Tuesday, July 27, 2010

From the Wolf Den: Aristotle's Anger Theory

"Anyone can become angry-that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way-that is not easy." Aristotle, The Nichomachean Ethics

No problem.

I think I screw up the process of getting angry every day; the person who brings bad news at the wrong time, getting angry because my internet is down, showing my anger by slamming the phone down or screaming at somebody. Yep. Been there, done that all right. So how could I possibly be telling my own teenaged son, who's impulse towards anger is all-too frequent and all-to inappropriate, that I know best?

This quote from Aristotle comes from the book "Emotional Intelligence" and is a textbook chosen by Yukon for his Introduction to Public Management class at the University of Alaska this fall. He will be teaching students in the Master of Public Administration program how to better understand the processes of human emotions as part of our overall intelligence, instead of simply relying on the "smarts" of an individual.

Our Wolf cannot distinguish between being angry for the right reason and just being angry. His temper flies if someone merely looks at him askance, when his brain overrides the the processing step and jumps right into reaction. Thinking in the typical Asperger way, he is either Angry or Not Angry, with no middle ground for being "a bit ticked off". There is one or the other, and convincing him there are more ways has so far been futile.

Think of other ways we can describe anger: frustration, exasperation, irritation, annoyance, my thesaurus is full of words. But to my kid, it's all or nothing.

Knowing about and working towards productive anger is yet another skill Wolf needs to tackle and master, and it is becoming more important, even, than his algebra or English homework. We can always go back to academics, we cannot always return to emotions if they hold him hostage as an adult.

Back to basics, back to looking deep into himself, watching a lot of Star Wars and listening to Yoda as he walks Luke Skywalker through the Dark Side of anger-leads-to-fear-leads-to-agression stuff. This Wolf understands. This may be his only hope, Obi Wan Kenobi.

2 comments:

monak81 said...

It's something we all struggle with, yes? A part of the journey. Beautiful piece, e.

Natalie said...

Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda have some good stuff to share. I think it's fabulous that he's thinking about feelings at all. And for heaven's sake, don't be hard on yourself for yelling when you're angry. Without our emotions, life would be a dull, dull place.