This is homework from the book Anger-Free: 10 Basic Steps To Managing Your Anger by W. Doyle Gentry, PhD. I resisted this earlier, but realize I have to deal with it at some point in time so here goes. This exercise is from the book. I hope it helps you the way that it has helped me.
1. Take out a pad and pencil and write your own anger story. When did you first become an angry person? What sort of things make you angry? How intense is your anger? Does it last long? How do you generally express it? What are the consequences of your anger for you and your mental and physical health, relationships, and so on? Do you feel that anger has been an asset or a liability in your life?
1. I was nine when we moved, I think this happened when I was five or six. It's my earliest memory of being angry. My next youngest sister and I were playing in a closet outside of the bathroom when my mom came over and demanded to know who had eaten the watermelon. I had seen my sister eating it and even though I loved watermelon, I didn't eat any because I knew I wasn't supposed to be having any before lunch. My mom talked to both of us and then spanked me for eating the watermelon because my sister told her that I had eaten it. I protested my innocence loudly. My mom spanked me even harder for the 'lie' and told me that she believed my sister because she didn't lie and I did. I can't really put how I felt in words, but I wanted to kill my mom and my sister and I felt like I could in a five or six year old thirst for vengeance. I wanted to see blood spilling, hear bones breaking, and scream until my lungs died. My next youngest sister was the golden child. Both of my parents favored her and my brother. He was the only boy. She was a more obedient child and I hated her for the love and things she got that the rest of us girls didn't.
Today any sort of injustice rankles deeply. My mother was inconsistent, telling me one moment that nothing could stop her from loving me and literally beating the shit out of me the next, raging at me, telling me that I was just like my father. Today I parent much like she did, doing everything I can to try and keep the house clean, make sure nobody does anything to upset daddy when he comes home. Living in fear, working so hard you think you can't give anymore, wondering why I'm so unlovable and yelling at my kids when I can't direct the anger at the source.
My anger can be very intense. I'm much better at not flying off the handle the way that I used to, but I almost wonder if that is going backwards instead of forward. I used to be a very outspoken and opinionated person with my own views on things. Now I see myself trying to keep status quo and wondering who this meek doormat of a woman is and why she doesn't get a gun and take care of the problems herself. It's not keeping the peace, it's repressing anger and hostility and nameless emotions that choke and poison me. Today I took a walk. Tears streamed down my face when I thought about how much my ex makes and how much of that I'm going to be getting. It's not fair, it's never been fair. I helped him create the business he has today. I worked, it was my credit score that allowed him to charge business expenses that I knew nothing about. I tried so hard to be what he wanted, but if I made food it wasn't what he wanted, and if I wanted to go out to eat, he had already had a burger or pizza that day. I'm sick at what I did to myself by being angry and not knowing that this was the root and source of a lot of ill health.
I tend to be the type of person who flares up, gets mad, and very quickly gets over it. But he taught me how to brood. You know that saying about birds of a feather flocking together? What usually happens is the stronger person sinks to the level of the weaker person and that's what I did. I thought that if he could ignore me, the book calls it stonewalling, then I could ignore him. Pretty soon we were two people living separate lives, just like my parents did, just like I swore I would never do because my mom was weak and she should have thrown off the yoke of my father decades before she filed for divorce. I wish my mom was here for me now, but she has her new husband and he doesn't like me because I'm such a bitch.
Since I've been so depressed and hopeless I didn't really express my anger in ways that I used to like going for walks or throwing things or going off on a tirade. I learned how to withdraw. How to say no to family obligations, to use the excuse of not enough money, to hide behind those excuses because the world so bewildered me that it felt safer sitting here and staring at my computer or the four walls of my room. I let my kids grab whatever from the kitchen, didn't serve meals because I was sick of getting yelled at when they weren't on time, didn't include a meat and potato option, etc... Two people told me I should run a marathon. If anger was the only fuel required, I could be an ultra distance runner. In real life my left foot is fucked up from a pair of shoes that were too big and a soft tissue injury. That makes me mad too. Fucking assholes.
I feel like my whole life has been a mess because I didn't realize I was compensating for being so angry. Lost job opportunities, times when I didn't speak up, times when I did and it didn't do any good anyways. I tell myself to let go, and I have let go of a lot, but the anger is there, seething beneath the surface. He reminded me that my therapist said that my anger was killing me. Yeah, I get that, it's a form of suicide and I don't think it's a stretch to say that. You can't go forward when the repressed anger is keeping you tied to the past.
