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Passions: A Fiery Temper

By Sandra Clark

Fire by Kris Krug
Fire by Kris Krug

This post is part of our quarter theme on passions.

“Fire is not your friend,” Dustfinger often cautions in the pages of Inkheart, a young adult novel by Cornelia Funke I’ve been reading to my ten year old son. Yet, even as fire is not a friend, it is Dustfinger’s muse. He’s a fire tamer who juggles, breathes, and plays with the flames that do not love him back. Fire is fitful and takes practiced skill to control.

Do you play with fire?

When I think of “passions” I think of fire, flames, and burning. Raging hormones, untamed desire,  unchecked interest  or angry wrath are all lumpily lodged into the word passion. The heat of the fires they can rage into rolls them into the same hot mess.

Sometimes I feel like one.

As a blessing of having a body to feel it and at the curse of being subject to one, I’ve known volatile passion of my own. There are times I just get really, really mad.

My husband calls me his firecracker. I can burn hot and fast and furious. Exploding out of my self for release at times  is real temptation I work to stomp out. When I’m really frustrated in the confines of my own skin and situation I long for a release valve to let off steam. I’ve been known to shake my fists, stomp my feet or yelp at the stress. Yet, unlike Dustfinger in Inkheart, I’m not so bold as to create a spectacle of my fire breathing act.  I keep that show to myself as much as possible.

But recently as I was burning hot in a fit of passion I paused on the verge of letting it all flame out; I thought of my children who were with me in the car, and closed my mouth to swallow the coal. It was fine for them to know I was not happy, but I didn’t want them to hear the text of vitriol I was scripting in my hot head. I realized I wanted resolution not revenge. I wanted acknowledgement, not anguish.

Use boldness, but not overbearance; and also see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love; see that ye refrain from idleness.

A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.

Deal with problems- use boldness, but not overbearance- but first check yourself- bridle your passions- don’t extinguish them but tame them. Inaction isn’t an answer- refrain from idleness.

Soft answers don’t seem to satisfy fire, but they do stop its spread.

I’d rather singe my own lips closing them than spark another fire by spewing it.

So instead I channeled my indignation into a sink full of dishes. And when that wasn’t enough I emptied the dishwasher. And loaded it. And wiped all the counters. And spot mopped the floor. And then it happened.

I felt my inky anguish in my own heart start to ebb.  By  choosing not to say grievous words I discovered my own anger was no longer stirred. The flames dwindled without additional fuel.

Are you a fiery personality too? How do you tame your frustration so you can fill with love?

About Sandra Clark

Sandra Clark Jergensen's writing (most often about food) has been published in Gastronomica, Apartment Therapy, The Exponent, and at Segullah, where she was once the Editor-in-Chief, and now as Features Editor. Sandra geeked out on food and writing as a master's student food studies at University of Texas, Arlington. She makes her home in California where she runs without shoes, foster parents, teaches cooking, develops recipes, and struggles to take pictures with her eyes open, and sometimes all at the same time. She is the owner and creator of thekitchennatural.com.

15 thoughts on “Passions: A Fiery Temper”

  1. I used to have a fiery hot temper. Short fuse, easy to access the anger. Then when I went to college — in a city where nobody knew me and I knew no one, a state away from family — I decided I could be anyone I wanted to be. I could be who I had always been, or I could be someone else.
    I chose to be someone else. Someone who rarely yelled, who didn't let her anger get the better of her. It was a deliberate choice on my part. Now, my fuse is really long and I realize I have to leave a situation before I allow it to get ugly. I'm still very quick and the mouthy part of me still gets me in trouble, but no longer does my temper control me.
    People who know me know are floored when I tell them I used to have a temper.

  2. It takes a lot to stoke up the embers of my frustration into a fire of any kind. When it happens, though, there are a lot of slammed cupboard doors and crying to release the emotions. There are better ways to deal with what I'm feelings, but I no longer yell at people or say mean things (or hit my brothers like I did when I was a child) when the flame ignites, so this is actually progress. 🙂 My hope is to move on to the next level of release that is not only avoiding hurting others and keeping my words kind, but to also achieve a sense of calm. It helps when I run or walk by myself for a while. When I do that regularly, I find that my mind is able to sort through things better while I'm using both sides of my brain.

  3. Tay and Random, thank you for your thoughts. I am intrigued with this essay, Sandra. I have a new window into personalities unlike my own. I always cry when I'm angry and I HATE it. I want to be strong. But you remind me it is a blessing not to have that propensity to breathe fire. Yet I value FEELING what we are feeling and you each express that it is possible without hurting others. And how fascinating to be reminded in a new way that the fire diminishes when we don't feed it.

    Beautifully expressed thoughts. A big thank you.

  4. Wow Random. Thank you for your comment. That is just what I needed to hear.

    I struggle mightily with my temper–it is a major weakness and curse for me.

  5. It's been a long time since I made that choice — I wish I could remember if the implementation of that was hard or easy. I do know that because nobody knew me, it was easier than if I had decided to make that choice with the same influences surrounding me.

