The anger dilema

“Give me the check, Vince! I can’t believe that I have a cussing academy award and I have to call YOU back! Again, and again! and again you CUSSUCKER!! GIVE ME THE CHECK!!”

“Wow, Seth! You really like to quote movies. What is it that you like so much about the angry parts?” Kristin asked me one Saturday afternoon. I got embarrassed. She was right -I do like quoting the angry parts of movies. Why is that? I’m not totally sure. Ever since I was a little kid I remember my mother singing or talking to herself while she was busy working alone somewhere else in the house. She would quote movies, or music lyrics, or just simple nonsense from the top of her head (and my Mom’s head sure seems to have a lot of nonsense to spout -believe you me!) Some of the time it would annoy me -but some of the time I found it amusing or even it oddly soothing. I’d ask her why she’d do that from time to time and she’d say “Oh, it’s just how I deal with stress.”

I guess it wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to say that stress relief is probably why I spout off random quotes as well. It was a skill that I learned from Mom. Yet, why do I seem to particularly favor spouting angry parts? I don’t feel like an angry person. People who know me wouldn’t label me as being very angry, I don’t think. So what is it? I’m gonna guess that I choose to quote angry parts of movies because, actually, I do have some anger inside that I am uncomfortable about directly acknowledging. Anger isn’t usually an attractive or desired emotion -either for the person experiencing it or for the people around that have to witness or be subjected to it. Yet, of course, being angry from time to time is part of being human. By venting stress via angry quotes (even if they are in humor as with my quote above) I am probably venting or working through some aspects of my own anger indirectly and in a safe way that I wouldn’t necessary have to be held directly accountable for. Plus, it can be fun to be angry! You get to feel “in the right,” you may feel more alive/focused/awake, you get to feel powerful, etc. Anger can be very motivating! It certainly has been for me: I was angry that my life wasn’t where I wanted it to be after grandma died so I took action to apply to grad school and re-arrange my life to be more what I wanted; when I got mono I got angry and decided to create a blog -which spurned this whole thing which you’re reading right now; I got angry about not getting straight into graduate school so as a result I decided to stay on course for another year with my job that I was considering quitting so that I could really focus on improving myself in ways that will better prepare me for when I do start.

Situational examples are easy to point out when it comes to trying to figure out why I might occasionally experience anger. With me, however, (and probably with most of us) I am sure that there are more deeply rooted issues behind why I might from time to time experience anger. Unfortunately, with these deeper issues, I often find it can be more difficult to access and understand my own anger because the anger becomes entangled with many other emotions. Fear, self-doubt, guilt, and even love can get wrapped up with my anger in ways that make it difficult for me to see or trust what I may be feeling. I am grateful that therapy exists to help me attempt to sort everything out.

Let’s look at attachment theory to help illustrate an example for how, in deeper core issues, I may struggle with anger because it can get tangled with other emotions: In normal healthy attachments, when you are young and something scares or threatens you, you run to your attachment figure (usually mother or father) for safety, love, and/or protection. Biologically, that is what we’re programed to do. It is in our nature to move in close to our pack because that tends to grant us our greatest chance for survival. But what happens, when, in a less healthy attachment, the source of the scaring or threatening becomes the attachment figure itself? Would you just run away -and go to nobody? You can’t, really -when you’re a little kid- so what ends happening is -you run to your attachment figure for safety, love, and protection anyway -even if they are the source of what is scaring you. This can jumble up your emotions and link and cross wire them in unfortunate and complicated ways: “You scared or hurt me but you’re the one that is supposed to love/protect me -so hurt/fear becomes part of love.” or “You made me angry but you’re the one that cares for me and teaches me what’s what, and you tell me that I am wrong for being angry with you so I no longer can trust what I feel.”

I got embarrassed when Kristin caught me and called me out for being a sucker for repeating and persevorating on the angry parts of movies. There are complicated ingrained sources of anger (and other difficult emotions, for that matter) inside of me that I’ve spent a long time trying to figure out and get in touch with. I’ve made a lot of progress with my explorations -yet I still have fears about the unknown parts of my difficult emotions. There is a part of me that fears that, at this time in my life when I’m preparing to find a mate (and eventually become an attachment figure myself when I become a parent), I might get rejected as a “broken” mate -or worse, I might have a hidden self-destruct buried deep within my unexplored emotions which would sabotage the happy life that I want for myself. I don’t think that that would be the case for me -but it is scary and hard for me to know for certain when there are parts of my own feelings that I feel like I may be out of touch with. Additionally, sometimes it feels difficult for me to trust how I feel.

Looking at the big picture, however, I do feel pretty okay about everything turning out well and relatively, if not mostly, on the path for what I want in life. That makes sense for me. It probably, also, would do me some good to not blame or displace my own struggles onto other people (like my primary attachments.) My energy would seem better spent enjoying what is in front of me and risking the assumption that it okay for me to move towards making the lovely life that I want for myself. We are all human -and I’m sure that whatever partner I end up with will be just as human as I am. Life won’t be perfect and I won’t be perfect -but I’ll be the perfect version of myself. I’ll continue to explore and grow, and as I risk more, my demons will be drawn out for me to handle bit by bit. I probably wouldn’t be exploring these thoughts right now if it weren’t the case that I was taking a chance in a relationship where I am willing to be vulnerable and willing to put all of my cards on the table. Worst comes to worst I’ll at least be able to say that I lived life with all I got.

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