When Do I Just Get To Stab Them In the Eyes?

I wish I had a way to write pretty about the ugly things that happen in life. I’m getting really tired of not really having a good way to find peace with some of those things. Call it a cross to bear, call it a fact of life, I don’t care… it shouldn’t be so hard. Some people can sit down and write a beautiful post that somehow leads them out of the dark place that makes them want to stab someone in the eyes. Random or specific target. Whichever. My point is, I can’t do that.

Pisses me off.

Actually, being angry does help me get past the hardest parts of the ugly things that happen. The problem is, for all my snark and sarcasm and all my wit and pith, I don’t really get angry very often at all. Sometimes I wish I did. Sometimes I wish I could just throw things or get all up in someone’s grill about their shoddy understanding of how to relate to another, allegedly important human being in their life. But I can’t do that.

Why is that, do you think? Because I’ve long thought it was my attempt at Christianity, my effort to treat people the way I’d like to be treated. (I fail at this a lot. Usually with people I work with and/or drive on highways with.) I’ve long thought that my tendency not to get angry was because I wanted to understand why someone would behave the way they did so that I would know if I should change something in myself. I thought it was owing to the wisdom of a friend my freshman year of high school who said, “There is no such thing as anger. It is only a bypass feeling for hurt.”

She was right. Holy crap, she was 14 and really messed up, but she was right. I can’t think of a single time in my nearly 35 years when I got angry and wasn’t actually hurt, or embarrassed, or scared, or insulted. My old friend’s teenaged moment of sagacity has stuck with me, and I’ve taken it to heart. I have examined every time when I thought I was angry and realized that I was actually one of those other things. It’s a valuable thing to know about myself. It’s very zen.

It’s also really inconvenient.

Anger helps us get over things that hurt. So I’m trying to let myself be angry right now. The zen stuff is totally not working. I don’t know if it wore off, like the smell of an air freshener when it’s been used for too long, or what, but it’s got zero effectiveness at this point. So I’m really trying to just be enraged. I keep reminding myself of why I’m pissed off. And I deserve to be. I really do. I’ve earned that. Over years and years, I’ve earned it. I’ve always pushed it away, explained it away, hurt it away, understood it away, examined it away… thinking I was taking the higher road, being my higher self, being a better person. But now, if I can embrace it, if I can hold onto it, then I can finally hurt less and cry less and maybe even think less. And want to stab someone (specific) in the eyes more.

But then I worry. I worry that letting myself get angry now will lead to a lifetime of letting myself get angry and wanting to stab (specific) people in the eyes too often. Which is not good for anybody. Nobody likes angry people. And nobody likes getting stabbed in the eyes. Stabbing someone in the eyes is not a good way to say “I love you.”

Even though that’s totally what drives you to want to stab them in the eyes. Even though they see it coming. Literally and figuratively. Or at least they should. They don’t get that. All they know is, “Oh! My eyes! My eeeyyyyyes! Why did you do that?” And you can’t say, “Because I love you.” That’s the kind of conversation that gets you on the news.

So I wonder: when is it finally okay to get angry? When is it finally okay to haul off and stab someone in the eyes?

Well, probably never for that second question. Here’s where I am with the first one so far:

There are a lot of angles to “okay.” There’s when it’s okay as in understandable, like, “Yeah, you totally have a right to be mad.” That’s generally third in line, after “Um, you’re kind of psycho right now” and “Eh, I mean, I could see it, but…” Because being kind of psycho generally means you’re being irrational about what’s making you angry. And the second thing means you might be overreacting. But after that, a lot of times you have a perfectly valid reason for your feelings. So then it’s okay to be angry.

The second angle to “okay” is when it’s okay as in acceptable. Understandable and acceptable are not the same. Just because you’re allowed doesn’t mean it’s going to be met with understanding. “You know, I totally see why you just sank that steak knife into my retina. I had that coming.” That’s what you’re going for with the second angle of “okay.”

