How I began to learn to understand anger

I have realized that I am an angry person. I am a person who reacts and over-reacts to stimuli that would not cause most other people to turn a hair. I have always assumed that because I’m an irritable person then the anger is an extension of that as magnified by the bipolar disorder that I have. I have realized that I’m not entirely right.

A friend recently pointed out that whilst anger is okay it has to be expressed appropriately and that’s something I don’t do. I use anger as an excuse for rudeness and expect to get away with it. I thought carefully about what he’d said to me and his words made me think of another friend who encourages me to be forthright and speak bluntly whilst he takes a back seat and watches the fireworks. Is that friendship or is that abusing the less attractive traits of someone for fun? It’s a relationship that I’m going to have to review but, in the light of the earlier conversation, maybe not deal with just yet.

My friend talked to me about perceptions. He spoke of how, because I explained why I had outbursts that I assumed people listened and acted appropriately. That was an erroneous assumption; what we say is not always what other people hear, if they hear at all.

I sat and contemplated our conversation and kept uppermost in my mind that my friend had spoken to me with love and affection. He wasn’t telling me I was bad or wrong but, because few people know me well enough to sit back and let me bubble away, I had created a label for myself that I neither like nor want.

After I’d thought things we through we talked some more and then I went and thought a little more. I realized with quite a thud that my anger is actually quite childish. More specifically, when dealing with utility companies, the powers that be, anyone who can wield a metaphorical stick, my anger is childish. Therein lies the revelation.

We were never wealthy as I was growing up and once my brother was in primary school my mother returned to work to supplement the family income. My parents weren’t particularly good with money for reasons that don’t need to be looked at so bills were never paid on time and my mother forever complained about how there was never enough money to go around. There was always money for nights out but never enough to pay the bills on time. Often we would get letters from the local Council because the rates or the mortgage hadn’t been paid. Once I hit the age of 12 or so I was the person who had to go negotiate repayment though I have never worked out why my parents thought this a good idea or why the Council allowed it. It soon extended to other things; whatever went wrong or was substandard it was my job to fix it. I was a child and my way of dealing with things was childlike and childish. If people didn’t listen then I shouted until they did and I got the result I’d been told to get. That way of dealing with things has never evolved. I have never learned how to deal with things as an adult because I have never had an adult who could teach me those skills. What I learned was, that because I was a child, people would be willing to give way to me more than they would an adult and thus my bad behaviour was rewarded. They should have sent me home and demanded to see my parents but back in the 70s things were different.

Last year I stopped the voluntary work that I’d been doing for a long time. I was becoming tired and stressed. My irritability had reached peaks it hadn’t in a long time and I wasn’t looking after myself at all well. I was skipping meals and medication. Housework, though never a high priority, wasn’t getting done at all. I did well to realize that Bipolar Disorder had finally made such a big impact on my life that my life had to change. I wasn’t giving up voluntary work to sit at home; it was freeing me to pursue the photography and writing that I seemed not to have time for.

It worked well. I got calmer and more productive and felt really settled and stable. My anger subsided. I felt like the real me was emerging again.

I decided to hand my affairs over to some good friends via Power of Attorney and it was an incredibly emotional and stressful time for various reasons. I then got asked to do some media speaking on mental health and I said yes. I was asked to deliver some training and I said yes. I had huge problems with my internet provider and found that very difficult to cope with. I resorted to shouting loudly and longly to anyone who would listen willingly and anyone who had no option but to listen.

It culminated in the conversation with the friend who pointed out I was rude and angry and that set off the train of thought that led me to the conclusion that, although my anger was inappropriate because of the way I’d been raised to use it my anger wasn’t the problem, it was the result of my problem.

My problem was that having realigned my priorities so that I began to recover and manage my life better I then made the mistake of feeling so well I began to choose to do things that would put me back at square one – or even minus one. It would be like taking medication knowing it to be a life time commitment then stopping the medication as soon as I felt well and wondering why I relapsed. Changes to improve my life have to be life long changes.

By starting at the end product and working my way back I get to my root cause. My expectations of myself are too high. Whether I succeed at everything or I succeed at nothing is irrelevant if I’m not healthy or content or growing spiritually.

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