The Beginning of Something Else

On June 1, 2007 I found out my husband and partner of almost two decades had been unfaithful to me since before our marriage, and had been having intercourse with prostitutes for 3 1/2 years. This is what happened next.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Why I can't express anger

In therapy today I had an epiphany. I realized I really don't know how to express anger in a healthy way. Not only do I not do it, I don't know if I know how. And I think it's because I was raised in an environment where it wasn't okay to say something that you might need or wish to take back later. Good people didn't say mean things. There was little tolerance for bad, messy anger in the heat of the moment. There was no understanding or forgiveness for saying something that might be hurtful.

So the only way I know to deal with angry feelings is to look for how I can be understanding or how I can be reasonable, until I get to the point where I can't take it anymore and get mean. But even that's difficult, because I've realized that I interpret anger, mine and others', as meanness. When I talk about being angry at my mom, I usually talk about being mean.

And the odd thing is that I am often mean to my mom now - short, sharp, intolerant of who and how she is. And she still loves me. It's like MPJ talks about - my mother can do the doublethink so that I still end up perfect and worthy of love.

The other thing we discussed is the need for me to create a relationship with myself. In couples therapy I realized that I look outward rather than inward to see if things are okay and if I'm okay. And if even one external indicator points to some kind of flaw, my whole sense of self shatters or at least is vulnerable. So I've defined a very narrow range of ways of being that are acceptable for me in order to shelter myself from the possibility that something will happen that might shatter that sense of self.

I realized that I can access this relationship with myself by developing an alter-ego. I do believe that we come into this world with everything we need to be okay. We arrive complete, and gradually are fractured by life experiences, and the judgements and world views of others and of society. Sophia used to tell me about her alter ego she created to ask questions of, and at the time I thought to myself that she was accessing parts of herself, subconscious or unconscious, that held the answers for her. Around the same time I read that this is actually a documented phenomenon - this accessing other parts of consciousness via an alter-ego.

So my tasks are to work on this relationship with myself, and to begin to identify what I think are healthy expressions of anger.


Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

I too have problems with anger. I grew up in a family where anger was a constant. I fear anger, because it feels violent and out of control to me. I used to say that I don't get angry, but the truth is I just stuff it down and don't express it.

Rae said...

We are walking the same path, sister. I am terrified of anger and also think of it as bad. If I am angry I think I am out of control. This is likely because my stepfather was often angry and it felt so chaotic and scary to me.

I really appreciated what you wrote about "being mean." I recognize it also as my pattern. I bottle things up until I explode.

People always tell me that I should feel angry with my stepfather, but I cannot access that anger.