I have shared with you over the past 5 months (rather candidly) my “bête noir” and how I am challenged to deal with my anger. It has been the monkey on my back for what feels like my entire life. My anger is at the heart of every failed relationship I’ve ever had.
My rages resembled what some describe as bipolar anger. That is anger that comes on suddenly coupled with feelings of irritability and annoyance. I raged. My anger is one of the primary focuses of my therapy.
I recognized about a year ago that I was completely bereft of any interpersonal conflict and negotiation skills. All of my personal relationships were failing.
After my husband I split, I was having trouble dealing with my anxiety and disappointment. I was short-tempered with everyone from my co-workers to my children. I began searching for any number of avenues to enhance my conflict resolution skills. Whether it was through online anger management training, or one on one with a therapist for anger management lessons – I knew for sure, I needed outside help.
Anger comes from a variety of sources. It acts as an alarm telling us when something is wrong with a situation. My anger specifically is a byproduct of these emotions:
- Stress-I had two children in 3 years. Money was tight, work was short and my marriage was failing.
- Fear-I felt hopeless and powerless in my life. If my marriage ended, what was I going to do? Where was I going to live? What would be next for me and my kids?
- Disappointment-my expectations for my life and my marriage were not being met.
- Frustration-I felt that I was not in control of my life and overwhelmed by my responsibilities and lack of support.
- Life Events-I constantly recalled all of the times my husband let me down. I lived in the past, a lot.
- Resentment-I felt hurt, rejected and oppressed by my husband and his family.
Unfortunately growing up, I never learned how to cope with my emotions. I had horrible examples and learned all the wrong things. I learned that the angry person held all the cards. I learned that the best way to communicate when angry was to yell. I learned the greater the drama the bigger the payoff. I also learned that anger had no boundaries. When one was angry it was no holds barred – anything goes.
Imagine growing up in that environment. It was no wonder I couldn’t control myself. So now here I am, 40 years of age and we’re going back to basics. Three easy ways I found to cope with anger are:
1. Be willing to change the tools in your toolbox. One of my greatest challenges was how to parent my children. The only way I knew how to parent was through the example that was set for me which was anger and fear. Those techniques weren’t working. I remember that the Toddler had run away from me in a parking lot. I was yelling and threatening bodily harm but still The Toddler ended up running out in front of a truck. Luckily it was in a church parking lot so I think God must have intervened but still, I was so angry that I was shaking with rage. I picked up my child and manhandled The Toddler into the car seat. The entire time The Toddler was laughing and I was about to uncork. I wanted to spank the bejesus out of that kid.
When I slammed the car door shut, I was in tears. I stood outside of the car for a long time trying to think of what I was going to do. Obviously my way wasn’t working. I was going to have to find a new set of tools to get my Toddler to respond to me.
I was at the doctor’s office a couple of days later I found a magazine that outlined some really great techniques for working with your unruly Toddler without fear, shame or humiliation. I took that magazine home and studied every word. I began implementing all of the techniques. Now 6 months later, I am much more calm and relaxed with my kids. I have a new set of tools that work without fear or anger. I feel so liberated.
2. Be authentic and pursue your dreams. I wrote a post called Authenticity a couple of months ago. In it I confessed that a lot of my anger stemmed from the fear that everyone would find out I was a fraud. I had always wanted to get my bachelor degree but felt like I was being judged in my professional circle because I didn’t have a degree. In fact, I was probably the only one judging me but, it was causing me a lot of anxiety so I decided to do something about it. Now I’m a full-time college student and pursuing my dream. The veil is lifted and I know that I will never have to apologize for being less than I can be. Instead, I’ve challenged myself to become all that I can be. It feels great!
3. Feed your soul. I volunteer 2.5 hours of my time each week. I do this through my church but there are many avenues in which you can give a little and receive a lot. Here’s a few examples:
- Adopt a patient at an assisted living center.
- Read/tutor at the local Boys and Girls Club.
- Volunteer your time at the local food bank.
- Volunteer your time at your children’s school.
Many of us don’t volunteer because we think it will take up too much of our time. The truth is you can commit to only 1 to 2 hours per week but the good feelings you get last a lifetime.
For me, these changes seem simple but they had a huge affect on my emotional health. I still get angry, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like I’m in control now instead of my anger – and that has made a huge difference.