Monday, October 21, 2013

Owning Anger

I was visiting my Mom recently and during two separate conversations she talked about anger, specifically rage.  One of the conversations had to do with my sister who visited her recently and to say the very least I can the visit did not end well.  The second conversation had to do with my Mom's sister who passed away recently.  I believe the word she used was "rage-a-holic" to describe her sister's behavior at times. She went on to say that her father could be unpleasant at times and was often very angry and was angered very easily.

Even before she brought this up and unbeknownst to her I was thinking hard on this topic - of anger, quick and easily turned into rage.

When I was young, I have these clear memories of being very angry and easily angered. It was an uncontrollable urge to rage about things.  Of course, I was young and did not understand what felt but I knew it was unusual.  To be clear, I never wanted to harm anyone or do anything bad, I just felt this intense anger at things and people.  If someone did something against me or said something mean about a friend or if I felt there was a lack of justice, this feeling would spring into me like I wanted to fight. I wanted to fight with words and I often felt hateful toward people.  It is really hard to describe.  I think it is emotional reaction that has caused me a lot of trouble in my life.  I had no idea where that sense of anger came from.  I just had it and it was always there.

In one red faced incident, and when I say red faced incident I mean it still  makes me feel red in the face to think about this incident, I got into a verbal fight that almost ended in a fist fight.  We were in grade FOUR.  I was at a slumber party with some girls and I just... I do not know lost it on this girl and got into her face and tried to fight her. I do not remember what the fight was about, I just remember the sense of anger and yes maybe rage at her.  We are FB friends now and I am grateful for her presence in my life and I have dared not ask her about this incident but she is a good person and I know that my sense of rage had to do entirely with me and not anything to do with her now and yet in quiet moments that memory of being in her face, screaming at her, quaking on the inside with my fists balled up comes back to me - it is the earliest incident I can remember. Perhaps that is why it is so clear where I felt angry, out of control, and hateful toward someone who did not seem to deserve it at all in hindsight.

There are other moments - clear ones where I walked away from a group of friends at a mall in a rage and walked home because I did not like how they were acting. Some of those moments are less clear and fueled often by alcohol as I grew older.  Those cause me to feel red faced too because I do remember those moments but there is less clarity about what set me off but I just know I was an asshole at the end of the day.  I actually felt this sense of lowness like I deserved a crappy life for my crappy behavior growing up.  I devalued myself because I could not control my anger and even when I did eventually I gave into it.  Eventually it won every single time.  And so I grew to hate myself and hurt myself in every way possible to make up for the anger inside of me that I could not control.

Interestingly for years I wrote and said I would never have children because I was fearful of how my anger would play out toward them, with them, around them.  When I met Kevin and we were together long enough to determine we loved one another and wanted to get married we both agreed, one of many things we had in common, was that neither he nor I wanted to have children.  I think in our hearts we both kind of did but we had our separate fears and reasons for not wanting to have children.  Regardless of that declaration we did even up having two babies whom I am thankful for and I could not imagine my life without them and before them.

However bobbing up to the surface over the years has been the old sense of low self esteem, that misguided misplaced anger, the quickfire rage that I would feel at things that would come and go leaving me spent and red faced and wondering about myself - was that me? did I do and say that? shameful and unsure and hating myself for that behavior.  So over the early years with the kids I often held it at bay but there are times that it has come up.  Stress is a trigger.  Exhaustion is a trigger.  Being pushed to the emotional brink is a huge trigger and can easily be achieved depending on some important factors.

Lately I have been thinking long and hard how to change this seemingly innate and well honed issue of anger. I was reading a favorite blog and he mentioned 'owning his anger'.  It was like a spark.  I need to own my anger.  I think when we are trying to chew on something and we are trying to figure out what it is and how to deal with it, it will come up again and again in subtle little ways in our lives.  Suddenly in a movie, and a book, a conversation, a blog post and in our real lives.  It dawned on me over the weekend when I angrily flared up at the kids and Kevin after working very hard to be calm for several days (one of many many attempts the past few months by the way) that I needed to do more than just "try to be calm" all the time.  Then I read this post: and this one:  I was like "hmm owning my anger - not there is something I have actually done."  Own it.  Be clear to myself about the anger and as he says "not acting on the anger is a win, even when angry."

I own my anger today.  I can play the blame game and I can allow one little spark to ignite the fire or I can own it. As the above blog posts explain I can do the following:

  • Keep breathing
  • Keep trying
  • Let go of the emotional warfare - let the past go, let the red faced embarrassment go, let the low self esteem and personal hatred I feel for those actions go and I can go forward, with a plan to wholly enjoy the moments of happiness and joy that are there not be overshadowed by anything else!
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