Know Thyself – part 2

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In part 2, we’re going to find out what it is that makes your angry.

As per Carl Jung (in Part 1), you can’t fix anything if you don’t know why it’s happening.


There are three root causes of anger.[1] That’s it.

Yes, I can hear your objections now – “But I get pissed about the dirty dishes, about the mess on the floor, about my boss giving me shit, about so much.”

Bear with me for a moment.

The 3 causes

We get angry when we feel any of the following is threatened:

  • Core beliefs
  • Self-worth
  • Essential needs

Essential needs:

When someone you need, for life, is threatened, you get angry (because duh!). When someone nearly smacks into your car, why do you get angry? Because you need your car to get to work (to make money, to buy food – i.e. an essential need). It’ll cost money to fix (money that would otherwise go to food, rent, clothing).

Core beliefs:

Anger could be from a core belief. Maybe your kid didn’t do what you told him to, and you got angry? Maybe your were raised (i.e. had drilled into you) that kids must be obedient. So when your kid isn’t, it conflicts with your core belief.

Self worth:

What do you value in yourself? What is your identity (in your mind)? What gives you worth, as a person?

Do you see yourself a someone strong? Well, when your wife comes home from the gym and tells you she saw someone squatting double your max, it might perturb you.

Where this gets interesting

Where this gets interesting is what each person considers to be their needs, their core beliefs, and where their self worth comes from.

Some people get upset with even a small scratch on their car:

  • Do they see their car as an essential need (it gets you to work, which makes you money, which buys you food)?
  • Are your belongings very important to you? Are you a person who really looks after their things? Then maybe taking care of your property is a core belief of yours.
  • Are you an old-time jock that takes inordinate pride in his car? Maybe, in your head, your self worth is tied up in with your car.

The reasons why this is so interesting is that it all depends on you. It depends on how you see things in your head. Remember

Your Reality = Actuality + Your Explanation

Actuality: A few molecules of coloured compound have been removed from the surface of your metal cage with wheels.

Your Explanation: Somebody has damaged my most cherished possession that I spend 3 hours polishing with baby diapers every Sunday.

Your Reality: Son of a bitch!

Personal examples

Two things come to mind that piss me off. Going to bed late and being late for work.

But don’t think a ha, it’s about time management. It’s not. After much deep thinking I narrowed them down like this.

Getting up early (early for me) is part of my self worth. It adds to my (self-perceived) value as a husband, a father, a man and a Christian. When I get up late I often berate myself heavily. So when kids won’t go to sleep, or the movie runs late, or whatever, it’s not a late night – it’s a threat to the thing that makes me worth something. I explain it to myself as a threat to doing the thing that gives me have value.

Being late for work is different. In this case I see it as a threat to my essential need of making money. Is my boss going to fire me for being 10 minutes late? No, not even close. But I explain it to myself as being a threat to having a job. It’s in my head.

So how does this help?

If I’m just getting angry, but I have no idea why, then I have no hand. I have no chance of affecting or changing my anger.

If I can work out the subconscious, if I can work out why I get angry, what is being threatened – then I have hand. I’ve got my foot in the door to making a change.

It’s only after I worked out that being kept awake by kids made me feel my early mornings were under threat, that I was able to make a change.

But surface reasons aren’t enough. If I only know that the kids are making em angry, then I will focus on changing them. And that just sets up a me vs you mentality. It bakes conflict into the cake.

But if I understand that it’s not going to bed late (the kids fault), it’s the possibly of not waking up early (my self worth), then I understand that my mental story is the problem. If I can explain the late night differently, then I can avoid the anger.

Instead of “these bloody kids aren”t going to sleep”, I can change it to “the kids are really excited by their new lego invention”.

I’m not good enough (yet, I hope) to change my perceived self worth. I’m not good enough to not see late nights as a threat.

But what I can do is distract myself from that line of thinking. I can stop thinking “it’s getting late, it’s getting late, it’s getting late” and start thinking about the kids’ point of view.

I can figure out if they’re excited by the new book, and they don’t want me to stop reading it to them. Or maybe we had a fight earlier and they need some affection[2] to make them feel secure before they can relax and fall asleep.

If I can explain the late night that way, then I can avoid the anger-inducing mental story.

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle. – Sun Tzu

[1] – Marc MacYoung

[2] – Breach and repair sequence for children.

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