What is your DEFAULT Emotion?

If you haven’t seen Inside Out yet, go watch it on Netflix or something ASAP. It’s a cartoon with a story that only adults would get. Check out the film plot here then come back here to read the rest of the post. :P

While watching Inside Out, my roomies and I started naming people that every “emotion/character” reminded us of. We joked how people, including us, may have a “default emotion” —a state that has become a distinct part of our personality and behaviour. When my friend asked me, “Which emotion are you?” I quickly—and with utmost certainty—replied:


We all laughed at that, but nobody contradicted me.  But in my heart, I knew even as I automatically gave that answer that


You can skip the part in grey for a speedier read. :P

I wasn’t always an angry kid. I have no memory of being angry as a child until I went back home to live with my family at the age four, after a year of living with my great-grandmother (GG). When my older brothers teased and taunted me for wearing socks and shoes inside the house  the whole day and changing outfits before meals (GG lived a very “genteel” lifestyle :P), 100 years of anger began.

The monsters brothers (hehe) told me to go back where I came from since I wasn’t “one of them” because I was way too different — the way I spoke, acted and played —and maybe it got to me, because half of my memories as a kid and teen involved a lot of shouting, crying and nurturing the drama queen in me.

My mom often took me to the mall with her, refusing to leave me with my siblings, because as she half-jokingly said at the time, “I’m afraid you’re gonna kill your sister… or worse, that she would end up killing you all before I got home.” I was 8. #bigfamilyproblems :P

(Anyway, you can read more about my mom’s “Darling Demon Daughter”—that’s what she lovingly called me every time she’s pleased with me—in future posts.)

So. ANGER. :)

Six months after my mom died, I complained to God I didn’t want to be SAD and CRYING out of nowhere EVERY single day anymore. I was tired, my eye bags were epic, I slept a lot due to crying-induced migraines, and I became an even bigger social flake coz I was too spent from crying <insert any time of the day here>.

I decided that day that I wasn’t gonna cry anymore. The daily waterworks ebbed into a biweekly sesh. It was great comfort to be able to meet with people and not cry. To go to the grocery and see her favourite biscuits and chocolates and not cry. To watch Beatle movies and not cry because she and I would never be able to watch Paul McCartney live together. :P Ever.

A couple of months later, I was talking to my best friend when the topic shifted to my Facebook posts. She half-joked that I shouldn’t add anyone I was dating at the time on Facebook. For the first time, I agreed with her.

See, Me = STRONG OPINIONS. But in the last four months,I felt heavy and unsure every time I would post a status on Facebook. However “constructive” I made them, the reality was that they were full of hate and for politics-related posts, bordered on sedition. Moreover, a lot of them wished death on other people. People that I feel do not deserve to live. People that could have died instead of my mother. I didn’t care if those people were just kids sniffing rugby or getting into petty crime. I wanted an END. To everything. I wanted CHANGE. Even if it required drastic measures. I was sick of STAYING THE SAME. STAYING IN THE SAME WORLD. STAYING IN THE SAME WORLD WHERE PEOPLE KEPT DOING THE SAME THINGS AND PRODUCING THE SAME RESULT.

I know now they went beyond the political aspect of it. In the last four months, almost everyone, for me, was stupid, inefficient, slow, incapable of making the right decisions. It didn’t matter that I was also very much the same most of the time. All I wanted was for all of them to die. For something REALLY BAD to happen to them. I wanted to die and come back and make people pay for whatever it is that I feel they did wrong. And what’s more, not necessarily to me.

I am grateful for that day in October when I finally blurted out to my best friend why I kept posting those poisonous thoughts on Facebook.

“I am sad. And angry. I am very angry.”

I am angry my mom died. I was angry that God let me down. I am angry that after all the good I’ve done in my life, I didn’t get the one thing I wanted, which was for my mom to live. I was angry that her death shook my faith. Not just in God, but in goodness in general. I am angry that I was starting to believe that it doesn’t matter if you do good in this world; evil people EVIDENTLY will continue to thrive and be blessed with wealth, health and happiness regardless. I was angry that suddenly life in general has no genuine value to me or anyone’s else’s. I am angry that I could not move on. I was angry that people actually think I was angry about spending so much on my mom only for her to die. I am angry that I am so sad.

It IS crazy. But finally acknowledging what I was really feeling was liberating for me. It was the first and last time I said that out loud to someone. Once it was out, I knew/know I had/have to work on it.

“Confronting our feelings and giving them appropriate expression always takes strength, not weakness. It takes strength to acknowledge our anger, and sometimes more strength yet to curb the aggressive urges anger may bring and to channel them into nonviolent outlets. It takes strength to talk about our feelings and to reach out for help and comfort when we need it.”

Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember

Admittedly, I am quick to anger even in normal mode. But those are sudden bursts of anger that quickly lost fire in a matter of seconds or minutes. People — family and friends — have grown so used to it, it doesn’t become an issue unless it morphs into rage.

There was only one time in my life where that anger blazed into rage. It became such a big problem that I had to see a shrink — for the first and last time. Too expensive. :P  (FYI, in two hours, she initially deduced it was rooted in my father’s death three years prior. Guess it’s fair to say I’ve always had a problem dealing with death?)

This time around, I was imploding rather than exploding. My conversations with my siblings, which usually start with I miss yous and I love yous, would end with them either typing “Here we go again… (referring to my anger)” or trying to calm me down with a kind explanation, a topic change or by signing off with a smiley.

In the past, my mom’s voice or touch would quickly get rid of my anger, regardless if the source was still present or not. Now that she’s gone, I have to find a way to keep anger at bay by myself.

So how do I NOT get angry these days?

  1. Less Facebook time. The less I read about how evil thrives and how stupid people are, the less chance I have to react. :P Anytime I saw something incendiary to me, I quickly tell myself: I don’t really care. Because I really don’t, so why would I waste my time getting so riled up about it?
  2. I don’t take things personally, even if it is directed at me, my words, or actions. I am learning detachment from what people think or say about me. Especially people I do not know personally. Or if I do know them personally, their opinion of me still deon’t register if they are not feeding, paying or helping me.
  3. I surround myself with people I care for who might get mad at me if I get angry. At this point, selected friends are very important to me and my overall well-being. So I will not sacrifice these relationships just to indulge my desire to hit someone.
  4. I consciously remind myself every time an angry thought pops up that a) WHATEVER WAS SETTING ME OFF, IT’S ALL IN MY HEAD AT THE MOMENT hence IT IS NOT REAL, so WTF, right? :P
  5. Jeet kune do. At times, I attend class teeming with angry thoughts. By the time class ends, I feel NEW and READY once more. Honestly, in the last three months, I realized JKD day was the only day I didn’t think of killing myself. And last but not least…

When I am  just about ready to kill someone, I listen to The Beatles. ;-)

It is hard work to quiet angry thoughts, but I am glad to say I’ve been making progress for a few weeks now. I am still angry. Still sad. But this time, not all the time.

Watching Inside Out gave me a light but insightful visual of depression, of what happens in one’s mind when you are neither happy nor sad; when you view life and the world only with disgust, fear and god, anger. It is exhausting being sad 24/7. But it is worse seeing red in everything ALL THE TIME.

I believe recognizing what is really happening to me, how I really feel and how it impacts my world NOW is a big step towards finding a solution and MOVING ON in a healthy way.

All that said, please don’t mistake my loud, excited personality, acerbic wit :P, strong views and argumentative nature for anger.

“Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside. We think that by hating someone, we hurt them. But hatred is a curved blade and the harm we do to others, we also do to ourselves.”

Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven


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