“People Can’t be Fixed"

This is a translated version of Ko’s first essay of a series “How Can I Stop Being Angry?”


I can’t remember why I was angry. The beginning was probably trivial. For example, Kang forgot to clean the sink after washing dishes, did not leave the bowl in its place, or responded insignificantly to my idea. When Kang and I decided to start a restaurant together, we quarreled like never before. The same thing happened that day. The argument was exacerbated off guard while we prepared for the dinner business.

Even those who know us well would see the angry couple and ask, “Who are they?” Angry Kang behaves like “a taciturn high school student.” He shuts his mouth tightly because he doesn’t want to raise his voice. He also puts a sign signaling his anger and waits for the counterpart to acknowledge his feelings. He needs attention but hates nagging. On the other hand, when I’m angry, I transform into “a father who thinks he knows everything about his child.” I hold tightly to a set of personal rules. I talk to the other person as if I’m listening, but if the conversation doesn’t flow as I please, my face crumples.

It was a fight between “a taciturn high school student” and “a father who thinks he knows everything about his children.” Eventually, I was the one who burst with uncontrollable anger. That’s why I often felt unfair. After the meaningless quibble, all I had left was the regretful words I spit out. It didn’t matter what the cause was. I crossed the line and hurt my husband. The aftermath of my anger was too much to handle. I was too much of a foolish fighter to claim, “I’m sorry I was angry. But you did it wrong, too!”

The same fight repeated that day. My anger spread similarly, but I made two unforgettable mistakes. The first is that I cursed at my husband. Oh, I’m so embarrassed to talk about this. But at that moment, I couldn’t even think my action would be reprehensible. It was like standing amid a furious fire. I didn’t care about Kang’s feelings. My head spun faster than ever to pick out words to attack him. The second is that one more person was standing beside us. My dad, who stopped by our restaurant to grab a cup of coffee as usual, had to watch the live broadcast of our emotional shitshow. Of course, Kang wanted to stop the fight as soon as he saw my father, but I continued to lash out at Kang. My dad must have been sad to witness his daughter and son-in-law bickering with each other like the worst enemies. More importantly, how humiliating must it have been for my husband to show unconstrained rage to his father-in-law?

Eventually, my father left the space in bewilderment, and Kang soon walked out of the store as well. I was alone for the dinner service. As the anger began to subside little by little, I felt regret, guilt, and shame. I wish I could run home and apologize immediately, but I had to stay and finish the business. All I could do was self-reflection. Kang is the person I want to protect the most. Kang is more important than anything else, so I want to keep him safe from harmful elements. I sometimes joke that I want to protect him in a large transparent hamster ball. I couldn’t believe I had hurt the most precious person like I’d never done before. It was impossible to understand. ‘Why did I get so angry at my husband?’

I couldn’t let go and stay the same. I obviously had a problem. As a human in the 21st century, I opened a YouTube app and searched “How to hold back my anger.” Watching the endless results, I got a strange comfort from the fact that there were so many hot-tempered people like me. Psychologists in the videos explained some tips to cool down, but people in the comment sections seemed to have different ideas. “Those who are short-tempered will never change,” “People can never be fixed,” and “If your partner gets angry easily, you really should break up with that person.”

Then I came across a video. Like me, the man in the video had difficulty dealing with anger at his family. His wife asked a serious question that challenged his attitude towards invariable wrath. “Can you be angry at ABC like you did to me?” (ABC was a close friend he had known for a long time. ABC was like his older brother, so the husband always paid respect to ABC). After hearing the question, the man concluded he would not be able to get angry at ABC. That’s when I realized he and I were 100% capable of controlling our anger. We were actively choosing our targets.

I felt like I could take out my anger because the victim was a family. I automatically believed our strong relationship would withstand my outrage. I belittled the bond Kang and I had built over the years. Although the fact that I was ungrateful to my loved ones made me disappointed in myself, I also felt refreshed from fatigue. It was like hearing the exact name of my illness to discover there was a cure.

Anger is the same as fire in a Chinese character. Anger indeed spreads like wildfire. However, as the owner of my mind, I could always take a breath and calm my anger. If I could choose a person to get angry at, I should be able to root out the negative emotion. I must learn to prevent fire and put it out quickly when my heart is set aflame. Some say a person doesn’t change, but I had to take back the initiative to lead my life again. I know what I want to do next. I want to protect the people I love.