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.

5 days ago
Good article. As INFP-T myself, I've been very much aware of how easy it is to become a doormat, and likewise the dangers that come from doing so. It's hard to fight an instinct of 'do no evil', even when applied to something like anger, which does have a place. I often find myself giving a polite smile over a joke of poor taste, quietly accepting when someone calls me by the wrong name, and cheerfully relinquishing my place for the fourth time, despite having been the one courteous enough to come early. And yes, I have noted frequent headaches, jaw popping, stress levels, and the like. And yet, it is nearly impossible to politely state how a really feel. Even if I spend some time in self-righteous anger, composing a long, seemingly justified response to another person, when I go to confront them about it, I decide last minute that is isn't worth it, or dumb it down to a meek highlighting of my thoughts, placing at least half the blame on myself, even if I don't really feel I deserve it. Occasionally though, I have managed it. With people I am exceptionally familiar with, such as my own family, I find it easiest, because I know they respect my thoughts, and that I am not trying to be rude or cruel (which I always feel like I am when I speak up about such things, no matter how politely I phrase it). Strangers and acquaintances are the area that I struggle the most, as I never want to put people off, no matter how much I might need to. The only advice I have, from someone constantly smacking her head against that wall: keep reminding yourself why you are speaking up. You might do well, being assertive about things for a month or so, but the moment you relax on it, old habits creep back. Keep reminding yourself the reasons why you are standing up for yourself, and you'll have a better chance of creating new habits, and having a healthier lifestyle.
3 days ago
Dear Elisabeth, I understand you so much. You know what, there will come a time when the doormat will wear out and what's left under, the floor, the inner foundation, will start to wear out... Oh expensive repair to come, nobody wants that, do we? So in order to last, we must preserve ourselves and become other things than the mat. And if we do stay as the doormat, for any different reasons, then we ought to put rules on who ever walks on that mat. No more dirty boots, from now on, they will wash the mat to keep it clean and appreciate the colors within, they will take care not to wear out the mat too fast, they will put a protective cover on it... etc. But they won't make the rules, you will have to. Well, that's me the image generator, the idea is not to deny the essence of you, it is to understand the basis, identify the "Childhood Wounds", correlate to them what is not fitting with your life, acknowledge them and go on with your life. Don't deny your anger, live it, don't worry it will not go away, but it will fade. You have to learn to live with it and it will protect you in the long run. Further, the human has a great talent in lying to himself. Beware of the self lies, to protect someone, to protect some who might have been idealized wrongly. The search for the truth, the facts has how they were, they really are. That is the act of judging, to appreciate what are the real facts. To judge a situation is not to condemn, but is the first step to understand the real effects on you. If you want to heal a wound with a medicine, before choosing the appropriate medicine, wouldn't be more successful to correctly identify the source/cause of the wound? From there, you will be better tooled to deal with it. Hope it will help, it has already started to make the differences for me. Good introspection!
6 days ago
This is saddeningly accurate, being unable to speak your mind... And many more things...
1 week ago
The jaw thing I couldn’t help but relate, it keep clicking and popping and I don’t know why
1 week ago
An ISFJ-t, but I can understand exactly how you feel. I think the way I was raised definetely plays a factor in this problem. Growing up, I was made to feel almost as if I should be the one to blame and feel like the bad guy for expressing anger, and that arguing with my mother (ironically also an isfj-t), who's so set in her opinions, and doesn't handle criticism well, was pointless. I thought that if I just stayed out of the way and minded my own business, I could avoid getting into exhausting arguments like the ones she got into with my brother and father. And unfortunately, growing up, I took that as normal. But going out on my own into the real world, I've had to learn some harsh lessons that that's far the case. In fact being honest and asserting you self is necessary and is more likely to earn you respect from others. I have a tendency to act like people should be able to read my mind, and resort to passive-aggressive behavior, hoping people take the hint that they've done something to piss me off (which in most cases, obviously doesn't get the point across). I would describe myself as easygoing and having a tendency to look on the positive side (especially if things don't go the way I want), but unfortunately, it doesn't take long for people to notice this and misconstrue this as passiveness, and I've attracted toxic people and fake friends that would try to take advantage of that. They would just assume because I seem nice and easygoing on the surface, I'd be ok with anything they do or any favor they ask of me (even ridiculous, unfair ones), but in reality, I was stewing with anger beneath the surface, and the more I didn't confront others about behavior I didn't like, the more I resented not only myself, but others, for allowing them to get away with it (even though sometimes, as ridiculous as it sounds, I'd try to convince myself that im making a big deal over nothing), and I'd eventually not be able to hold this anger anymore and blow up at these people. I've found anger can start to take a toll on your body too, if not addressed properly (might explain why I'm more easily prone to fatigue/tense muscles). With that in mind, that's why I'm trying to remind myself that expressing honest feelings doesn't make you look bad and can even help resolve conflicts, and in fact help strengthen your bonds with others. That doesn't mean it doesn't feel unnatural or uncomfortable for me though, far from it. It's definetely something that takes practice. Also Fyi, from a fellow yoga enthusiast, there's specific exercises that are excellent for balancing and releasing anger that have personally helped me a lot. Horror stories of these creaky floorboards and people that will break my concentration is exactly why I'm considering getting my own yoga mat, where I can do these exercises in peace and quiet. LOL
1 week ago
My mom is an ISFJ-T as well, and that sounds a lot like my childhood. Anger was considered a “bad” emotion, but yet she was often a very angry woman. Go figure. I think she would be very passive at work, letting people walk all over her, and then she’d come home and take it out on the family. Not very healthy at all. She’s gotten a lot better since then, since she retired.
5 days ago
I wondered if that would explain why my mom is the way she is, but luckily we've addressed this issue and our communication is a lot better. It's probably good I'm learning about my personality type while I'm still young, because your parenting style can really affect the way your kids grow up in ways you don't realize down the road...and if I have kids I would never want them to have to experience that and know they have someone they can rely on whenever they need help
1 week ago
This is very true for me. I would totally try to move on with any bad thing that happens with me rather than making a big fuss out of it. I guess this is one invaluable quality that all of us mediators possess. Whereas people break out for petty reasons, we accept the things as they are and move on. I really wish we could oppose it in some way not hurting the sentiments of the ones that have done the wrong. Maybe we don't do that because we find it unnecessary. However, in this process, we lose out on showing our inner side to the world. Nevertheless, it is a quality which is very rare in people and having this quality makes me proud. Cheers Mediators!
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