A squib is a small explosive. A damp one is one that just splutters without the required fizz and bang.
My partner is a Red Hot Rager. Like a firework his anger burns hot and then it’s done. He never holds resentments or keeps score.
I am more the old Mosquito coil. I sit there simmering and smoking, never letting go, sulking or angry for days.
As a child growing up, we were never allowed to fight or express our anger. I have since learned that kids who can fight, and then make up, learn valuable conflict management skills. That kids who learn to express anger and see it resolved, learn how to manage anger. These are skills are sadly lacking in me.
I really struggle with anger. The highly (overly) tuned people pleaser in me, shies away from expressing anger. I just swallow it, and it festers. If I am angry with whanau or friends, I am too scared to express it, in case they remove their affection from me. And if they are no longer in my close circle, I still struggle – in case I irrevocably close the door. Even writing this, I know how crazy that is!
Expressing anger in a safe way, is essential to life. Anger itself is a response to a situation that holds some form of harm or danger. It is normally a legitimate response. Of course, out of control anger usually hides some underlying mental health issue. But in day to day life, stuff happens that pisses us off, and anger is the appropriate response… we just need to find ways to safely express that anger.
I often feel “Impotent Anger”.
Imagine a small child being held at arm’s length by a bigger person, and their fists flail as they rage; unable to make contact with their tormentor? Or a child who has an older person holding a toy or treat just out of reach? Their frustration at being teased and being unable to respond.. This is my default “angry position”. I always revert that impotently angry child. Anger often comes out in tears, which in turn, frustrates me more. I wish I had the ability to just let rip – guilt free….
It is the reason, that even as an adult I hate to be teased. It brings back that awful feeling of impotency, unable to retaliate. I struggle to see it as “just a joke” – that line has become a “get out of jail free card” for all sorts of negative and destructive behaviour; as if humour can eradicate hurt..
I was recently pointed to an article that discussed how unresolved fear and anger can lead to passive aggressiveness. How a childhood of being unable to express anger makes us learn other behaviours to express that anger – lying, manipulation, passive aggressive behaviour; that runs a full spectrum between passivity and aggression. It really hit home! And while I don’t prescribe to blaming everything on childhood ,that is where we do our first learning – where we lay down the pathways of how we interact with the world. Rewiring childhood in recovery is perhaps one of the hardest things to do…
After the Christchurch Mosque Massacre, I realised that my habit of swopping social media comments in an aggressive manner was a form of Passive Aggressiveness. I am good with words, well read, and skilled in research. But the reason I had for “pointing out the flaws in their answers” was not altruistic. It was the only way I could manage my anger at such an awful event. I pulled back and decided it was no longer a path I would take. The pandemic and recent global events have tried that resolve. Again, I feel impotent rage. Again, I want to lash out, tweet for tweet; comment for comment.. .but…. it won’t actually release that anger. It won’t change anything. So, now I try to divert my mind to other things. Keep my small circle, kindness filled. That is the only way I know to make a difference…
Grief has an element of anger. We rail against the injustice of the loss. The impotence that there is nothing to be done. The inability to move on as we were moving before. All are reasons to rage. But society teaches us to grieve quietly and considerately. It shies away from seeing naked grief. I remember when I heard the news that my beautiful daughter Bridie would not live past delivery – there was a sound in the room, so tortured I couldn’t understand it, until I realised it was Me, Keening …… I “pulled myself together”, not wanting to make others uncomfortable… I suppressed any anger I felt, to get through the end of the pregnancy and save my other baby. Swallowed those feelings.. I could not dwell on the injustice of it all..
Recovery is giving me the space and tools to process unresolved anger. But it still needs to teach me healthy ways of managing anger as it arrives My default setting is to people please, not rock the boat, let others define boundaries and relationships. And then feel frustrated when those boundaries and relationships don’t tie in with what I am seeking.
We talk about “working a programme” – originated, of course from the programme of AA; but for me, now a generic term for working on Recovery – addressing the past; looking at current behaviours; healing; finding the tools to cope with life in a healthy way. Writing this blog is one of my tools. Journaling, meditation, and exercise are others.
Sadly too, Recovery is full of people with issues too. I think everyone has some any way, but those in Recovery are trying to work on them. But there are a few – often labelled Dry Drunks. People who have given up the substance of their addiction, but are not doing “The Work’, not healing themselves. They have a tendency to be angry and rage – still living in pain with no anaesthetic. I always try and give them “grace”, understand where they are coming from. But recently have wondered if this is just another form of suppressing my anger, my feelings of hurt? Something for me to think about. While I can understand where their anger comes from, it does not excuse any negative behaviour towards me…
The massive thing that recovery is giving me, is silencing that old Bitch Troll voice. In the past when a situation did not go well, I would immediately turn the anger onto myself. Wonder what I had done wrong. Thinking I was not worth others being considerate of my feelings…. That somehow I had fucked up. Always giving the other person a free pass… We’re now sitting at a 40/60 situation – where I may be 60% to blame…. Baby steps lol.
I have also noticed that as I move forward in recovery, as I find my voice; that I now need to deal with people in my world in RL who really struggle with me expressing anger. As I set up boundaries of what I will and won’t accept from others, I am getting some push back. But, that is their problem, not mine. I am learning to stop throwing myself under the bus. Learning to not sacrifice my inner peace, to keep the peace…. Toddler steps lol
Today I woke raging… I feel so frustrated at how we find ourselves; and how basically selfish a significant part of the world’s population is. But as the day progressed; and I rage biked 10K on Freddie; as I controlled the things I can control; as I sat quietly listening to music; as I wrote…. The anger dissipated… The frustration remains. But the need to rage has gone.
Tonight’s gratitude list will be easy..
Anger is a skill I need to master. I’m not sure if I ever will, but being aware of my whys, is giving me a very good place to start on the hows…
Ko te kupu whakahawēa
Meinga hei wero
Ki te hinengaro
Let belittling words
be a challenge
to the mind