Yesterday I posted on Facebook that I was “really pissed off and wanted to blare some loud music” and asked for suggestions. 90 some-odd comments later, I had a kick-ass playlist and had to laugh at the nerve that the post touched. Either that, or as my friend Kate said, I know a whole lot of pretty pissed-off people.
Just the violence in the song titles is cathartic. Pantera: F @&%ing Hostile. Beastie Boys: Sabotage. Dixie Chicks: I’m Not Ready to Make Nice. Tom Waits: 16 Shells From a Thirty-Ought Six. I did listen to a good handful of them throughout the day. I also found one in my daughters’ CD collection – a scathing diatribe against the record biz by Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis called simply “Jimmy Iovine.” Last line is “I’d rather be a starving artist then succeed at getting f@&%ed.” Hell, yeah!!
I read the Dalai Lama was once asked “do you ever get angry?” to which he replied “Of course! Things happen. They aren’t what you wanted. Anger arises.” Yup! “But,” he supposedly continued, “it does not have to be a problem.”
Without getting into the context (someone I love and cherish being treated badly; ‘nuff said), it’s obvious how rarely and how reluctantly I dip down into anger. I am a perennial bright-side-looker; a positive-reframer; a riser-above-er. As Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar (who teaches a course in positive psychology I’m currently enrolled in) refers to it, I naturally incline toward “benefit-” rather than “fault-finding” (at least regarding others; I’m masterful at pointing out and dwelling on my OWN faults…). However, as I push myself to grow and get more real – more “authentic” to use the current buzz word – with myself, I embrace the idea of being fully present with the emotions I experience, however negative, before I rise above them.
Don’t get me wrong: you could visit my house on any given day (my house now, or when I was growing up), and you’d witness some sort of angry outburst, however fleeting and however insignificant the cause. But this is more “reaction;” a non-conscious, automatic response in a moment. Rising above is not an option when you’re reacting. When I was younger I used to pride myself in how good my family was at letting things out, not bottling things up the way I saw some families do. But the sort of “righteous anger” I was feeling yesterday, this is harder for me (a natural born “goodie two shoes”) than for some other people I know. The power in deeply feeling and then letting your anger out can be intense! At this point in my life, I’m curious about how that works.
Over the years, occasionally a listener will admit to me that they are a fan “of my darker stuff.” My “bright side” songs don’t do it for them so much. They want to hear me brood, lash out, maybe even complain a little bit? When I do, it is always cathartic to let those songs out. Not always as much playing them night after night… Maybe that’s an issue with the song itself and its composition or execution – a sign that I didn’t quite get it right. Or perhaps it is selfish to want to do what makes ME feel good at a gig. As Jerry Seinfeld said to Michael Richards (Kramer) on a recent episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, “our job [is] not for US to enjoy it, our job is to make sure that THEY enjoy it.” Perhaps I provide a service by venting through music, for those who don’t (or think they can’t) make their own songs up. And possibly people just need more help venting the anger than acknowledging all the good stuff.
My last album was full of mostly uplifting, good-feeling songs. Lots about giving and small moments of appreciation of the simple family life. And I do come by it naturally – no BS! I recently took a “values assessment” as part of an assignment for the above-mentioned course I’m taking, and my number one personal value was “gratitude.” That’s because I do make continual, conscious choices to be grateful, and to appreciate what is. And I mostly feel worthy of all that good juju I cultivate.
But when I dig into those deeper recesses, the negative emotions and my “shadow side,” it’s powerful but also pretty scary. That’s why it felt so good yesterday to lash out (I did scream and yell and cry first; then I reached out and posted about it on Facebook). And I sensed such compassion in the swift and steady flow of responses. Everybody’d been there, for sure. No judgment. For several the Sex Pistols work best. Others the less loud but often acerbic Bob Dylan. The Clash. And one orchestral suggestion called “The Planets” by Gustav Holst. Mars is definitely pretty bombastic stuff.
My friend Julie says she always challenges her design and branding clients to “emphasize the side of themselves that they tend to keep hidden; that’s what’s most interesting to people about them.” So I will have to take that challenge myself, and try using music to explore this anger stuff a little further, if I ever do make another album… Or maybe a metal cover band? Who’s in?? For now I am going to compile that playlist.
Thanks again for all the comments and support.