The third angle of “okay” is when it’s okay as in not damaging to the situation. Sometimes getting angry doesn’t do you any good. It gets in the way. It interferes with what really needs to be done. You can’t get angry until it’s actually imperative that you stab someone (specific) in the eyes.

The fourth angle of “okay” is when it’s okay as in psychologically hygienic. If getting angry and stabbing someone (specific) in the eyes will turn you into some sort of crazy person who is racked with guilt and you spend the rest of your life wondering if things could have been resolved without you stabbing them in the eyes… it’s not okay yet. If you can do it and not regret it at all, and in fact you are better afterward, then it’s okay.

That is a really disturbing rationalization that makes me wonder if I’m actually a little bit psychotic.

Moving on anyway…

The fifth angle of “okay” is when it’s okay as in the final option. You’ve tried everything else. You’ve tried helping someone understand. You’ve tried understanding where they’re coming from. You’ve tried being your higher self. You’ve tried just letting go. You’ve tried choosing your battles. You’ve tried showing love in all the ways you have ever been able to imagine, without ever saying, “This is all unconditional, but I’m also kind of trying to make a point.”

I think you have to check off all five angles before you can justifiably stab someone (specific) in the eyes. And probably more that I just don’t really have a grip on yet.

Right now I’m on Angle Three.

Can I skip any? Because here’s the trick: the next one? Four? It’s a double-edged sword. Lots of times, it’s not psychologically hygienic either way. I don’t know if I can get past Angle Four. I would definitely eventually regret the stabbing. And I would definitely wonder if somehow it was not the final option, after all. But if I don’t do it, I’m almost definitely still going to need therapy.

Life is full of difficult choices.


27 thoughts on “When Do I Just Get To Stab Them In the Eyes?

  1. I’m going to butcher a Maya Angelou quote I like a lot. Dave Chappelle (yes, that Dave Chappelle) asked her how she can not be angry at all she’s seen, and she said something like, “Oh, of course be angry. Never stop being angry. But you mustn’t let it make you bitter.” Which I thought was an interesting distinction.

    • Well now you’ve got me wondering how many angles I have to get through to be entitled to bitterness. Am I bitter? Now I have to worry about THAT, too?

      It’s a lovely quote. I do try to keep a version of that sentiment in mind. It’s partly my avoidance of bitterness that leads to my avoidance of anger, interestingly. I have to learn how to make a distinction between the two, as you point out. Thanks for that thought.

      • I totally agree. I actually find anger to be a helpful emotion, as long as I don’t make it my permanent home. My rules: 1. Anger is okay when there’s been an injustice. 2. Anger is okay as long as it doesn’t become your default emotion. 3. Anger is okay if it’s directed at a metermaid who insists on not just writing you a ticket, but also providing you with a lecture about the parking rules.

  2. I’m pretty sure you NEVER get to stab them in the eyes, at least not without doing hard time.

    Angry was never something done in my family. When my brother married someone whose family dynamic was that showing anger was healthy, she would breeze in, dump a load on us and breeze out, all refreshed. We were left shell-shocked and never forgetting the incident. Different dynamic.

    There are those who can be, and those who can’t. I’m sorry about what ever has you so angry/tempted to be angry/seriously considering if it would be ok to be angry.

    • Aw, man. The law never lets me do anything fun. Seriously, though, I am not actually a violent person. If I don’t even throw things, I certainly am not going to stab someone in the eyes. But to your point about your sister-in-law, I wonder: did she ever feel that the situation she was protesting was resolved? Because I’ve noticed that people who get angry often also get what they want (and I don’t). I find that fascinating. “You are insane/fine, I’ll do exactly what you want and not even be upset about it.” (Obviously this last bit doesn’t apply to your family.) How does that happen?

      • You have a really good point, which I never considered before. We got to tippy-toeing around on eggshells around her so we wouldn’t get her ticked-off. It wasn’t as comfy as our let-it-all-hang-out attitude to one another, but it saved everyone grief if we just gave in.

