Ahhhh anger. In all your forms and variations you do most royally screw me up!
This week’s session with my Wise Woman was all about the anger (except when she was rejoicing with me about the next shot at treatment for Husby and the fact that although we’re technically back where we were before (or will be once his new treatment plan kicks in) my attitude has been transformed for so much the better).
Apparently I have some issues to deal with.
The exercise in the session was to create a kind of anger scale, from least intense to most intense and the feelings and associations I have with each stage.
We begin at the beginning with irritation. Irritation is mild annoyance, easily managed, easily fixed and not that destructive. It is surmountable. It is small. But it has historically been frequent, and in large quantities of small amounts can possibly add up to something quite major.
Then onto cross. Cross is what comes when the trigger for irritation has continued or worsened. It usually has a ‘tone of voice’ that goes with it. It might develop into an argument. It sometimes has a facial expression of disgust, repulsion, dislike, condescension or sneering superiority. It is Not Nice.
Cross also wants to get the better of people, put them in their place and sail on by, smug and self-righteous. Cross often happens when I feel wronged; when I feel something *should* have been attended to or someone *should* not have done something. Cross wants people to feel bad, inferior and shameful. It is smart-aleck-y and snide. It uses sarcasm as a weapon. It is often quite happy to climb out on a branch, sit there and cut itself away from the tree, just to spite others.
Case in point, on Monday morning before I left college to attend my counseling appointment, two lecturers were having some banter with the students while explaining how the remainder of the day would go (there was an on-going fish spawning happening throughout the day, which the students would be involved in, but which I would need to miss). I reminded one of the lecturers that I would need to leave early and he jokingly said “Oh, you keep doing this. And it’s especially sad today because you’re about to become Mum to 100,000 carp fry!” then turned to the other lecturer, tutted and remarked “I don’t know! Some people.” It took a great deal of self control (and mental repetition of the fact that both lecturers don’t know the reason I leave early on a Monday) not to say “I’m terribly sorry that needing help for being screwed up about losing two children impacts on your lesson plan…” and watch them squirm.
After cross, and kind of in a section of its own lies frustration. There are different types of frustration, one of which I can cope with, the other which rapidly sends me over the edge. The first type comes as a result of other people; the driver who cut me up, the clinic staff who send news of infertility before the specialists get a chance to see the results and offer a plan, the milk carton emptied and left on the side again. This is alright (most of the time) and usually I don’t stray too far from irritation, though sometimes I get cross.
The second kind of frustration comes through inanimate objects coupled with extant stress; being late and fumbling the car keys, trying to fix lunch for me + others and not being able to open a jar, having planned to watch a program on the internet and the service provider going down. This kind of frustration has me very quickly either shouting, slamming and throwing things or (more frequently) melting into a puddle of tears and self-pity. It’s not pretty either way.
The centre of the line holds the spot taken by anger. Anger happens in response to all kinds of things, especially frustration. It is usually a little violent (though aimed at inanimate objects), quite destructive and can be hurtful. It’s usually rather pig-headed and doesn’t want to back down and admit fault. It also doesn’t take kindly to suggestions, well-meaning interventions or humour.
It can also turn, fairly readily to self-hatred and self-pity (a revolting combination) where the emotions (except anger) dull and all becomes lost in the grey of an unwavering certainty that Nothing Is Right. It then wants to withdraw, to sulk, to nurture the wounds and simmer. Getting out of this stage is a real toughie and usually only comes after a long period of being Left Alone.
Further along and into more dangerous territory. Powerful anger is where it gets really dark. Powerful anger is highly destructive and becomes self-sustaining – it enjoys breaking things, hurting people, ruining things, exercising its power. It is The Dark Side (and I’ve been here, I’ve felt its draw and I know I’d make a totally rubbish Jedi if only for this reason). It is cold, it is calculating, it is brash, loud, violent and aggressive. It seeks to shock and to repel. It wants upset, it wants breakages, it wants a reaction. And the more pain it can cause to get that reaction, the better.
Fortunately at this stage there’s still a tiny voice in my head (which I try to ignore in the heat of the moment) telling me not to go too far, not to burn my bridges, not to do any lasting damage. The length of this stage can vary.
Last stop on the line was rage. Fortunately I’ve not been here (by the skin of my teeth, the grace of God and the timely interventions of the people in my life at the salient moment) but I reckon this would be the point where powerful anger let go of the last vestiges of self- or other-preservation, crossed the line and went utterly postal. I’m pretty certain that if I ever lost it and ended up in this stage, I and whoever was the subject of the anger would be rather seriously hurt, with no thought for the consequences (or, at least, with that tiny voice well and truly overridden for the time being) – those bridges would be dynamited, not just burned.
It will be interesting over the coming weeks to look further into the problems I have with anger. I suspect that much of the problems stem from unresolved childhood issues and learned patterns of behaviour. In spite of the mellowing which comes with time, childhood was often a pretty harsh place for me and a lot of the time I felt as though I was an imposition – something to be dealt with. I didn’t feel as though my opinions or input were valued. My confidence was undermined, my character was belittled, my self-worth was non-existant and my emotional needs were hugely un-met. And sadly I do feel that in terms of impact, the bad times outweighed the good.
I know that ‘these things happen’ and worse things have happened to other people. These things, though, happened to me. Yes they were the result of bigger and more difficult things going on in the immediate family. Yes there were culpabilities. Yes it was very difficult for a very, very long time, but a place of healing and reconciliation has been reached and regardless of what went before, I now enjoy good relationships with both parents and my sister.
I am also completely convinced that although many of those experiences were horrendous, I was allowed to go through them for a reason, and without them I would not be the person I am today, for better and for worse. And at the moment, I’m comfortable with who I am today.
I was left with the task to figure out some strategies for managing anger when it happens, ideally heading it off before it becomes too severe. I have no idea about how to figure those out – any tips or strategies would be really useful feedback (there’s a comment box below – please do make use of it!).
Thanks on a Tuesday
1. I’m thankful that ONE of the lessons scheduled for today was any good at all. In contrast to the utter crap for the larger part of the day (due to poor planning on the part of the college) it was a wonderful experience.
2. That today wasn’t a diet day!
3. That my friend the Raver, bought me an ice-lolly at lunch time (even though it was raining and cold)
4. That my college friends and I made an impromptu samba band with stools, table tops, ballpoints and a coat-rack
5. That Husby and I were able to support some friends in a very tough situation, and that they wanted and valued our support (as they’ve been very supportive to us)
6. That we had a lovely evening playing table-top, geeky games and having a laugh as a group of mates
7. That I’m discovering some awesome new tunes to listen to instead of the one I was stuck on; see below for instance ‘ Lonely Boy’ by The Black Keys
8. That Husby has an appointment on Friday with his endocrinologist (it can’t come soon enough)
9. That I’m going to see my bezzie friend in the world on Friday
10. That I have a warm, soft, clean bed to go to shortly.