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Anger vs. Happiness


bulldogsmileOn Monday, at his baseball game, Benjamin had a great first at-bat. In his division, now, kids have started pitching, but only until they throw four balls to a batter. Then they go back to the pitching machine. In Ben’s at-bat, he quickly got two swinging strikes before the coaches reminded him that he needs to not swing at bad pitches. He managed to get a 4-2 count (that sounds odd) and they switched to the machine. He fouled off two pitches and then lined a single up the middle.

During his second at-bat, he struck out. After the game, I excitedly talked to him about his first at-bat, but he complained about the second. He was upset because he felt a pitch was too low and shouldn’t have been called a strike. He was angry because he felt cheated. I explained to him that is part of baseball and he has to shake it off. I resisted the urge to agree with him (because I did). He continued to mope. It reminded me of when he was smaller.

I use to lie in bed with him at night and talk to him about his day. He would almost immediately start telling me about the bad things that happened to him at day care (a kid stole a ball, he couldn’t play with S., etc). He focused on the bad things. He was three and four and he only focused on the bad things that happened to him. I spent a lot of time coaxing the good things about the day from him until, one day, he started focusing more on the happy memories of a day.

There was no resolution for his mood after that game. I think he just stopped thinking about it and cheered up by dinner. However, it got me thinking more about stuff I struggle with. Why is it easier to focus on the negatives in a day than on the positives? Why is it easier to be angry than happy? I mentioned this to someone else and he laughed that Buddhist monks and philosophers have been wrestling with that for hundreds or even thousands of years.

I’ve really struggled with this myself, lately. Losing my job has put me into a disposition towards anger and sadness. I want to lash out at the people responsible and I almost crave talking negatively about them. When I’m in a better mindset, I understand this is business and there is little the people I hold responsible could do. Still, I want to be angry.

Side but related note, he came home from school the other day and told me that if you force yourself to smile, the muscles trigger your brain to be happier, according to his teacher. I am so thankful I have him and Matthew around so that I don’t have to force the smile too often.

Yet, there are plenty of positives I can find in all this. I’m not going to go into them here, because they are complex and drift off the point, but they are there. However, I continue to chose to be angry and that doesn’t help anything.

I think the average human needs to feel something. They need those emotions running through them. It helps them feel alive, I think. But why is it easier to chose anger to fill that need for emotion? I tend to think it’s a low hanging fruit. I tend to think happiness is something that only you can truly bring yourself. It is far easier to let other people make you angry than it is to get others to make you happy. I’m not a philosopher, but that’s just my thought.

And even though I feel like I understand this, I still seem to choose anger. However, I don’t feel like a hypocrite when I try to curb these tendencies in Benjamin. I want him to know that he can choose this. He doesn’t have to be a victim of a bad ball/strike call or a bully on the playground. Happiness is something he can choose. He can focus on the positives and dismiss the negatives. It might be too late for me, but I want him to know he can choose to be happy. For the most part I am winning this war with him, but I can only hope I can start winning it with myself.

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