  3. The Bible not only says “be angry but sin not” it also tells us Jesus got angry. Anger is a normal emotion. Some things make people angry. Because the actions are wrong. I liken it to that quote “If you are not outraged you are not paying attention” when talking about the world. Many things that are going on for instance outside of our country that might only affect the country it is happening in should make us angry on behalf of humanity at large.

    I my personal life I have had reason to get angry. It takes a lot to hurt me. It is easier to make me angry. Having faith and walking in the spirit does not mean no one will ever do anything mean to me. Sometimes that is a friend or fellow Christian. Sometimes it is a random person I run across in the community.

    I am raising a teenager. If that cannot push buttons a person has to be dead I think. It is not pain or fear for me to get upset when my daughter does something she should not or refuses to do something I tell her to do. I do not even have to feel disrespected. I get angry because she is then usually refusing to grow up and disrespecting herself.

    • Hi there, thanks for venturing over from We Blog. And thank you for your input. It truly is valuable to me to remember that Jesus Himself got angry. I had never thought of that before. That brings me some peace. (Ironic?)

  4. If we were in-person friends, I would invite you over and we would eat whatever we wanted and you would tell me all about it, with much inflection and perhaps an occasional waving about of the arms, and I would respond in ways that let you know I truly hear what you’re saying and probably understand what you’re feeling and I would make you laugh anyway, a little bit at the situation and a little bit at yourself and a little bit at how absurd and difficult and ironic and wonderful it is to be human. You’d still be angry, but maybe not stab someone (specific) in the eye angry. And maybe you would be in a better frame of mind to find another, less dramatic solution. Not to mention less blood and dry cleaning.

    Since I can’t do those other things, I’ll just answer your questions. It is finally okay to be angry whenever you feel angry. How you choose to express that anger is… Well, I’ll just say that it’s never “finally okay to haul off and stab someone in the eyes”. But you already knew that.

    I’m going to go out on another one of those limbs and wonder if you are angry because you perhaps don’t want to make a decision. Maybe you’re feeling fed up with being put upon or taken advantage of, or just with someone’s ridiculous behavior. And maybe you don’t want to cut the person off or take the necessary steps to stop what’s happening. Maybe it’s family, so it’s hard to take “drastic” measures, or someone you don’t want to let go of. Maybe what the anger is masking is how much it sucks to have those two choices: keep taking it or alter/sever a relationship. Maybe you’re angry at yourself because you know what you need to do, but don’t want to do it. Maybe I’m completely wrong and you’re just sick of some jerk at the office always drinking the last of the coffee and never making a new pot. Either way, it’s okay to be yourself; be angry or don’t be angry. However you are emotionally built is perfectly normal and perfectly you.

    • Well. You’re good. I have to say it’s bothering me how apparently transparent I am to the basic total strangers who have become blog friends over the last year. It seems lots of people are a little worried that I might actually wig out and stab someone in the eyes. I’d like to take this opportunity to explain that that was a metaphor. It’s a satirical stand-in for wanting to rage at someone. I think you know this, Stoney, but perhaps others do not.

      That said: you make very good points. Very good points, indeed. I have to say that I am actually angry at this specific person for things they have done to make me feel like a small and insignificant part of their life rather than the actual very big and very significant part that I really am and have long been. But that grows from a lot of what you’ve said: that I have to make a choice now, that I’ve reached a breaking point at which I can no longer just keep calm and carry on, because doing so would imply permission and further compromise me… and that it forces me to potentially sever a relationship I have cherished for a decade, that still holds a great deal of value, because what seems to be happening now may overshadow it all. And I don’t want to do that. And I don’t want this to be happening. And I want it to be easier to do what I might have to do.

      But the stabbing stuff really is a joke, people.

      • Haha – I know you weren’t really going to stab someone (specific) in the eye. I just meant that choosing how you express your anger is important; it can be detrimental or beneficial to the other person, the relationship and to how you feel about yourself. By the way, love the (specific). Like the category says, you have a way of putting humor into the gut-wrenching. I wasn’t sure if I should even pry (I think I’ve said something like that here before). It sucks big time, and I’m sorry. I do wish I could sit down with you and talk it over.

