The Angry Artist
Written by: Angie Noll
|Anybody can become angry, that is easy, but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy. - Aristotle|
I’ve quit cigarettes.
I’ve quit alcohol.
I’ve quit my comfort zone.
I even quit anger.
But sometimes, I fall off the bandwagon. I give in to the urge to be angry and to take it out on those around me. These can be very un-spiritual moments, to be sure, but now, they are few and far between.
I remember that feeling of my stomach tightening into knots, my heart rate increasing and the insane desire to scream and shout and lash out because life wasn’t going the way I wanted it to, or because someone else wasn’t behaving the way I wanted them to. That was how my anger manifested itself – I exploded.
Perhaps you resonate with this feeling. Or maybe your anger is the type that implodes. Instead of striking out at others, you drive it deep into your body, where it sits and simmers, making you feel like a pot of boiling water with the lid pushed down by alcohol, drugs, criticism, resentment and even by depression.
Neither of these are good ways to handle anger. We all know it, and yet it can seem almost impossible to channel this forceful energy into something more appropriate –especially when we’re in the moment of intense anger.
Why do we get so angry?
It’s usually other people make us so angry, isn’t it? If it’s not the publishers that rejected yet another manuscript or the insensitive critic that dared to criticise our art, then it’s the children who won't let us create in peace, our partner who is unsupportive of our creative dreams or just stupid people making stupid decisions that impact on our lives.
Perhaps you feel that you simply can’t help getting angry because anger is a personality trait, something you were born with. It’s your fiery "artistic" temperament, your hot head or an uncontrollable characteristic that you inherited from your mother, who in turn inherited it from her mother.
You might even feel justified in your anger, viewing it as a survival skill, a tool to help you get what you want or to control those around you. (Although getting angry at editors, publishers or gallery owners is never a good idea.)
Sometimes we simply don’t know how else to do what we manage to get done with our anger because anger gets results. Anger gets people to pay attention - temporarily at least.
But anger isn’t the only thing that gets results.
Anger and Control
We all know that it’s not right to use our anger to manipulate others or as an excuse for uncontrolled behaviour. And while it may seem impossible at times to overcome the anger habit, it really isn’t.
My philosophy with just about everything in life – including anger – is simple. I remind myself that we can’t always control the things outside of us, but we can always control the things inside of us. It really is that simple.
I was only able to overcome my habit of reacting with anger when I finally internalised this idea that I am truly responsible for every one of my actions and reactions and that even getting angry is a choice that I make. It doesn’t necessarily feel like a choice at the time, but it is.
There is no point getting angry about things we have no control over. Our anger won’t make any difference.
So that publisher who turned down our manuscript, the slacking agent, the internet trolls who trash our work, disappointments, rejections and other external stimuli that we allow ourselves to get angry over might not go away at all, but the option to choose inner peace is always available to us. It might not happen overnight, but we can practise choosing peace for ourselves every day.
It might not happen overnight, but we can practise choosing peace for ourselves every day.
Once I took responsibility for my anger, and I accepted that I make the choice to react with anger to certain stimuli that were coming my way at the time, I realised that I could also choose a different response.
It’s not always easy, of course, but I regard choosing peace as a practice, so I get to work at it every day.
I know that sounds and feels like an anti-climax. “Self-empowerment” and “choose peace” as alternatives to reacting with anger just lack the necessary drama and mystique that powerful change-your-life kinda tools should have. These ideas have no glitter, they don’t sparkle. They lack pizazz. (Insert jazz hands here.)
In fact, I think I can hear you groaning already. That’s it, you ask? We’re back on the whole self-responsibility thing again?
Well, yes. We are.
Because that’s where the magic happens.
Learning to take responsibility for yourself and for the ways in which you choose to respond to the world you live in, is like having a magic wand. Once you start taking responsibility for all your actions and reactions, including the thoughts that you choose, then you can truly start to make changes in any area of your life.
For the artist, this is particularly important because art is not a join the dot exercise. Plus, it usually involves a fair amount of personal vulnerability - exposing your interpretation of the world often goes against the status quo and hence is likely to invoke interesting responses from others.
But this simple realisation of self-responsibility will go a long way to ensuring that you are no longer at the mercy of the emotions, opinions or actions of others.
You will be truly the master of your own destiny.
And isn’t that the whole point?
Footnote: Understanding that you are fully in control of all your actions and reactions to life doesn’t exclude getting help when help is needed. Asking for help – from a friend, from a professional, from your spiritual helpers – is a proactive choice that is available to all of us. Choosing to ask for help is taking responsibility for your life. If you're an artist whose anger is well and truly beyond your control, get the help you need and carry on creating.
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