We know from experience that controlling our anger and antagonism is difficult, not least so because our naked-primate, first-responder instincts are fierce and hard-wired into our brains. But it is also difficult because many of us who are habitually resentful, vindictive or cruel do not want to get over our anger. The harsh response is warranted, we believe, because (fill in your justification).
Given your justification, it follows that being tense, mean-minded, aggrieved, bitter and punitive is worth it, doesn’t it? Not really. Spending so much time mentally entertaining or sharing your angry, resentful and vindictive thoughts is self-tormenting and a misuse of your attention and energies.
So, what would help us want to get over our out-of-control anger and antagonism? And how would we acquire the know-how to do it? Autonomy and life is a philosophical and practical approach to “how should we live our lives?” We present a transformative technology, a vocabulary, a grammar, a number of distinctions—together, a philosophic art form—to help us creatively engage our responsibility for a biography thoughtfully and autonomously earned.
This is how we do it: No matter our criticism of how others behave, we choose how we will behave—responsibly, morally, lawfully and productively. We filter all of our knee-jerk responses to our instincts through the thoughtful guidelines of our philosophy. We are entrepreneurs of how we think, work, play, love and of the biography responsibly earned. Said another way, instead of justifying or excusing our angry behavior, we filter our antagonistic impulses through the guidelines that match the standards we have set for ourselves.
Yes, as I’ve said many times in the past, the invisible self—or said less poetically—the mismanaged ego function can always corruptly rationalize why we reflexively defer to the naked primate’s instincts and its antagonistic habits.
For example, as we are naturally at the effect of our instincts, we are also culturally at the effect of the Scoreboard. It promises to relieve our tension and/or move us up the status ladder if we’d just get the stuff it wants us to have and show it off, as well. Constantly reminded by what we see and hear of all the stuff that others have, our lack of it validates the anger and antagonism.
But we’re also part and parcel of America’s pioneering experiment with the transformative responsibility of its people. We choose to avoid behavior that is not healthy, moral, lawful and productive. We choose to be responsible entrepreneurs of our biographical enterprise and enjoy the peace of mind and intellectual and emotional fulfillment that accompanies such a choice.
Arnold Siegel is the founder of Autonomy and Life and the leader of its Retreat Workshops and Advanced Classes. Visit autonomyandlife.com for more information.