        “I don’t want this to be happening.” That’s the thing that was going through my mind, the feeling I got about what you might be going through. You do have choices, really. You can stick it out (for how much longer, at what cost, at what benefit, can you continue to make these emotional compromises?). You can let the person go completely, cold turkey. You can force the issue and make the other person decide (that’s a really hard one!). You can simply back off, be less available, and slowly wean yourself off of this relationship. You can wait it out and this feeling will pass (and come back later, for sure). You can have a major meltdown slash toxic inferno of an emotional explosion and just really rip into this someone (specific) and hit ’em right between the eyes…um…with words, I mean…and they won’t know what the hell happened or probably why. I like that one, but again with the blood and dry cleaning, it may not be worth the hassle.

        You’ll make a decision, and all of this upheaval will eventually settle back down. It just takes time and hard work.

        And ice cream. And maybe cake. (Or is that just me?)

  5. Wow, this is the fiercest blog I’ve seen from you so far. I DO get angry at people from time to time, but usually only when they’re being jerks or trying to drive me crazy. There are two strategies that have worked for me.
    The first to try is to get out of the situation. Walk away. When you’re far enough away, you can scream and shout all you want. Go to the gym and hit the gym dummy a few times.
    If you feel boxed in and can’t get out of the situation, you can use the second strategy, which is to shout really loud and then break something. That usually gets their attention. One time, I took the TV out to the garage and dropped it on the floor.
    But then, you might not want to follow either of those strategies, since they can put a relationship in serious jeopardy. I have left two husbands when I felt they were driving me crazy. I must say, though, that I’ve rarely been very angry since.

    • Yeah, sorry. I was trying to make a humorous/satirical analogy between the fact that I don’t get angry because I’m too damned understanding of my own feelings and the fact that I wish I *could just go off and be crazy. I think, though, that relationships can be jeopardized by not allowing anger, too. My situation isn’t quite that clear, but I want to be angry so it doesn’t hurt so much. So far it’s working. 🙂

  6. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting angry. (See blog post today.) However, it is wrong to wallow in anger or stay angry, at least for me. I can acknowledge that the passive aggressive behavior of family members makes me angry, and I let myself get mad about it for a few hours. Then, I try to let it go. I also (and this is probably wrong and/or imperfect) try to discuss angry things when I’m not angry, because (as you said) I can generally focus the conversation on how something made me feel (hurt/neglected/used/ignored/devalued/unimportant/etc.)

    In my experience, getting angry doesn’t make something hurt any less. It makes me feel more powerful somehow. For a bit. But, the hurt seeps in around the edges. It’s always there.

    And, there’s nothing wrong with that.

    • I agree that it’s bad to stay angry. Oh, that’s the other thing I worry about! If I don’t let myself get angry in the proper time and place, will the latent anger spill over into an all-encompassing hostility later? (That happened once. Not good. I learned from that, but possibly not enough.) But you seem to have a question similar to one of mine: Is it okay to try to “discuss” the anger while still mired within it? The way I grew up suggests it is; in fact, my parents argued plenty, and it taught me that a relationship can survive arguments. But still, I try to dissect the feeling down to what it truly is (the hurt/embarrassment/etc) so that I don’t alienate the other person with unfair anger.

      Interesting point about anger being empowering. I’ll have to think on that.

  7. The problem with stabbing people is that we have to pay for it later, and then getting in trouble and having consequences (from stabbing them) just makes me feel like they’ve won, and that makes me mad. 😡

    The same thing applies to getting bitter and holding grudges- then you sink to their level and ultimately become what makes you angry (i.e, them).

    The key here, imo, is to understand and acknowledge that anger is a normal, human emotion. Yes, you may also be hurt or scared, but sometimes, you are just mad. Or at least I am. (I think this probably has something to do with the children factor, but I’m kinda sleep deprived at the moment and can’t think straight)

    Anger can be a living, breathing thing if we let it. And we’re going to be angry, unless we have somehow managed to live in a vacuum. At some point, we’re going to be the recipient of a grave injustice.