  6. Running helps me too. And time alone. I like that part about using both sides of the brain. Congrats on progress- I vote to celebrate all movement toward improvement.

  7. You are so kind to welcome looking through the eyes of another. Feeling is a gift and consequence of mortality- to have eyes that smart with tears or a throat that can prickle with words coming out. You're right. What we do with those emotions though matters just as much if not more. Thank you.

  8. I don't pull the weeds in my yard for the sake of making it look acceptable. I yank, uproot, and dismember them because my hands need to rip, tear, and toss feelings that, if expressed otherwise, would harm relationships with those around me. (Weeds flourish all year in Florida, so I've got an ample supply.)

    I don't do it alone, though, because when left to my own thoughts while murderously attacking the unwanted growths, my frustrations and furies fill my head faster than the plant debris fills a waste bag. Instead, I listen to books via headphones, letting the writers' words pull me out of my own flames and into their worlds. Works every time, leaving me with a fresh point of view (and another few inches of my little jungle better tamed).

    When weather (or time of day) doesn't permit, I sometimes close myself up in my car (preferably in a deserted corner of a parking lot, though my own driveway will do in a pinch). With the windows up (and the air-conditioner running), I scream. And scream. I put everything into words in that safe space where they go no further but seem to fall into perspective. It helps.

    If you decide to try it you should know two things I've learned (yes, the hard way): expect a sore throat (so take water, and drink it!) and sore ears (unless you wear earplugs) from screaming in the enclosed space. 🙂

  9. I am a very passionate person with strong emotions. At times such as teaching the gospel or in my job as a marriage and family therapist my passion and ability to relate to emotions are great strengths. But early in my marriage I found myself becoming enraged at my wife in ways that scared both her and myself. Like your stomping and fist clenching my rage also had physical manifestations, though I have never been physically violent towards another soul in my life. Not only did I not like the person I was becoming, I was also worried that my marriage could be in jeopardy if I didn't change. Though to my wife's credit this never crossed her mind, she intended to keep her covenants even if that meant being miserable. But I knew I had to change.

    I had been teaching the book of Mormon in seminary and frequently bore testimony of the atonement, but I realized that even though I had a spiritual witness of the atonement I had never really experienced it in my life. I decided to yield my heart to Christ as Mormon describes it in the book of Helaman. It was the hardest yet most incredible experience of my life. When I felt like raging, I began to notice the holy ghost gently prompt me to calm down, become humble, and try to help me see things from outside my own selfish perspective. This was agonizingly hard because I didn't want to calm down! I didn't want to see another perspective, I wanted my wife to see my perspective! After all my perspective was important too wasn't it? But as I went through this process I realized that Christ would validate my perspective if I would valIdate my wife's! This was not easy to choose to do, but I distinctly remember that once I truly made the choice to do it Christ's way, the rest was easy! Choosing to yield myself to him was the hardest thing ever, yet once I made the choice and committed to the process, I was instantly filled with peace and confidence and the action of following through became easy because I had the enabling grace of the spirit with me. This process has been repeated countless times, but I can now say that my heart has truly changed. Staying calm and seeing things from outside my selfish perspective has become the norm. And yet when I do still struggle from time to time, I know what to do… Look to Him!

    Christ and his atonement and it's power to change hearts, minds, attitudes and relationships are real. I am a living witness of this!

    Thank you for bringing up this important topic!

  10. I have a horrible temper, and I've been trying for years to reign it in. I've found that my temper is fueled by perfectionism, anxiety, and abstract thinking. I control my temper or even reduce it from even flaring up with these practices: I lower my expectations, exercise to release tension in my body, reduce my responsibilities, and ground myself more by being present in the moment (breathing slowly and evenly, observing others' body language, noting my physical surroundings, and in other ways getting out of my head). Practicing yoga and reading zen buddhist meditations help a lot. I have been overfocused on knowledge, and I'm trying to focus more on being. I have been focused in my training in rhetoric on being right. I focus more now on preserving relationships even if that means I let go of things that I thought were vital to me. I also closely observe people who are peacemakers, people who radiate calm, people who are conflict averse. (I think there is little risk that I will go too far and become a door mat.) I still struggle with my temper now and then, but these are things that have helped me to reduce my "episodes" significantly. Hugs to everyone with this struggle.

  11. Jess, thanks for detailing your experience with the atonement so beautifully. Christ is the answer here. He changed my heart too after many years of seeking to apply the truths of the gospel I knew in my head they finally reached my heart . I've learned so much in the last 24 years since being married. Mostly I have learned to speak the language of love with less an accent of pride.

  12. Karen-

    " I have been overfocused on knowledge, and I’m trying to focus more on being. I have been focused in my training in rhetoric on being right. I focus more now on preserving relationships even if that means I let go of things that I thought were vital to me."

    I love this. Sounds like we share similar struggles- and that's exactly the choice I saw myself having. I don't want to be walked over- but I don't want to let my temper disable my ability to choose how I'll react. I realize it's okay to be mad, but how I act in response is always my choice. And even when it means sucking in my pride I want to choose what is best, not just what I believe is warranted. I'm working on deliberateness.


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