It’s the little, stubborn part of us that latches onto our anger and our upset. The part that is rude to strangers who take up all the seats on the bus. The part that gets exasperated when parents insist on lecturing us about the life we’ve been living quite successfully so far. The part that snubs our friends and lovers because they didn’t quite give us the attention we wanted them to.
It’s the part that is irrational. The part that grabs onto emotion and uses it as the motivation to behave like a child. To throw a temper tantrum because we didn’t get our own way.
It’s the part that makes people go to therapy so they don’t hurt their loved ones.
It’s the part that means that sometimes you need to count to ten before you offer an opinion.
It’s the part that most of us hate about ourselves. It’s the part that we most want to be rid of.
We wish we could be more rational. We wish we weren’t such slaves to our pain. We wish we could handle trauma with sense. We wish we weren’t petty or jealous or bitter or cruel.
But we are.
People do those things. And, while we can’t help feeling the way we sometimes feel, we can learn from them, if you take the time to get to know them.
The darkest parts of you are as much you as the most wonderful and lovely parts. Explore them with the same depth you’d treat any decision you’re tempted to make. Acting out is as much as message to your conscious self as it is a rebellion against the outside world.
Instead of just wishing that you didn’t get so grumpy, think about why you’re grumpy. What – first and foremost – has annoyed you?
Has someone barged past you and taken your seat on the bus? So you don’t like rude people. What you want is for other people to be kinder to one another, to be more sensitive and more generous towards the needs of others. That one seems fairly simple.
Or is it a bigger problem than that? Has something you’ve read or heard about – some awful piece of news from your life or the world in general – that has offended your moral judgement? Are you horrified by the behaviour of some third world tyrant? Are you distressed because the state of this world is far from ideal? It might seem that there is less you can do about those kinds of problems. But, if there’s not someone already fighting that corner, maybe you could be the one who does.
Or maybe you don’t know at all. Maybe even you think that your gut reaction to a little stressor is excessive. Maybe you’re upset and you have no idea why. Then you have to ask yourself, what is really bothering you?
Are you jealous of someone? Are you lashing out because things come easier to someone else than to you? Is someone making you feel inadequate or unlucky? Are you miserable because you know it’s not their fault but can’t get over those awful feelings? People usually do.
But once you know you’re treating them like it is, you can stop. You can relax. You can work out what about them is making you feel insecure and you can learn from that. You can develop in yourself the traits of theirs that you wish you had.
You can become someone you isn’t petty, who isn’t jealous, because they have no need to be.
But first you need to know what you’re doing. You need to thoroughly probe the envy and the aggression. The part of you that lashes out at the things it doesn’t understand, the things it is too sensitive about to see challenged.
Understand that you are not flawless. Know that someone somewhere is probably better than you. At most things. Accept that you are human and that you sometimes don’t want to act gracefully.
Then take that part of you and use it.
Use it to understand what drives you. Use it to explore your ethical motivation. Use it to make your world the kind of place you want to spend your life.