    And ya, Jesus was pretty ticked at the money changers at the temple; the Pharisees, etc. It’s what we DO when we’re angry that matters.

    I say, vent and get it out (but don’t sin, like stab someone 😉 while getting it out). Don’t let it eat at you and destroy or twist you, because then it wins……

    Discussions with disagreement don’t quite fall into my category of “fight.” Discussion (particularly between spouses) is important, even if they disagree. It’s what they DO during the discussion and how they handle the disagreement that matters in the long run…………

    Romans 12:19-21
    Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

    • You’re entirely right about it being the character of how things are handled that matters most. Oh, how I try to live that passage from Romans. But I do find it so exhausting sometimes, and that’s my fault, because, as I noted to the Byronic Man above, I fail to distinguish between that which I am and that which I do not want to be. So what happens? When I finally give in to anger that’s long been justified, I blow up and freak someone out because they had no idea it’s been building all this time. Thanks for your thoughts.

  8. I grew up in a house filled with anger. It was always the first emotion that was played, regardless of the situation. Get mad first, then ask questions. I hate conflict, and as the family member who got teased for always getting their feelings hurt, I learned to either lash out or shut down completely, usually the latter. As I get older, I realize most anger is nothing more than fear. I’ve learned to acknowledge anger when it shows up, and let go of it when I can. Getting angry usually makes me feel worse.

    • Getting angry makes me feel worse when, in the resolution, I realize that all the self-righteousness I developed while thinking of the 15 possible explanations for another person’s behavior and rejecting them all as reasonable excuses was approximately one explanation short of the maximum. When they give me that real explanation I never thought of, I feel awful. I’m sorry about the way you grew up – not that I mean to offend or insult your parents. Your description of yourself sounds a lot like Sister 1 (minus the constant anger in the environment).

  9. Visiting from Andra Watkins. My husband always takes that non-angry high road. Do you know how many FEWER arguments we would have if he would just get mad and say what he meant from time to time? I mean, we don’t fight THAT much. But when we do, I blow up. Bipolar just does that to me. My meds will someday be perfect, and I’ll probably still have the temper of the rattlesnake you just stepped on back there. Him? He passive-agressives, equivocates, and temporizes, most likely because he wishes I would do those things. Sigh. Neverending cycle.

    But I had to visit when I saw ‘stab them in the eyes’

    • Welcome! I’m glad my temptation to hurt people summoned your attention. It’s an interesting point to make, that you’d have fewer arguments if he would get mad. That’s something to think about. Thanks! Hope you come back.

  10. I have had an essay titled “The Many Uses of Anger” kicking around in my head for a long time. You may have motivated me to write it. Many years ago, I was a rager. I kept anger at bay until it exploded from me. When I did my 4th step, rage was one of the first things to go, partly because I let myself be angry in moderation more often. I also discovered that I often used anger to cover sadness (I think a lot of men do that). I used it a lot to get past fear as well. I still use it but more consciously. I guess you could say I don’t leave home without it.

  11. I’m sorry … I sounded like a know-it-all. I’m sorry you’re going through whatever it is. In my angrier days, my son had a heavy bag in garage and I’d put on the gloves and go beat on it. That really helped.

    • You didn’t sound like a know-it-all. I’m sure you’ve read through the comments here; a lot of people left a lot of similar thoughts about how they process anger or hurt, what they think of those reactions, what they think of the reactions of others, etc. I didn’t feel as though you were trying to tell me “the only way.” I think, if anything, I wish I had made it clearer in my post that I was TRYING to be angry, because it’s not something I normally allow. I’ve learned a few things, though… including the possibility that, if I allow it more, I will be more true to myself instead of squashing it in the interest of pleasing someone else. Oh, and I’m far less angry now. There was a Come to Jesus conversation that exorcised the anger and replaced it with the stuff I was trying to avoid. But it’s as it should be. Thanks.

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