The Angry Mediator – Stories from the Real World

As a Turbulent Mediator, I never get angry. When friends flake on our plans together, I make sure they don’t feel guilty about it. When a stranger runs over my foot with a shopping cart, I say, “Excuse me! So sorry about that.” And when a waiter brings me a Caesar salad instead of the nachos I ordered, I don’t point out the mistake. In fact, I’m grateful for the extra vegetables.

At least, that’s what I tell myself. Or, more accurately, that’s what I told myself for a long time.

The Final Straw

Not long ago, I noticed that I was carrying around a lot of tension. My jaw clicked and ached and sometimes slipped out of its socket when I chewed. My shoulder muscles were so tight that a massage therapist asked whether I’d recently been in a car accident. And let’s just say that my blood pressure rose whenever I got stuck behind a slow walker in the long, long hallway to my gym’s locker room. 

So, I signed up for a singing bowl meditation at a local yoga studio. Have you ever encountered one of these events? Basically, everyone lies on the floor, wrapped in blankets, except for a practitioner who uses a mallet to coax eerie, beautiful sounds from a series of crystal or metal bowls. The experience is meant to be profoundly relaxing, and some people say it even has healing benefits.

I made sure to arrive early, so I’d have plenty of time to hand over my money and get comfortable before the meditation. There were a dozen or so people in attendance, and I unrolled my mat at a comfortable distance from everyone else – but not too far, of course, because that might seem unfriendly. 

(Oh, the elaborate internal calculations of the Turbulent Mediator.)

Then the singing bowl practitioner, a woman clad all in white, lowered the window shades and announced it was time to begin. I closed my eyes, ready to relax. The first tones – lower, quieter than I’d expected – rippled through the air.

The door to the room squealed open: a latecomer. Footsteps creaked across the hardwood floor. Please, I thought to myself. Please don’t make me get up and move my mat. 

A hand touched my shoulder, and I squinted my eyes open. The practitioner crouched beside me. Would I mind, she whispered, moving my mat to make room for the newcomer?

Of course not! I jumped to my feet and dragged my mat aside, my mouth wrenched into a tight smile. My jaw popped and clicked. 

I settled down again, pulling my blanket back to my shoulders, and closed my eyes. The bowls were arranged in a wide semicircle, and as the practitioner stepped from one to another, the bowls’ resonances – those lovely sounds that were supposed to relax and heal me, those sounds I’d paid to hear – were drowned out by the creak of the old hardwood floors. 

Well, I thought, isn’t this interesting. An opportunity to face expectations and distractions and let them go. Isn’t that what meditation is all about? 

Except I couldn’t seem to let go. Why, I wondered, couldn’t the practitioner play the bowls more loudly, or at least walk more gingerly? And why, why hadn’t the studio scheduled the event in a room with a less creaky floor? 

My shoulders tightened, and my heart beat fast. Tears pricked the corners of my eyes. I slipped into elaborate fantasies of complaining to the practitioner and the yoga studio, of demanding my money back. 

Maybe if I thought I’d actually voice my disappointment, I could have mentally moved on and – creaking aside – enjoyed the rest of the meditation. But I knew I wouldn’t complain, wouldn’t say anything except, “Thanks so much, that was great.” So, I laid back and stewed in the unfairness of it all. 

On top of all that, I resented myself for not enjoying the meditation. So there was a little background noise. Why did it feel like such a big deal?

No, seriously – Why?

Anger in a Bottle

If, in that moment, you’d asked me what emotion was overtaking my body, I might have admitted feeling frustrated, or upset, or even helpless. But I never would have owned up to anger.

To me, anger feels like a bad word. As a Turbulent Mediator, I care about maintaining harmony with others, and I often second-guess how I feel. To be honest, I don’t want to be thought of as the kind of person who gets angry. My advice to other people is always to honor how they feel, but when negative feelings course through my bloodstream, I judge myself, big-time. Wouldn’t a more enlightened person feel happy and peaceful and accepting all the time?

