the day, but typically I brush it off with a smile, a laugh or a logically adjusted change of heart.   However, I sometimes find myself in these situations that I'm sure are relatable.  In the rare moments when I get mad (or, better put: I feel agitated because I perceive myself as slighted, disrespected or taken advantage of) I go through these acerbic dialogues with the "jerk" in question where I chew the person out and "speak my mind".   I'll vividly envision saying my piece, being blunt and potentially hurtful in this imaginary standoff with my fantasy assailant, editing my points and being cleverer and more acerbic as I go.  Shortly after some thinking playing Devil's advocate and seeing multiple angles, I relax and let it go.  Even more worthy of note (and what prompted me to write this in the first place) when I see that person, most of my aggravated indignant feelings melt away as they are humanized in my presence and I simply want a pleasant interaction. 

That cordial second stage of this and what actually happens is more what I want to talk about.  

To revisit this:
 I initially feel righteous and confident in my spurned frustration.  I dwell on it and fantasize about an altercation until I have a rational discussion internally.  In my best moments I weigh both sides or multiple perspectives and subsequently dispel my anger with logically-met conclusions.  In fact, the first step in this process is that I often dismiss anger as an option altogether, it never solves much of anything.  For better or worse I have an estranged relationship with anger.  It seems like an incomplete feeling, like its just an idiotic impulse emotion before going to somewhere better and smarter.  It isn't even a  clearheaded or constructive lens through which to communicate or evaluate anything.  So by the time I see the person I was upset by, all of my self righteous anger has sort of drifted away. 

Sounds pretty good right? Internal problem solving and peacekeeping! Here's my conundrum: am I being a "nice person", forgiving and thoughtful, or is this cowardice?  Am I eschewing anger because I can't bear to upset people and/or speak my mind for fear of the consequences?

 I wrote in a song, "I'd  confront my fears but my fear is confrontation" and I think that probably plays in somewhere here.

 I encounter all of these people that have these staunch opinions of themselves and share popular, proud phrases of uncompromising self-certainty; "Take me as I am or watch me as I go", "Don't don't yourself for anyone", "I have no filter" and things like "I'd rather be a bitch than fake".  I've never met a person of these believes that I decided was just making a excused for being insufferable and unable to adapt or be empathetic.  Regardless, all of these people would look at my thought processes and would likely think I was being disingenuous for not stubbornly and scornfully having flown off the handle the very same moment I felt upset.  For one reason or another, combativeness repels me, it all seems childish and petty to me.

 Even therapists remind us, "all of your emotions are valid" 
Yes, but surely some are more productive and constructive than others.  If all our feelings are ours, at what point are we crossing a line from "real" to "fake"? If I've sincerely journeyed through my emotions in a self-aware thought process and decided against my more heated instinctual reaction then I'm being "real".  

The difference is the incentive for presenting oneself to their "opponent" differently than you initially felt.  It is a fine line between the censored, unhealthy bottling of emotions and actually processing your natural reactions and emotions before interacting with others. 

I feel I'm teetering between being maturely considerate and being cowardly in avoiding confrontation because I haven't the confidence to be forthright about my opinions or stand up for myself. 
Also, it is certainly easier to argue my point successfully against villains in my mind and resolve to the comfort of my uncontested "morally superior standpoint".  I then get to celebrate my own "advanced" ability to snuff or develop my raw and more rugged irrational reactions. 
 I don't know if I'm "a nice guy" or not but I am sure that I intend to be kind and pleasant to encounter.  Obviously,  I hope to be around nice people as well. I also hope that others would trust that I'm capable of having a mature dialogue or disagreement if something was an issue that needed to be discussed.   Maybe some of my issue is that perhaps I'm not trusting others in my life enough to comfortably bring difficult conversations to the table and perhaps I'm not trusting myself enough in that my perspective is worth bringing up even in the face of someone else's doubt about it.

 Do any of you have similar conflicts (or lack thereof)? I don't know if there is a right or wrong answer here I just notice these issues and I'd like to hear what you think.