I'm taking a family and couples counseling course this semester. While I am thoroughly enjoying the content of the course, there are parts that have been very difficult. As someone working in the mental health profession, I take a critical eye to most, if not every, aspect of my life. This is not just because I think too much, it's also a huge part of my profession.
Because of this, I have been taking a look at my family dynamics and social systems. It's really interesting when you start paying attention to the rules of a house that are never stated, but are understood. After talking with my brother last night, we knew that if there was a big problem, we talk to dad. If there was a small problem, we talk to mom. There are many other things that lie just below the surface of any family and I've learned so much and am so grateful for the family I do have.
A few weeks ago, I was at dinner at my parent's house. I go there for dinner every Sunday. I was speaking with my mother about someone who had recently been angry with me. At one point in the conversation, she said "We don't get angry". Interesting. I wouldn't have paid it much notice, had I not been studying family dynamics in my class. Then a week later, while speaking with my grandmother, she said "We think before we speak and don't get angry like that". Two in a row!
This is not meant as a post to blame or criticize or anything like that. This is just an exploratory piece. Even talking it over with my grandmother, she said not being angry was something she got from her parents as well. Unwritten rules get passed down!
I brought up this realization in my class. And I started to cry. It was very difficult for me to bring something like that to the surface.
I do not like feeling angry, and I do not like being with people who are angry. When someone is angry with me, I tend to shut down. I honestly just do not know how to process anger. I have a terrible fear that if I get angry, I won't be able to control it, and it'll lead to some sort of disaster.
Just a month or two ago, I was feeling really odd. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I knew I didn't like the feeling but couldn't piece it together. The more I thought about it, the more I began pinpointing the issue. I was angry. I was angry at my ex. There were some unresolved issues that I had and I needed closure. But I had no idea how to deal with the anger! I broke down and started crying, shaking quite a bit too. Needless to say, I did work through things with my ex, and it felt like a huge weight lifted off my shoulder. Now, back to anger.
Even now, just staring at the computer screen, I am having an incredibly difficult time accessing my anger. I know it's there. There are things I get angry about! But as my therapist pointed out to me this week, when I get angry, instead of expressing it outwardly, I flip it around and aim it at myself.
If someone is insulting to me, instead of getting mad and defending myself, I take it in. When one of my previous boyfriends would emotionally attack me for something I didn't do, I felt angry, but it immediately turned into self-blame and sadness. When I approach someone in an effort to strike up a conversation, and they completely ignore me, I base it on my lack of certain qualities, instead of on their jerky behavior. If I have a failure, I take it in. If I get frustrated with someone, I punish myself over and over again and get sad. Even if I strongly voice my opinion, I get down on myself. Being sad is easy to access for me. Being mad is not.
Gah! I still can't get in myself and bring this out! At this point I honestly don't know what to do with myself.
I do believe it is possible for people to express anger in a very healthy way. I have not learned that skill. I also believe that being angry isn't inherently "bad" or "good", I think how I express it can be good or bad. But again, gotta learn that skill first.
I guess right now there are just a few things for certain. I get angry. That is for sure! There's just a bit of a disconnect between the feeling, and the communicating of it. I'm going to continue to focus on the reasons why I get angry. I've noticed a few things, but I'm looking for a commonality between all of them. I think if I can find the commonality, I may be able to find a healthy way of expressing my anger.