Of all the things I inherited from my father that I hope will not be passed along to my son, my ability to become furious virtually instantaneously is probably at the top of the list. I know it has been there in me for as long as I can remember, and while I have gone to great lengths throughout my life to try and curb it, I’m pretty sure it’s still there and will be for the long haul.
But rather than make this a post about me and my past and stories about how I’ve flipped out and lashed out and freaked out (and trust me, I have them to tell), I thought I would talk about the unexpected ways anger can pervade someone’s life. If you take nothing else from this, just know that I wish these feelings on no one.
- Dreams: Up until the last year or so, I almost never had dreams that I would remember after waking up. Now I pretty much remember everything. It sucks. They always revolve around a confrontation that may or may not have taken place in reality, and they always incorporate my complete and utter explosion of animosity toward whoever is in front of me. It could be anyone from a family member to a friend or a person I’ve seen once or twice in my life. If I were Freud I would chalk it up to wanting to bang my mother and kill my father and be done with it, but I think there’s more to it than that. I just can’t figure out what it is. In any event, I wake up confused, remorseful, and somehow, still incredibly angry.
- Trust: Here’s a tip–don’t allow anger to build up over the years and then expect one day to turn around and be able to trust people. It won’t happen. You know why? Because most people–the one’s I’ve met anyway–aren’t perfect, and they screw up every so often. Sometimes those screw ups are minor, sometimes they’re major, and often they are somewhere in the middle. The calm and rational person will usually have the wherewithal to analyze just how bad the screw up was and make a determination concerning how it should affect the relationship with the screwer going forward. The angry person, by contrast, will allow the screw up to fester inside, whether he knows it or not. And after a fair amount of time–particularly if his memory is good–what may have begun as something “minor” will inevitably become “major” and cause all sorts of internal and external drama. Inherent in said drama is trust, as (trust me on this–get it?) it is very, very, VERY difficult to render yourself vulnerable (which is at the absolute core of genuine trust) to someone who you believe has wronged you in some major way.
- Fear: And last, but certainly not least, my favorite component of my ongoing battle with fury. The other “f word”. The one that has reared its ugly head everywhere from the classroom to the bedroom, the athletic field to playing the field, and all the way in-between. I view fear and anger as fraternal twins. They may look different and act different sometimes, but underneath it all they come from the exact same place. I cannot remember a single time where my anger was not either the immediate precursor or direct result of fear, and I imagine others are similar to me on that score. We lash out because we are afraid of what might happen by not doing so, and when we don’t lash out, we get pissed off at ourselves for being “weak” and not standing up for ourselves. In my experience–and trust me, I include myself 100% in this group–the angriest and most fearful people are also the most insecure with themselves. And from an intuitive standpoint, that seems to make sense. If you are secure with yourself, you usually have the confidence to be who you want to be and do what you want to do. What would someone like that need to be fearful or angry about?
It builds and it builds and it builds inside of you until it finally spills over, often in ways and places you wouldn’t prefer. It affects everything in your life from judgment, to relationships, to the simple ability to calm yourself enough to think clearly. And to be clear, it’s not always about who is the loudest or most aggressive in the fight. Anger manifests itself in all sorts of ways, including the quiet storm that can let you know that someone isn’t really mad unless she isn’t talking. It all depends on the person.
So getting back to the beginning , what’s the moral of this story? It can’t be to never be angry, because that isn’t realistic. But for those who have the propensity that I do for allowing anger to sit and fester for long periods of time, do yourselves a favor and at least take it seriously. Don’t blow it off. If you need to talk to someone about it, or take a pill, or climb a mountain, do it. And do it fast. Because the longer you wait, the worse off you will be, and the harder it will be to kick it.