Angry Artists

As the anger in his body wells , it emanates from him and makes it hard for me to keep seated. I have a hard time being present when these days happen. I never know what version of him I’m going to get, but I know which version it is when he sits down at his desk every morning. It radiates hot and angry when he’s upset. When he isn’t upset? There was nothing there. Just apathetic and cold silence.

We have only been sharing a space for a month, and in the last few weeks his anger has been growing. Stifling. I can’t be creative in this space. I can’t feel this horrible and overwhelming sense of harm and malice filling the room and still be expected to function artistically.

Today the servers are down and the internet isn’t working right. So he went out for a bit to relax since he couldn’t do anything without being able to be on the server. I save everything to my computers desktop in preparation for days like this. He probably does too, but doesn’t want to work today, so he went home. With how disconnected and isolated he has been Ill be surprised if he comes back. I’m relieved to say the least that he’s gone today. He took his anger and self destruction with him. So I can sit and be creative today without fear and judgment following me. Without that hot distaste and black cloud following him in and out of the room and hovering over us.

The worst part is I wish I knew how to make it all better. I wish I could tell him he’s allowed to let go of control and he’s allowed to ask for help. He doesn’t have to be such a perfectionist that he can’t let go of projects and he can pass them off to people and delegate things to others if he isn’t interested in continuing to be responsible for them. The issue is, his perfectionist nature is at odds with us. He doesn’t have professional training. We do. He sees mistakes and thinks of himself as better than the rest of us, because he sees mistakes. He doesn’t have the empathy to understand that mistakes happen when a person looks at a project too long and they start to miss things. He thinks we are self righteous because we went to school for this and he’s still feeling like he’s better than us at our job. He holds others to the standard he holds himself. Probably even higher. So when he is disappointed by the imperfections of his coworkers, he becomes angry about it instead of empathetic.

I try to understand this. I try to ask for his feedback and include him in the team. I try to make him feel important and valued, but I cannot force him to feel what he doesn’t want to feel, and I understand that well. The only difference is he wants people to know he’s isolating himself, and I do all I can to hide my isolation, in hopes it doesn’t remain isolation. He wants to be left alone.

Occasionally he comes out of it, and apologizes profusely about his bad attitude, but I can’t say I trust the sincerity of his apology. It continues to be an issue. Which means it’s a flaw that will probably never become undone. Change rarely happens quickly. In most cases it never happens at all, and if he feels his anger is founded on solid ground and he doesn’t really believe his attitude is an issue, then change will not happen.

That leads me to try to change myself and my environment. So I’m praying a lot more to ease the strength of his emotions effect on me. I’m trying to figure out how to turn off the empathy and to stop letting his attitude get to me. Trying not to be discouraged by him. Which is difficult for me, because I get it. I get why it’s so hard for him. I get that it’s hard to think you’re asking people to rise to the occasion and they aren’t because they don’t understand a perfectionist. They don’t understand how fragile that kind of ego can be. They don’t understand how much weight is in failing a perfectionist. They don’t understand how that person already sets others up for failure in their own mind, but at the same time desperately wants others to prove them wrong. They don’t understand how hard it is to break the habits formed from perfectionism.

I understand it, albeit imperfectly, because I am no longer a perfectionist or a people pleaser. I want to be part of a team. I want to see the collective come together. I want us all to stand together for the greatness of our creative work. I want to let people be messy. I want people to bring their story to the table. However, I also want to see people grow to be better parts of the community and to be more effective for themselves and their collective. Toxic behavior confuses me. A lot.

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