Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Rage against the machine: anger and its antidotes - part I

Every now and again I'll encounter a skater exhibiting anger management issues. Typically, the anger is sparked when his skating level doesn't conform to his expectations; when he repeatedly fails to land a particular trick, or when he falls and hurts himself.

There are three common ways he vents his anger: a) he raises his board above his head and forcefully casts it to the ground; b) he spins around like a discus thrower and send his board hurling across the skatepark; or, less frequently, c) he stomps on his board and breaks it in half - or at least attempt to.

In attempting to make sense of such 'board abuse', I focused on two aspects of anger:   
a) Its predominant psychological trigger;
b) The intention of the anger; what its trying to accomplish.

On this basis, I loosely identified several types of 'board abusers' (you know who you are!): 

1) The 'Macho' thinks anger is manly. He exhibits anger even in the absence of any clear triggers. Why? Because, to him, anger signals power, independence, and authority. Bashing his board makes him feel tough and cool.

2) The 'I'm better than you think' uses anger to indicate, to himself or others, that he usually skates better than he is at present. He thinks that in showing onlookers that he's really angry about his present inability to land a certain trick, they'll think he usually lands it or is on the verge of landing it. Bashing his board is his way of saving face. Though he can, and often does, achieve this by simply cursing, sometimes his board is used for a more dramatic display.

3) The 'Blamer' bashes his board to indicate that his failed attempt is the skateboard's fault, its not 'obeying' his instructions. By directing anger toward the board he not only diverts his anger away from himself but may subconsciously feel that the now disciplined and reformed board will be better behaved.  

4) The 'Victim' has suffered abuse and mistreatment, especially in his formative years, and so sees reality, in general, as a hostile enemy. As enemies are typically angry with each other, this poor fellow constantly harbors anger. His anger surfaces with slight prodding -such as failing to land a trick - whereby he feels he's once again a victim of an unjust world. He beats his board to a pulp in order to fight back and get even.

5) The 'Hungry lion' roars impatiently when reality does not-comply with his desires. He burns up out of painful frustration, often damaging things and even injuring people around him.
Nonetheless, his anger is not malevolent in intent, but simply a 'blowing of steam' due to built up stress and frustration. The poor skateboard was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time.

6) The 'Psycher-path' gets angry because he intuits that the increased physiological arousal induced by anger - the Adrenalin rush and the reduction in sensory sensitivity that it engenders - will fortify him  to land a trick. In other words, he uses anger to 'psyche himself up'. His anger is the most constructive of the types and commonly stems from him taking his skateboarding goals very seriously. Professional skateboarders who are under pressure to land serious tricks for a film or magazine often exhibit this form of anger.

7) The 'Helpless' feels that all is lost. His anger is like the horn signaling the end of a soccer game for the losing team. It's all over, there's no way to correct the situation. 'It's all rubbish anyway!' he thinks, or, 'if I can't win, no one will!' Such anger is malevolent in intent: this guy wants his board to feel pain and suffer.

 To be continued...

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