Anger: My Shield, My Cage

Six months ago, I chatted with Pink about how I deal with my anger. Or, more accurately, how I don’t deal with it. It’s been a mystery to me, but I think I’ve made a little progress. I realize that I feel it the most when I talk about things that threaten me.

It’s a defense mechanism.
I get angry most often when I feel the need to defend myself or values that are central to who I am. It’s not because defending myself makes me angry. Rather, it’s because it gives me an excuse to maintain who I am, to deflect pain, to enforce boundaries. Without it, I have to change my behavior to suit the needs of others.

Yes, I understand that defending oneself doesn’t automatically mean I should be angry. But it does make sense when I realize that I’d been conditioned to rely on it. The only time people would stop pushing me around was when I got enraged. At that point, anyone could see that I wasn’t kidding when I’d ask them to stop messing with me.

It’s also my cage.
Anger didn’t always stop people around me. Things would still happen. I might ask people to stop teasing me about something I couldn’t help. I might have been going through some rough stuff at school and just needed to not get yelled at for something at home. Maybe I just needed a quiet place to think instead of react. My anger was supposed to protect me.

Except, without fail, the anger was always framed as something unreasonable. I had no rights to be angry. Apply that line of reasoning to what anger meant to me, and it is tantamount to saying I had no right to be me. Being young, I couldn’t break this apart in my mind. All I had to deal with was people who could psychologically push me wherever the fuck they wanted.

Thus, over time, I became ashamed of my anger. I had no right to it. It must be a problem of my own. The problem wouldn’t exist if I just didn’t get angry.

Not once did I stop to ask, “Was it okay for people to behave in the way that led to my anger?” These were two separate issues. Using anger against people is not healthy. But dismissing someone who isn’t able to process what they feel is also unhealthy.

The solution for anger was to blame me. It was a spiritual failing, or sinful, or a personal choice. I was a bad person for being angry, not someone who needed to find healthier ways to be himself.

How do I unlock the cage?
Maybe the first part is realizing I’m not a bad person for feeling anything. Anger is a reaction for me, not a choice. When I make choices, I never choose to get pissed off. It’s only when I stop thinking that being mad at people becomes an option.

Changing my view of anger is also important. I think I was wrong when I thought that anger is a gift that I give to others, that it’s something I can just stop doing on a whim. No, it’s a condition which arises from a trigger. The process is Pavlovian. When something arises which prompts anger, I need to erase that prompt and put in a new one. I have done it many times over the years. I can do it more.

9 thoughts on “Anger: My Shield, My Cage

  1. Hello SB. It sounds like others wanted to put their actions that triggered your anger on to you , therefore absolving them of any wrong doing? I also understand that some people who become angry can not calm back down as other people do. It sounds like you have a good handle on what is going on. Best wishes. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think it was a fully conscious exercise. The people I grew up with didn’t have healthy ways to express their emotions. My parents’ faith restricted them to unhealthy alternatives. They were told that all their problems stem from some faith construct.

      And yeah, I was angry a lot as a kid. It took a couple massive wake up calls for me to realize that I needed a handle on it. But that handle ended up being the belief that if I just berated myself enough, I’d stop being mad.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Christina. I wish to formally welcome you to my blog, and offer my deepest sympathies regarding your situation. Without knowing the specifics, it sounds like you have a good perspective on things. If you’re still in high school or under 18, there’s a lot of crap you might have to put up with. Having a good perspective can help you adjust to anything unreasonable in your relationship with your parents.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We tend to think of anger as a useless emotion. I do not believe that useless emotions would survive evolutionary processes. (I used to thing embarrassment was a useless emotion; I no longer do. We would all be better off if our current president possessed a smidgen of this emotion.)

    Anger, at least what is usually described as righteous anger has significant uses.

    I used to have an out of control temper. I was taught how to control it by a very special teacher. He said that opening up a small window of time between the stimulus and your response allows for creative action. This worked for me and I no longer possess an out of control temper. This is just the old “Count to 10 before …” as it gives you a bit of time in which to choose how to react. (You do not need new thinking skills as to how to process the emotions involved, just some time to “consider.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Counting never worked for me, sad to say. Many traditional coping strategies don’t work for me, because I just transfer the anger elsewhere. And really, compared to who I was even a decade ago, I’m pretty laid back. I think this, coupled with returning to environments where anger stimulus occurs, has helped me see what’s going on between my ears.

      As far as anger being useless, I remember hearing that mantra and even using it. It never sat well with me, because it distracted me from looking at why I was angry. You’re right; if anger was vestigial, natural selection would have gotten rid of it a long time ago.


  3. I live with someone who has a quick temper, which can make the relationship a bit trying at times. *sigh* I agree that adult anger is very often the result of childhood experiences.

    Me? I rarely get angry. To me, it’s just not worth the energy it requires. It’s very draining … and quite often doesn’t accomplish or change anything.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anger has always been problematic for me when it comes to whatever triggers it. It wasn’t until I moved out and lived my own life that I discovered I didn’t get angry very often. But it can be a sign that something else is wrong, like PTSD or some other disorder.


Comments are closed.