Thursday, 15 January 2009

Pyrrhic victory

A Pyrrhic victory is a hollow one. One which is gained at such a great cost that the original victory's value is debased. King Pyrrhus of Epirus (an area of Greece) won a major battle against the Romans during the Pyrrhic War of 280-275 BC but his losses were so great it prompted the king to bemoan that another such victory, "and we are undone".

Another way to say this might be that we should choose our battles in life. I've been thinking of this recently as I've always had to battle with my rising anger. I don't think I'm an angry person but every now and then, and I suppose it's inevitable, ire swells within me and I feel miffed off by something. Occasionally I can rationalise that I'm in a bad mood for some other reason and that the immediate source of my anger is not the reason why I'm angry, so I can swallow it. It's no big deal- the kids wind me up but I'm tired and grumpy anyway and as long as I understand this I can rationalise and move away. But occasionally some guy cuts me up in traffic and I feel real hurt! Flushed with rage I think about what I'd do to him but this helps nobody- I just end up simmering for ages. I need to get rid of that feeling rather than hold on to it. It happens. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose the battle with the black dog (Churchill called his depression 'black dog').

I sometimes excuse myself based on the curse of being a man (!)'ve guessed it: testosterone! Testosterone levels in men change throughout the day and I like to blame the 'ready-to-rut' levels:

"T levels fluctuate wildly. If you were to measure your Testosterone levels throughout the day, you'd likely be amazed. One minute you have the hormonal profile of a hyper-muscular bull ready to "fertilize" an entire herd of cattle… and the next minute your blood profile is that of a fully menstruating Martha Stewart intent on color coordinating your powder room."

But I'm a man, not a bull. I need to know myself and know that I'm not going to fly off the handle at short notice EVEN when I'm pumped full of testosterone :-)

This article was highlighted by Dan Praeder in his blog Martial Arts and Modern Life and is a great example of choosing the 'third way'. Nice story about how a Tai Chi master overcomes his base urges and dissipates a potentially aggressive situation.

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