Managing Anger, Emotional Flow

I recently encountered a situation that brought home to me the kind of “flow” that Grandmaster talks about. It occurred just a few days ago (a couple of days before her birthday, in fact), and it taught me lot about both what she teaches, and how she teaches. The experience made it possible to look back on a number of situations I’ve either witnessed or experienced, and make sense of them.

Originally published

The situation was this: Several months ago, a pager company had sent me a bill for a lost pager that had been returned. It was a typical fee for such things, but since I had not been a customer for more than a year, I sent them a note to that effect and forgot about it. But they kept resending the bill. The bills were annoying, but I figured that sooner or later they would get the idea that I wasn’t going to pay them, and they would drop it. But then I got a notice from a collection agency! They had turned me over to a collection agency for $21, and I was livid. (It was no small thing to me, since I’ve been trying to rebuild my credit rating.)

I had to wait until the next day, but as soon as I got up, I made a beeline for their office. On the way, I thought of things I planned to say. Fortunately, I’d been working on software for some legal systems, recently, so I had a few thoughts on why the bill was wrong. At first, I thought of harassment. But that was rather weak. Then it occurred to me that since we didn’t have a contract (I had terminated it when I got a cell phone) that I was under no obligation to pay. And since they never gave the pager to me, they were charging me for a service they had never delivered. So that was two strikes against them. Finally, since they turned the issue over to a collection agency, they had generated a false credit report, which surely counted as libel. Strike three!

Those were the logical thoughts going through my mind. But more important were the emotional and spritual thoughts that were relevant to energy management. I was, of course, agitated. But one of things you train in the martial arts, and of the things that is evaluated in the testing process, is “controlling your nervous energy”. I knew I had to keep from flying off the handle, and explain things clearly. (In fact, I did just that. I started out by explaining that I had been a customer for something like four years, and that I had bought two pagers in that time.)

That was good, but as I drove, I ran over the concept of forgiveness in my mind. Here was a case where I needed to forgive what they had done, and to forgive whatever happened in the future, but at the same time, I needed to take action to direct the course of future events. Obviously, it wasn’t a matter of money. Heck, if they needed twenty dollars that bad, I’d give it to them. (And I said as much, when I spoke to them.) But we didn’t have a contract, and no service was delivered, so it was a matter of principle — a matter of standing up for myself.

So here I was in the exact situation that requires the ability to flow. I needed to forgive what was in the past, and yet channel the energy that sprang from anger in order to have a positive effect on the future. I needed to forgive, yet be active, rather than passive. I needed to be forceful, yet unchained to anger.

The result of that contemplation was an entirely new experience for me. The anger was there. There was no pretense about that. But it was on the surface of my emotions. Underneath that lay the calm stillness of forgiveness. Like the depths of the ocean, the surface waves made little or no difference to the deep water below.

As a result, I’m happy to say that the situation worked out perfectly — both internally and externally. When I strode into that office, several smiling, expectant faces looked up. When I forcefully announced, “I need to see a manager, now“, everyone suddenly got very busy with their computer screens, and one fellow scurried off to find the manager. But again, that anger was at the surface. When the fellow came back and said the manager would be with me in a minute, I was able to appreciate the effort he had made to respond to my needs quickly, and thank him sincerely.

When the manager came out, I went through the whole story. To her credit, she listened calmly to every single word I had to say, waiting through the pauses until I had finished every last sentence. And only when I was completely done, did she speak, saying that she would reverse the charge and inform the collection agency, adding that I should receive a letter from them indicating that the credit report was fraudulent.

Once again, the fact that my anger was at the surface allowed me to recognize the calm, professional manner in which she had handled the situation, and thank her sincerely. I said, “Thanks. You’ve been great.” In the background, you could see the startled reactions of the people at their terminals. They literally jumped. They just never expected such sincere appreciation, so suddenly. They had been braced against the storm, and it vanished on them!

But the real value came afterwards. As I left, I continued forgiving, and added appreciation to that. I appreciated my own efforts in standing up for myself, using what I knew of legal principles, and exercising what skill I’ve gained at energy mangement. And I appreciated the way the situation had been handled by the manager. Most of all, because I wasn’t carrying a lot of emotional baggage, I was free to drop it and appreciate the white puffs of clouds in the sunny blue sky. I was free to experience the joy of life and the beauty around me — I was free to be in the present moment — because I wasn’t caught up in past.

After that experience, I understood I lot more about how Grandmaster teaches. In my time at her Academy, I saw people change, which was a brand experience for me. I never knew that people could change before that. Grandmaster has many tools for bringing about change. Sometimes, it involves building a person up and getting them to believe in themselves. Sometimes it involves hammering them until they realize they’ve been wrong.

Now, it is fascinating to watch Grandmaster work. She is a true force of nature. She can be as gentle and loving as a summer breeze, as calming as a tranquil day in the country. She can also have the thunderous impact of a hurricane. In short, she can chew your ass with the best of them. When she really gets going, you’d rather be just about anyplace else in the world!

But, when it’s over, it’s completely over. She can go from outraged, vehement, anger to sweetness and light in a nanosecond. It’s amazing to watch. You ask yourself how anyone can be that angry, and yet drop it completely, with no lingering traces at all. You wonder if the anger is some feigned, or fake.

My experience taught me that, no, the anger is not fake. It is quite real. And the ass chewing that comes with it is sincere. But that anger is at the surface. The energy could be dissipated, and the anger dispelled. In fact, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, that’s what happens — because no good can become of expressing the anger.

But that 100th time, Grandmaster is dealing with someone who has a deep enough calm themselves to let the waves wash over them at the surface, someone who is capable of taking that energy, and redirecting it to make a positive change in their lives — a change that they would not be able to make without the motivating force provided by that energy.

For some folks, it takes a lot of energy to make a change. The amount of energy that would swamp one person would not even be noticed by another. For others, very little. Timing is involved, too. The same person can be receptive or not, at different times, depending on their own maturity and their recent experiences.

Needless to say, balancing all of these factors is an art, rather than a science. The decision about when to drop the hammer, and when to lay off, is not an easy one. A master can go through life unruffled by events, and make no change in the world at all. Of what use is such a master? Or a master can act to help a person make change — changes they have expressly stated they want to make. Because it is an art, there is always the chance for making a mistake. The intervention could be too forceful, or it could be misinterpreted. As in a medical intervention, there is always risk. But only by attempting to make the world better can change come about, and only by making better people can we make a better world.

Finally, only by maintaining that calm stillness within can you maintain a clear heart and a clear head. That is important, because in the cut and thrust of any dispute, it is necessary to respond quickly to the challenges posed by others. I have always marveled at others’ ability to think on their feet, and wondered how it is done. I now know that the calm center induced by the “forgiveness flow” makes it possible to maintain the clear head necessary choose your response. It’s a great lesson.

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