Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

Offense, and the Crusading Spirit

More on anger issues; skip on if you're uninterested in the navel-gazing...

When pondering this point from siderea, it occurred to me that there's a common underlying emotion below almost all of my recent angry outbursts. There's an element of fear (and more on this in a bit) but much more conspicuous is a sense of offense.

It's interesting, because that offense is most often not over anything directed at me. Sometimes it is -- for example, one moderately common trigger is a feeling that my boss is wasting my time by making me write something that no one will actually want -- but the most intense cases aren't. When I get *really* pissed off, it tends to be on matters of principle, often on behalf of others (usually others who haven't asked me for it).

For example (to be intentionally obscure), the proximate cause of this whole exercise was something that one of my friends did recently that I thought was fabulously crass, and needlessly hurtful towards another friend. I have no specific information about how the second one felt about it; certainly they didn't ask me to get involved. But the whole thing set off an astonishingly intense bout of introspective anger.

As far as I can tell, I've gotten into a habit of crusading -- taking up causes, making them my own, and trying to make them right. In and of itself, that's not a bad thing: I spent many years developing the nerve to Do The Right Thing, and I'm proud of the times I've managed to get some results. But it requires a sense of time and proportion: choosing the right battles, and keeping my ego sufficiently disentangled from the cause to stay effective. (Fanatics are rarely effective; cool-headed advocates who can see both sides of the issue but argue passionately for one are more often so.)

Somewhere in my subconscious, I seem to have gotten so used to crusading that I've stopped making the choice intentionally. That's a problem, because it is violating both of the above principles. I'm choosing my battles poorly, with the result that I'm squandering my limited energy and opportunities. (If you get angry at someone once a year, they notice it when you do so. If you do so regularly, they simply shrug and ignore it.) And I'm getting far too personally invested in every argument, which is bad for my health (because I get much tenser and stressier), and I'm losing the cool that helps to formulate a strong argument.

I do sort of wonder if part of the recent problem is being set off by the recent dramatic loss of my deepest pet cause: the Membership debacle in the SCA. There's no question that that was my first true crusade -- I've been passionately involved in this argument since something like 1990, years before most people got drawn into it. But we've been losing ground for years, and the deathblow may well have recently fallen: the (badly skewed, but not entirely invalid) survey conducted by the Board on the subject indicates that most of the Society really *do* like the exclusivist members-only model of the SCA. I'm not sure that there's an actual connection between that and the anger rising to the fore, but I cannot deny that the disappointment is sharp.

Regardless, there's a clear correlation here: what sets off the serious anger is my rather sharp sense of right and wrong. I've always been a bit judgemental in my own idiosyncratic way (an INTJ is, pretty much by definition), but I seem to have lost my conscious control over that. Historically, I've tended to be reasonably good at deciding on the proportionate reaction to an offense, but that filter seems to be malfunctioning. Okay, that's something to work on.

Oh, and I mentioned fear above. It's interesting: if I'm reading myself correctly, the fear that's underlying the anger is actually a fear of not living up to my own standards. The fear seems to be disconnected from the actual incident -- rather, I think it's a fear of not being bothered *enough*.

One part of the curse of introversion is a fear of getting involved: a nervousness that, if I stick my neck out, someone will chop it off. I spent a number of years overcoming that, getting myself to *be* involved when I thought it was appropriate, especially when it really mattered. Even today, doing the Right Thing is sometimes a bit scary to me -- I sometimes have to "get out and push" to make myself actively follow the right, rather than passively watching.

The result is that I seem to have given myself a fairly intense sense of guilt over *not* doing the right thing when the opportunity arises. That apparently manifests itself as fear (fear and guilt being closely related emotions) as well as probably providing some of the mental impetus behind the anger. Again, it's pushing me towards being just a little too invested in every little thing. I don't mind the fact of the involvement -- in pretty much every case, it's appropriate for me to care -- but the degree is often disproportionate. My ego is tending to get deeply entangled in these things, and that's generally *not* appropriate.

Really, it all comes down to finding my balance again. The correct goal isn't avoiding the conflicts, or even avoiding argument. But I need to be able to maintain enough emotional distance to let me find the right tone for each of those conflicts. Getting passionate about an argument is okay, but I shouldn't be doing it in every case...

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