Anger is never without a reason, but seldom a good one – Benjamin Franklin
When Jude arrives home from school I can hedge my bets that he will say those six magic words.
“Can I have a friend around?”
Sometimes there are 7 words when he adds the word please?
I know he is going to say these words so I am already prepared. My prepared response is an angry response. It is a simple enough request so why do I get angry? I never say no. In fact I love having his friends around the house – they are all fantastic kids and Jude is a lot happier playing with them. I am angry because I have prepared myself to be angry. I don’t like ringing his friend’s parents asking if their children can come around the house each and every day. Sometimes their kids are playing around someone else’s house and then this becomes an awkward moment for my boy.
Being the good Dad that I am I start to ring and text all of his friends parents. Sometimes the kids can’t come around and I have to relay the bad news to Jude. Jude just doesn’t give up. He just continues to throw me more names and numbers. The more names and numbers he gives me the angrier I get…eventually…I…EXPLODE!
“I AM NOT RINGING ANYMORE OF YOUR FRIENDS.”
A little voice pierces the anger.
“I was only asking?”
So what happened?
I lost control of my emotions. Research shows that anger is the most difficult of emotions to control. So I am not alone in this one. I actually showed a display of rage – inevitable rage. I say inevitable because from the moment I thought about him coming home from school and uttering those 6 words I set a chain reaction in motion in my brain. This chain reaction was like the big boulder in Indiana Jones – I was powerless to stop it. This doesn’t mean it cannot be stopped; you just need to first become aware it exists and then once you become aware then you can start figuring out how to stop it.
During an interview with The Devilfish he told me that when he was younger money was seen as fuel to him. Fuel to help ignite the fires of his addiction. These angry trains of thoughts are the same thing. They too are fuel. Fuel to ignite my eventual rage. The more I thought about his question and my actions the more good reasons I gave myself to be angry. You even start inventing stuff just to add more fuel.
This trivial incident that happened in my house happens everyday when I play poker. Instead of a child asking me the same question over and over again I have poker players making incorrect plays and getting lucky, poker players poking fun at me, miraculous cards landing on the turn and river, my mouse losing connectivity and so on and so on.
Just like the incident with my son, when I am playing poker I am aware that these things can happen. My mind is prepared. The minds pre-prepared response is anger. I have AK on a K56hh board and my opponent has AQhh. You almost will that heart to drop onto the board. It’s like you are expecting it – demanding it. Sure enough it floats onto the board like a match in slow-mo falling onto a pool of petrol in a movie you have just watched.
I always wanted my Batman moment!
You don’t erupt quite yet but your mind has created a block of anger and it will be followed by another one quite soon. Before you know it you will have built up a large wall of these things. It is inevitable that sooner, rather than later, one moment will turn the anger into rage. You will spew a large amount of chips and call this Rage – TILT.
So how do we try to avoid these blocks of anger building up to almost uncontrollable levels?
Firstly, be aware that they exist. Admit to yourself that you are prone to moments of anger and rage. Then start to make records of times when your body starts to feel that state of arousal. OK its not like sex – we don’t have a dick that goes hard or a foo-foo that goes wet but you still have signs. For me one sign is tightness in my stomach. Another sign is verbal. I start to mutter or talk about my bad beats. Another one is visual – I start staring at certain Avatars on screen.
I advocate making notes while you are playing. Not just notes on your opponents tendencies but notes on what makes you angry. As soon as your dick goes hard (so to speak) examine your feelings and write the reason down on a notepad. After the session review those notes and you will start to become more aware of what situations are causing you to feel this way.
Once you are aware of the situations reframe them more positively. Imagine a player has called your shove on the turn and he catches his card and takes all of your dough. You realise he has made a mistake because he did not have the correct odds to call. Instead of lambasting him for being Kim Kardashian’s boyfriend (a right lucky bastard!), thank him for being a Numpty. Remind yourself that his incorrect decisions will make you more money in the future. That is how you win money.
This takes a lot of practice. I am a learner here not a teacher! Once you have started to master this form of re-framing yo u will then start to recognise the spots that create building blocks of anger before they even occur. Your mind would have created road-signs in your brain.
WARNING! YOU HAVE A FLUSH DRAW AND YOU MIGHT NOT HIT!
Prepare yourself in advance for the worst that can happen. If you do this then you will be more mentally prepared.
Now, where’s Jude? I think we need a little chat about my moment of rage yesterday and how we can both avoid it in the future.
See isn’t poker and life so easy!