Not necessarily. Anger – along with its little sisters, frustration, annoyance, and resentment – serves as a cue that something isn’t working for us. We feel anger when something in our external world – whether it’s someone else’s behavior or our own – doesn’t resonate with our sense of what’s right and fair. If I ignore these cues, chances are I’m not going to act on what’s bothering me. Besides, tamping down my feelings means I’m not being true to myself, and the idea of not being true to myself makes my Mediator heart shrivel just a bit. 

By ignoring these cues, I’m also robbing the people around me of the opportunity to really know me and how I feel – and that means I’m basically cutting off my relationships at the knees. People can’t read my mind, nor should I expect it from them. If I don’t speak up about my experience at the singing bowl meditation, then I’m not giving the studio owner an opportunity to get me as a repeat customer. And if I don’t let my friends know that my feelings are hurt, then I rob them of the opportunity to show up the way I need them to – if they want to, that is. 

All of this sets me up to feel resentful, stifled, and disappointed. Even if I manage to keep my anger bottled – and, let’s face it, these feelings have a way of becoming toxic, which is why I freaked out so much during the singing bowl meditation – I’m not honoring my emotions, I’m not taking action on things that don’t feel right to me, and I’m not being honest in my relationships. And that’s not how I want to show up in any aspect of my life.

Final Thoughts 

So, you might be wondering, did I ever share my feedback with the singing bowl practitioner or the studio owner? Well, dear reader, I didn’t. Some lessons don’t sink in right away. I left the studio feeling stressed and dissatisfied – both with the meditation and with myself. 

But I’m learning. Tonight, if a waiter brings me a Caesar salad, I won’t pretend it’s what I ordered. I won’t act like I don’t mind, all the while simmering with frustration. I won’t stew on the subject for so long that, months from now, I’ll be writing an article about that time I shoveled lettuce down my throat instead of eating what I really wanted.

So, what will I do? I’ll smile, remind the waiter that I ordered nachos, and get on with my life. 

At least, that’s the plan.

3 weeks ago
hay there. I am too a turbulent mediator, and for years I used to do the same like you, however when I finally reached the last straw I started to get angry with people for no reason, and seconds after that to drown in guilt. now I try my best to get back to where I was before because I don't like the new me at all... hope you never reach that stage...
1 month ago
This seems like a terrible thing to say, but thank you for sharing this because I am glad that I'm not the only one. Although, at the same time I feel terrible that another person shares the same pain, inner turmoil & misery mixed with (at least in my case) self-hate & harsh self-criticism.
2 months ago
I am an assertive mediator, but only by about 53:47 ratio. I got really mad recently over some stupid stuff and I wondered what it was that got me so mad. My sister is a counselor and she talked it out with me. It was the tip of an iceberg that had built up over time. I felt frustrated, helpless, unwanted, and overall a burden. It manifested itself in anger towards the person who happened to be the source of the "stupid stuff." I'm working through it, and I think it starts with recognizing anger. Finding a vent to get rid of it, getting it out of the system, and avoiding it in the future. But as the author of this article says, "At least, that's the plan."
3 months ago
I'm really glad to know that I am not the only one. I am also a Turbulent Mediator, and have been trying to hide my anger for a while with one of my teachers. I had a similar experience as you, and this really helps! Thank you.
3 months ago
Lol, it's like me in the past I'm so glad I overcome this long time ago. Well, almost overcome. I still sometimes fall in a similar state -- you are hurt, but you can't say a word. I found the solution, but I don't think my solution will suit INFPs well. (I-E)NT(P-J). I am a slow thinker, so it usually hard for me to react to smth. When someone pressures me, I'm tending to ignore that, sometimes to the detriment of my interests. Naturally, it does not suit me, so I began to look for a way out. And I found it. Anger is not only an emotion, but it is also a thought too. If you focus on it, if you give this thought an energy, it will be expressed. At first, it was like an explosion, so this method should be trained on people, who are immune to emotional pressing(find an ENTP, ESTP, or INTJ friend, they may help with it, I think other people, who have 85%+ Thinking trait, will suit too, but I didn't try), or in other safe environment. I've learned to control this relatively fast. And it finds a wide application -- from making yourself work to making others work on/for you). I repeat I don't think this solution will be pleasant for many people, especially INFPs, but it works. And, IMHO, it will impress most Thinking types. Have a good day, if you read this)
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