Anger is a natural, healthy emotion in moderation. Too often we hear ‘angry’ parents speaking angrily to their children and yelling “calm down”! Society is much the same, we get angry when someone transgresses our beliefs and values, yet we may rarely ask why.
If I am hurt by the words of another, or maybe my negative thoughts and cognitions, then my body will respond accordingly if I fail to address the thoughts for what they are. My body might slouch and be less upright. I might unconsciously make myself feel smaller, in an attempt to avoid any further harm, or, I might look to challenge the emotional ‘insult’ and get loud, VERY LOUD, making myself bigger and more intimidating…
Rage is outside the healthy range however. Rage is a loss of reasoned sense for what is truly happening to the point of causing harm to self or others. Anger is often a result of fear. Try examining that in yourself next time you are experiencing this emotion, see if you are frightened about the outcome of the situation.
Tim who has become our resident guest blog author on matters ’emotional wellbeing’ tells us about living with anger.
Living with Anger
Anger is more than annoying for the recipient, and it doesn’t do the angry blokes any favours either. Probably doesn’t do the blokesses any good, nor any surrounding people caught in the explosion. But, the thing is, when I’m angry I feel 100% justified in my anger. What I can’t do at the time is separate good, reasonable, sensible anger from the trivial, pointless sort. I don’t mean the sort where you win the battle and lose the war, I mean the “I just lost, but I thought I was right, but I’m angry over something so inconsequential that no right minded person would be angered by it! Awkward!” sort of anger. This is the sort where I not only still feel angry but I look a total arse, too. (Look, I could have used the US spelling and ambiguated with ‘ass’, but I didn’t. Get over it. Do you want to make me angry?)
See, that’s one of them. I’m insisting on my spelling in advance, of my guess, that you’ll object to a ‘rude word’. How pointless is that?
I’m trying to work out why I’m angry… No, I’m not. I know why I’m angry… My life is full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never actually happened. That’s what’s done it… Er, no. I made it happen.
Ok, I’m blethering. Let me do a potted background. I could go on for hours, but I have a therapist and a men’s group for that. I just want you to have an idea, so, as chronological list of ‘the stuff of which anger is made’ as I can:
- very wanted only child, brother to many miscarriages before and after, almost died at 18 months, overprotected, can see why – always watched over in case I died
- ambitious parents, displayed me as perfect, as a china doll – pressure cooker environment
- sickly child up to age 6 – always watched over in case I died
- changed school at 7 to one with a hostile and stupid teacher who ruined my ability to sing aloud – resentful
- teased at school, trivially but repeatedly – insecure
- became a bully out of anger at being teased – obvious, but stupid reaction
- strongly academic child – object of jealousy and ridicule
- not at all able with ball sports – father never, ever played catch, etc. Other fathers did with their sons. Object of ridicule.
- not allowed to play football in the (dead end, so safe) street with neighbours – lacked social and ball skills, resented parents for prohibiting it
- craved attention from popular boys. Got it by allowing self to be bullied – jeez that sucked!
- told by respected teacher I was not good enough to take a scholarship exam to next school – how dare he? Didn’t take it, of course
- scared of move at 13 to next school – who wasn’t?
- six weeks into next school, fell in love with another boy, disgusted with self for being queer, loved loving him, love not requited, no-one I could talk to – isolated, alone, terrified
- still bad at ball skills (not those! I said it was unrequited!), never taught how by the school – resentful
- china doll now cracked by being queer – terrified my mother would send me for aversion therapy and cure. Terror lasted all my teenage life until I could leave home. Cracked china got thrown out in my home.
- school used experimental maths which no-one could understand, and I couldn’t do the work – loss of face. I was academic, remember
- school experimented. Without O-Level physics or chemistry, I and a few others were promoted to do A-Level physics and chemistry and expected to sink or swim, no extra help at all. I sank. Parents never noticed, even from awful school reports – let down by those meant to protect me and those meant to teach me. I was only 14
- needed to meet girls. That would cure me from being queer. My parents refused because (a) it’s school tomorrow, and people like us don’t go to youth clubs dear, and (b) those church hall dances are not people like us, dear! – I so don’t need to explain how I felt about that, do I? Or the blazing rows we had? I was 15, 16, 17, 18 and the rows got stronger. Great education for anger.
- did Oxford entrance scholarship. Did well enough to be interviewed. Was let down at interview by question asked about item in school’s report. Complete surprise because I was never told what was in it. Didn’t get the place – genuinely not my fault, this one. So let down and unhappy. No way of recovering the result.
- went to a decent university, let myself down by failing year 1, repeated it. Admissions tutor lied to me and ensured I ruined my chances of getting an honours degree. Failed degree – My life as a china doll is over!
