I looked at her as if she was an alien.
I was totally taken aback and I got angry.
“Of course, not!” I stammered, scowling at her.
What sort of a stupid question is that? Who on earth enjoys being angry? Just because I AM angry doesn’t mean I enjoy it.
Why isn’t she trying to get to the root of my anger, instead of asking stupid questions?
I had just come out of my second stay in a psychiatric hospital with PND and was visiting my psychiatrist for a follow up session.
She and I hadn’t really got on, but you don’t get a choice which psychiatrist you see while in hospital.
I saw her for two sessions, maybe, and didn’t go back. I found her too confrontational and “blamey”. Instead of showing me different ways to think, she insisted on showing me how wrong I was.
I never forgot her accusation though. DO I enjoy being angry? Of course not!
A few months ago, I remembered it again, as I was driving to see my psychologist. I realised that, while I certainly do not enjoy being angry, anger IS my default setting. Having grown up in a verbally, emotionally and physically abusive home, anger was the predominant emotion I witnessed. Anger was just about the only emotion that was allowed to be expressed. And only by adults. Children were to be seen, not heard. Children were not to have emotions, and certainly not opinions. I grew up stilted, sad and angry, with the anger bottled up inside, making me a virtual pressure cooker.
In my teenage years, the anger exploded on a regular basis, only to be met with more abusive outbursts and broken furniture.
I left home as soon as I could, when I began full time work. By then, I was able to manage my anger and had been lucky and free enough to experience and demonstrate other emotions when I was around my friends. Love, excitement, happiness, sadness, pride.
Anger is still my default setting. When I’m frightened, I get angry. When I’m sad, I get angry. Any negative emotion tends to express itself as anger. While 15 years of therapy has taught me many ways to manage negative emotions, I haven’t really learnt how to express my anger in a non-destructive way. And it still takes a lot of effort for me to understand WHY I’m angry.
My anger makes me physically ill. I get headaches, migraines, nausea, indigestion and nervous twitches.
Exercise is meant to be a great way to dissipate anger. While it helps me to forget it for a while, once my body recovers, I am back at anger. Hanging around my boys also helps.
By far the best method for expressing anger, or indeed any other emotion, for me, has been writing. In the past, I would write out all my anger in journals. These days, I blog. Except that, in some cases, anger expressed through the blog begets more anger and leaves me feeling no better for having expressed it.
It doesn’t take a genius to understand that most of the time I’m angry at myself. At the things I’ve done, or haven’t done. Things to do with parenting and money, my two biggest triggers.
But, once again, I find myself needing to figure out WHY I’m so angry.What am I really feeling? What other emotion is sitting there triggering my default setting?
Is it fear? Fear of abandonment, of failure, of not being good enough?
Yes. All of the above.
I keep coming back to those in all my coaching sessions, in all my therapy.
One day, I hope to be free. And then, maybe I’ll stop being angry.
What about you? How do you deal with anger? What works for you?
*Image by Gideon Wright.