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As someone who likes to feel in control in most situations, I've spent a good amount of effort trying to hide how out of control a part of me used to be. The truth is -- and what most people that know me will have a hard time believing -- I have always struggled with anger issues.
Some people reading this will roll their eyes or laugh, dismissing it because most people that have met me know me to be quiet, sweet and kind. They can't envision me angry or even raising my voice. I've always been good at concealing it within my social and professional life. What they don't know is that I've battled with my anger for many, many years.
I don't believe there was one big event in my life that sparked the beginning of it. I don't have a tragic story to share. I had a great childhood and loving parents. On the outside, I've always been happy, but behind closed doors I've struggled with a variety of issues. One of those issues is my anger. I've broken furniture into pieces. I've thrown things in fits of rage. I've hidden bruises and swollen hands and fingers from punching my steering wheel. I've put holes in walls and doors. I've been in fights and blacked out from rage. I've lost feeling in my arms and legs, gotten horrible headaches and experienced heart palpitations. I've shaken uncontrollably from head to toe after arguments and confrontations because of adrenaline. These are not things that I am proud of. This is a part of myself that I've always disliked and been ashamed of. I've worked hard to overcome and manage all of this as an adult.
I've never been good with feelings in general. Even the word, feelings, makes me uneasy and uncomfortable. I didn't know how to let people in or allow myself to be vulnerable. I was afraid of getting hurt. I built a wall up around anything I felt that made me feel weak and used my anger as a defense. Any emotion that I experienced in the past, whether it be fear, anxiety, grief, or pain, I always processed as anger. I would hide all of the other emotions I didn't want to admit to feeling behind my anger. I would mash it all together into one ball of the same emotion because I didn't want to experience the other ones. It was easier for me in some ways, or at least I used to think it was. In my mind, it was better to be angry and yelling instead of crying and admitting I was afraid of something.
There are many different things that contribute to anger in any person. Sometimes anger is legitimate and something that should be felt and expressed. I've learned that most of my anger can be attributed to environment and self-induced stress. I've spent a good deal of time learning how to recognize and understand why I feel the way I feel in certain situations so that I can process those emotions in a positive way. I have a hard time in environments where I don't feel in control or where I feel overwhelmed by social stresses. I put a lot of pressure on myself to meet certain requirements of time and energy and if I don't meet those standards I feel frustrated. I don't like feeling embarrassed or put on the spot. I don't like to feel judged or that I don't measure up.
I've learned that these are all triggers for my anger. I understand now how my anger issues have contributed to many of the anxiety issues I also battle with. I've learned to recognize when I'm starting to feel out of control or angry and have changed the way I think about the things that trigger these feelings.
When things start to feel out of control, I pause and take a deep breath. I calm myself down and evaluate the situation to discover what it is that is actually making me upset. I try not to be emotionally reactive anymore and truly process feelings before I express them. Sometimes I excuse myself from the situation completely if it's possible. Removing myself allows me to take a step back and look at the situation, conversation or circumstances from a different perspective.
It is said that you can change a behavior by changing the pattern of that behavior. You change the pattern by changing your thoughts, your language, and your physical position. We've all been conditioned over the years to respond to things in a certain way, but changing the pattern allows us to respond differently than what we're used to.
I've done a lot of work on myself, especially over the course of the past year. I'm a much happier person. I'm comfortable with who I am. I work on being the best version of myself every single day. I am learning how to let go and part of that involves learning how to let go of control. I understand that I can't control everything, and by accepting that, I've managed to regain control of my anger. I still experience anger in certain situations, but I've learned to process it in a completely different way. I've changed the pattern of my behavior.
I'm not proud of how I used to deal with things, but I'm proud of the path I took to get to where I am now. It hasn't been easy and it still isn't, but the lessons I've learned (and continue to learn) and the growth I've experienced (and continue to experience) make every step worth it.