- instructed by my parents never to tell other parts of the family I had failed. Loss of parental china doll exhibitor status to be prevented at all costs – what am I meant to do now, lie all my life?
- first job working as civil servant in secure environment, where being queer was unacceptable – yes, I am meant to lie all my life
- we had a baby son (now 29 and a dad) – I’m gay, I’m now scared of all the official health visitor visits to my home in case they take my son away from a gay father, so I have to keep lying. Angry with self for being homosexual again
- remember the boy I fell in love with at 13 and never told. I told him in 2001, though by letter. He has never acknowledged that letter, nor two or three after that – I was angry about that. Now I’m sad. He’s so not my type any more. I wonder if that’s progress?
- there was a family reunion last week. A cousin and wife had travelled from New Zealand to see their family and had asked that our male to female pre-operative transgendered cousin came. She was not even invited because her sister said that she would “make some of the people uncomfortable.” I expected I was not to be invited because I have cut the bloke I describe later out of my life and it was at his home – So there are two of us with unusual traits, but dammit that makes me, and note it makes my wife, hugely angry for our excluded lady cousin. This is good, but powerless anger. The bloke she would have offended is a closet case anyway and camp as a row of tents. I know what he and I got up to when he was 13 and I was 11. Now some more in the family do! Despicable me! We met them for lunch. That was spiteful anger in the raw, but I feel good about it. So does the memsahib.
So, there’s a lot of whining, as you see. There could be even more. This is the short version! And, even when anger is justified, I get very bitchy. It’s not hissy-fit-foot-stamping-queen angry, it’s pure bloke’s anger and often irrational. Er, no, usually irrational.
A little was other people’s fault, but how I reacted to it ought to have been under my control. I needed, somehow, to understand that I could control how I felt, how I reacted, how I thought. I have excuses. They all involve “No-one spotted how I was a troubled kid.” Whoopee! That’s great, I can blame someone else. Even Adrian Mole had it better than I did! And no, he hadn’t been written then.
The other way of looking at it is that I simply failed to take control of my life. Now I feel a total arse, so I can’t look at it like that or I get angry.
Throughout all of this I have destroyed friendships with good people, felt I was protecting my family by getting angry when protecting them, and lost every single job I ever had except the first two which I left for better things. I get angry. I get angry.
I get angry with my wife. (Yes, I’m homosexual, something I was angry about for years, and I have a wife, and I’m angry for her because she’s married to a gay man and she doesn’t deserve that.) But, when I explain to her, the things I find simple and she finds complicated like (to me) trivial computer things, I get angry with her because she doesn’t get it as fast as I expect her too. And she is bright as me or brighter! So I ruin things and that makes me angry.
But it’s not the ‘anger management will solve it’ type of anger. I know, because I’ve asked for help on anger and everyone I’ve asked, professionals in the field, tell me it isn’t.
So I overcompensate by being wonderful company.
I am overbearing, rather hail-fellow-well-met, and can be regarded as all piss and wind. Can you imagine how that makes me feel?
My wife told me recently that I have spent our marriage perpetrating emotional abuse on her. Well, not on purpose. I’d be so angry with myself if it had been on purpose, and I’m pretty pissed off that I seem to have done it ‘naturally’.
The problem now is that there is now moral high ground and ultimatum. I do not have the first and I am in receipt of the second. And that makes me angry, mostly because I do not know how to behave well, even though I do. I just can’t seem to do it naturally. And I have to learn how to do it as a matter of course, and do it now, or I risk losing the thing dearest to me in my world, my wonderful wife whom I love dearly, and, actually, who loves me, but really doesn’t like me right now.
Guess how that makes me feel?
I’m 61. I’ve been angry since I was 6. Even if it’s with myself it’s still not the good sort of anger that gets bad things to stop happening.
I’m working hard on it. This article is part of that. I feel anew, the past anger that I have had, as I’ve written it and read and reread it, and some of that has lost it’s power over me because I’ve written it out and shared it.
That’s why I’m very grateful to Bob first for reading it to see if it is suitable for his site and second for publishing it, and he must have, because you’re reading it. He’s not my therapist. Mine is many miles and several counties from him, and working with a men’s small group therapy concept which is also helping a lot. I look forward to the meetings. They do not make me angry. They don’t even make me angry with myself.
I should tell the group that. I think they’ll find it interesting. I wonder if I will. It seems such a tiny thing. And I only just noticed it when telling you about it.
I don’t want your sympathy, but I’d love your suggestions about how I might do better. You’re not responsible for me nor for advising me, but I’d like to hear what you have to say. My promise to you is that I will take your thoughts on board, calmly and without anger. I will weigh them, and I will either accept them or reject them with a good heart. And I will thank you for them in either case.
Does that work for you?