Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My Buddy - Anger

Wrote the title last night and stalled.  Telling how Anger is my buddy now doesn't give a clear picture of our rocky relationship.  (Puns are usually intended and one of my quirks.)  Molly commented on yesterday's blog that anger is an uncomfortable emotion.  I agree 100%.  Anger is my buddy but not always my best friend.  Anger wants to get out of control and takes considerable energy to keep in check.  Sometimes I use depression to dampen raging Anger until I can handle myself better.  To understand now, I need to dip into yesteryear.  I use my childhood as my area of research to find out what events and circumstances formed my beliefs and ideas now.  Too often, my childhood distorted thinking and I am spending my adult years in counseling straightening out the mess. 

At the beginning of counseling, I couldn't access my childhood memories.  However, years of counseling and plenty of effort on my part I am now able to delve and sort through some of my memories.  Memories attached to powerful emotions, such as anger, usually contain a bit more information.  There are family stories about anger in our family that lets me know that controlling ones anger is not a strong family trait.  I remember watching my mother rage at me or one of my siblings with feelings of terror.  I remember struggling with my temper when I was younger.  This is where my memories get interesting.  I went to my mother raging anger because of something one of my brothers did to hurt me.  Instead of disciplining my brother, I was punished for the greater sin of being angery.   I received a lecture on how anger is bad and I need to apologize for being angry.  Yup.  The victim was victimized again.  I quickly learned to suffer abuse rather than having more abuse heaped on me for my bad anger.  Anger was stuffed down.  Anger was stuffed down more and more often.  By high school I was fairly good at keeping my anger buried.  I still felt sharp twinges but I knew that anger was "bad" because my mother told me so.  (Note to self...Do not believe everything your mother tells you, especially if they have narcissistic behavior.)  During high school my brother brought home a puppy and hid it in our basement.  He was not telling my parents he had a puppy.  He wanted it, he got it, and he enlisted me in keeping the secret.  All went well until late one night the puppy was yipping and barking and wanted to play.  Trying to keep the puppy quiet and feeling so tired I discovered a terrifying rage.  I had to carefully shut the door and stay out of the room to avoid harming the playful puppy.  I felt so a shamed.  I knew that the anger was bad.  What I didn't know then was the distortions I was taught by bad examples and poor parenting.  Rather than being taught to confront, process and develop a plan of action I stuffed the rage.  This is where being a multiple is magical.   One of the super powers of multiple personalities is creating a personality that feels no emotion.  Great - awesome - oops.  No emotion meant no anger, no resentment, no happiness, no love... none of the emotions were available.  For the short term of making emotions disappear, it was helpful.  For the long term of processing my emotions, it was terrible.  Later, married with little people to raise I struggled with a raging temper over and over.  I swore I would not take my rage out on my children like my mother did to me but I kept slipping.  I worked harder and harder until I was able to make anger disappear at a thought.  I brought in depression.  Depression trumps rage.  One definition of depression that I like is anger without enthusiasm.  I stuffed, bottled, shift down, and finally defeated anger.  In the process nearly destroyed myself.  So how did I get to be good buddies with this thing that seemed to have me by the throat in a wrestle to the death?  (Severe depression often leads to suicidal thoughts.  Rather than repeat what was done to me as a child, I would choose to die.)

I naively entered counseling thinking that a few sessions and all would be well with my world.  Once KavinCoach realized most of my childhood memories were missing he set about finding out what I reacted to.  I read books; he watched my non-reaction over and over.   However, he found little things could set me off into a oblivion.  He worked at getting me to respond without shutting me down completely.  Slowly, I learned that Anger was blamed for things that anger didn't do.  He pissed me off then poked around to see what caused it.  He taught me to slow down the flash bang of rage that would hit like a two-year-olds temper-tantrum.  I was never taught to address anger in a healthy way.  KavinCoach trained me to recognize my reaction that was anger.  It was subtle.  My recipe for me.  First, recognize when I was angry or cloaking anger.  Second, look behind the anger and find out what was the true source - hurt, fear, or frustration.  Pulled my emotions apart again and again.  Reviewing each step.  Who ever said you can't teach an old dog tricks, never met my trainer.  I learned to recognize Anger as my alarm system for a boundary invasion.  All those years ago as a child I called it right.  I was hurt, then I was angry.  Now I reverse that...If I am angry, I need to look for the hurt, fear or frustration.  My buddy Anger is my early warning system that I am in danger or frustrated.  Now when I feel angry instead of stuffing it I go hunting for the culprit behind the curtain.  Anger is like the Great OZ there is a little weaselly guy behind the curtain running the controls.  Catch the weasel and  Anger slips quietly to its guardian post.  Don't catch the weasel and it stays on alert.  I learned that around some people it automatically goes into high alert with good reason.  Still working on the relationship but I am really learning to admire my buddy Anger, boundary guardian and early alert system.


upsi said...

Isn't that funny, that you had it right so long ago, and you've had to work to get back to that place?

Being punished for feeling anger is so toxic - I went through the same thing growing up. Anger gets a bad rap!

I've been enjoying your posts about anger, I can relate to your relationship with this emotion. I'm learning a lot about allowing myself to feel it without judging it or stuffing it - not easy at all!

The story about the puppy really hit me - your anger was telling you that it was not your place to have to keep this secret. Your beauty shines through every word you write, Ruth - even in your confusion, you knew you didn't want to hurt this puppy! You may not have been able to hear what your anger was telling you, but you didn't allow yourself to violate your own values.

I admire you so much for doing this work. You are one of my heroes because of your openness and willingness to keep going, keep looking, keep trying.

Thanks so much for sharing your process!


mulderfan said...

I lost it at the vet's office yesterday when over the course of two hours my beloved dog died from a condition that goes undetected until it's too late.

Swore a blue streak after he was put to sleep in my arms. I didn't direct my anger at anyone just screamed at the world because we were all helpless to prevent his death.

Anger is the first stage of grief. When I process what happened the sadness will settle in but for now I'm still pissed!!!

Ruth said...

Thank you upsi. This means a lot to me. :)

Ruth said...

mulderfan I am so sorry for your loss. I understand anger being part of the grief process. It is telling the World you were hurt by the unfairness of loosing your beloved dog. Hugs to you, P/M.

Laurel Hawkes said...

I love this: "Catch the weasel and Anger slips quietly to its guardian post. Don't catch the weasel and it stays on alert."

Anonymous said...

Mulderfan, so sorry to hear about your dog & best wishes for facing the aftermath.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post Ruth! I can relate to never having a voice as a child; not being allowed to vocalise feelings and emotions. If you have to bottle things up it's only a matter of time before you explode. I was never allowed emotions; that includes anger, pain, sad, happy, pleasure. Even compassion and empathy was seen as a weakness and viewed with disgust. I can fully understand how by noticing the first flutterings of anger (with the benefit of insight) one can identify the source and release the pressure through discussion (not always possible of course, there are different types of anger). Your determination is admirable!

Molly x