I talk a good game when it comes to anger. When I see injustice, big or small, I’ve been known to throw a rant or two. Sometimes the rant is loud and rambly, sometimes it’s furious scribbling, and sometimes it’s outraged pounding on my keyboard until a post appears.
Plus I’m all about the feelings with the kids – you need to share your feelings, you can’t expect anything different if you don’t say you want it, find your power and set your boundaries. Encouraging them to be true to themselves. To be strong and stand up for themselves because they are their best advocates.
Sheesh, what a hypocrite.
I like to think I’ve gotten better with time, but I have to admit any improvement has been miniscule. I generally follow a pretty distinct pattern of behavior when I’m angry.
First, my eyes get teary. Looking for the quickest way to dampen the impact of your rage? Burst into tears in front of the person who has pissed you off/treated you poorly/harmed your children. Because few things water down the kicking ass and taking names effect like pulling soggy tissues out of your purse or snuffling into your sleeve.
Once I get past the crying stage, I move on to the “but what” stage. As in, but what did I do wrong? But what should I have done differently? But what makes them think they can treat me like that? “But what” is the cruel voice of self-doubt. It’s the voice in my head that questions how I perceive other people, how I handle problems, and how much I deserve in life. It pretty much sucks.
On good days I can drop it after I move through the “but what” stage. On bad days? Well, then we’ve moved on to compulsive analysis. That’s when I spent an inordinate amount of time analyzing the interaction: what happened, how did I feel, what did he/she say, what did (or didn’t) I say. This stage usually involves a great deal of remorseful longings for do-overs: why didn’t I say this? why can’t I just stand up for myself? why on earth do I keep crying when I’m furious?!
Now, you don’t get to be forty-five (and a half) without learning a thing or two, and one of the things I’ve learned is why I suck at confrontation. The knowledge doesn’t seem to be helping me a great deal when it comes to getting better at confrontation, but baby steps, right?
I cannot for the life of me remember my parents arguing while I was growing up. (I have a feeling I’m about to get an e-mail from Bee or J. asking what on earth I’m talking about, but hey…I’ve only got the one memory bank to work from here.) I’m sure they must have disagreed, but they presented a united front at all times when it came to talking with me. If mom and dad argued then it must have been behind closed doors because all I heard from was a single parental unit after they’d worked things out.
For a long time I thought that was good. I mean, the kids I knew whose parents yelled at each other weren’t exactly thrilled with their home life…so didn’t we want parents who got along?
And that right there is the trouble. I didn’t understand the difference between fighting and disagreeing. That working out a difference of opinion, even when it involves heated emotion, doesn’t necessarily mean shouting is involved. That is isn’t even bad.
Which is why I’ve avoided conflict like the plague for most of my life. It makes me feel all icky inside, like the world is coming apart at the seams and I’m lost in the mess. It’s also why I completely freaked out the first time BrightSide and I argued.
(Note: BrightSide would probably say we haven’t argued; we’ve had disagreements that we worked through together. That’s because he understood from the beginning people talk about this stuff, whereas I felt like an enormous hole was opening in the floor to swallow us up. Yeah. Issues.)
I’ve made some pretty big strides in this over the past year, particularly when I’m not in the moment. I do better if I have some time to compose my thoughts and then address my concerns. I’m still working on the whole getting teary when my anger or frustration level peaks but hey, we’re all a work in progress.
At least I know better now. And not only am I trying to do better, but I’m trying to help my kids understand all of this from the start.