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.

2 months ago
I related a lot to this article, and I've known for a while that anger was the one emotion I have difficulty controlling. I would recommend venting to someone if you can; I know it's hard to find someone though. I would also say though that your anger can be used for good. I have accidentally blown my top before when people were bullying or saying things that shouldn't be said and they had no reason to, and when I got mad I expressed it and I stopped them. They were so surprised at me getting mad in the first place, they just stopped and listened. ( I mean, I felt kind of bad after ward's because then they felt bad, but then I realized that's the point.) Either way, I found a way to use my anger to help people, and it actually changed those people for the better. They started talking to me more and of course I was polite and talked to them too, and they actually seemed more relaxed and humbled. They also started to stop doing the mean things they did before. I would just say this: because we are so good at "bottling up" our emotions, when we let go and use it for a good purpose, we can use anger for good things. That is what I have found anyways. I hope it helps :)
2 months ago
I do want to express my feeling --along with its anger and its 'sisters', but when i do, people get hurt:( I am very aware of people's thought and feeling, if i may say to my self. And simply if i manage to express my disappointment, it will hurt them and there goes my relationship with them in the air. My relation with people are so important to me, as people referred me as their natural, non-degree therapist and/or psychologist, who always act and sounds nice for them. I take my relationship serious w/ others because i find my self really hard to have any relationship with people. Introverts things, hope you understand. I simply don't want to hurt their feeling and expectation, about everything. And that's why i kept my emotion ALL the time. It might 'hurt' me slowly, but at least i don't hurt people's. Is it, okay? :(
2 months ago
" To be honest, I don’t want to be thought of as the kind of person who gets angry. " I can relate so much. I feel guilty when I get angry or afraid it'll "ruin" the concept people have of me. but I wish I could just be myself, honestly, most people are no t afraid of showing their angry side
2 months ago
I can't really relate with the jaw, but every time I hide my feelings too much My spine and my neck start to hurt very much. Also i always get the taste of anesthetic in my mouth. As if I'm with the dentist, who's putting a needle In my mouth.
2 months 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.
2 months 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!
1 month ago
I appreciate the advice. I've always said that if you must judge, judge the action, not the person, as you do not know the why behind it. I am also trying to become better at not lying to myself or looking at things through rose-colored glasses, but I have to admit, I prefer to see the best in people, even if sometimes that means I'm missing the obvious truth.
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