Anger has been an asset and a liability in my life. When I see injustice it makes me angry and I should be angry at some of the things I've witnessed. I haven't been very good at standing up for myself although I'd like to believe that I'm getting better at that. I haven't stood up for my kids the way I would have liked to, I can't explain how enraging it is to live with someone who plays mind games. I never could figure out what wasn't working about the relationship and I have my own issues, but he really did a number on me by constantly undermining me as a woman, a person, and a mother. I could kill him for some of the things he did to me and more so for the way he parents. People who know him call him the Disneyland Dad. In his mind I'm this controlling nagging harpy that he had to escape so he justified his emotional relationships with other women. I might not be the most courageous person on the planet, but at least I'm not a coward. He has a lot of his father in him, not the good money managing or organizing tendencies, but they're both the type of men who couldn't stand up to their powerful wives so they went looking for something on the side. I cheated on him. I'm not proud of that, but I never hid it like he did. Everyone knew. That doesn't make it better, but it illustrates the differences between two cheaters.
2. Ask yourself how you feel after writing these thoughts about your anger. Are you relieved or do you feel uneasy? Are you sad? Did you become angry doing the activity? Do you feel as if you are unlocking secrets from your past?
2. I'm going to answer these in reverse order. Yes. I feel as if I have unlocked some secrets from my past. I get irrationally upset when I am unjustly accused. I was very angry, furious while I was writing what you just read and that's just a place to start. I'm not sad anymore. Maybe I am on some level, but I don't feel sad right now. Mostly I'm just exhausted. I just started crying again so now I feel like I can't trust myself or know myself and I definitely can't trust or know other people either. My kids lie to me, he did, my parents did. What the hell people? I am paradoxically relieved and uneasy. He always reserves some power. He could cut me off financially. That's his carrot. But I could take him to court and I will if he tries to screw me out of child support. I met with an attorney who told me not to fight. But he also told me that there were times when it was necessary. I'm terrified of him at a very fundamental level because he's secretive and manipulative and in some ways smarter than I am. I am a very stupid person when it comes to others. I am very loyal, foolishly so. My ADD and Romance book talks about how loyal these people can be. They've screwed up and messed up, they're often very generous, sometimes in a misguided sense because they want and need forgiveness from themselves. I feel guilty. I don't think that he does. I don't think he feels much of anything very deeply and that scares me more than anything. I've read up on sociopaths and psychopaths. I can't call him one, but if someone told me he was, I wouldn't be surprised. Someone I know said he was just an ass, but I know guys who are jerks. They don't care about other people, but jerks don't strike me as deeply disturbed and detached the way that he does. If he reads this, there will be a consequence. Oh well...
3. Does what you wrote surprise you? Would you feel comfortable sharing these thoughts with someone else? Why or why not?
3. What I wrote is surprising because I've spent most of my life not writing about my reality. This is how I see things. Others have their perspective and I'm sure they would disagree with some of the things I said. Whatever. I don't care anymore. This is a very healing and strangely comforting exercise. I would encourage anyone who suspects that they may have anger issues to try this even if they don't share it publicly the way that I did. I need to share things publicly because telling him things is not asserting myself the way that telling other people is. I don't know if that will make sense to anyone except possibly another person who feels trapped in a subversive and hostile marriage or relationship. His mother told me about being newly married with a baby. His dad traveled so she cleaned their very small place as best as she could. When he got home he looked around, walked over to the window, and told her that she had missed a spot. His dad is a perfectionist, a control freak, and a micro manager. He has good qualities too. He can be very generous and I think he genuinely loves certain people. He wrote us a check for Christmas. Guess how much of that I saw? The money doesn't matter. I'm used to not having it. It's the idea that once again some asshole profits because his father has money and my dad who worked very hard is sitting in a nursing home at age sixty-five. Life is not fair. I guess that's no revalation to anyone, but if you're already angry things like this can add to the frustrations and annoyances. You start hating people and that spills over to your children. Sometimes I can't even look at my kids because they remind me of having to submit to him sexually and how I abandoned my power, indulged in meaningless and pointless sex, and let my mind roam instead of being honest about how I really felt. I don't know if other women are like this, some of them I've talked to say they aren't, but I know at least one other woman who does this too. You just let them do what they want and comply to the extent that you're able for twisted reasons. It's an escape. Most of the time it feels good on a physical level and you're so unused to emotional connections you don't question why they aren't there. I felt like I was getting at least one thing out of the relationship. That wasn't fair to him, to me, or to the girls, and now I pray so hard that they will get some of the help that they need in therapy because their parents set such piss poor examples for them. There's nothing wrong with being intimate, kids need to learn that mom and dad need time alone too, but I set unhealthy examples by continuing to sleep with someone that I didn't respect, and didn't love. At the very core of a functional relationship is trust. I knew I could never trust him. I trusted him with a few things, he didn't do anything to earn my respect there, and I always kept the most vulnerable part of me hidden because I couldn't trust him not to bring up something I had said and use it against me later, or worse, tell it to one of the women he went out to lunch with when he was married to me.
My therapist does this thing where she waves her fingers in front of my eyes as I tell her about an experience I'm remembering. At the end of it she asks who has the power. It's me. I have the power. I always have. I am a strong person. I can write shit like this and put it out there and not give a fuck what you or anyone else thinks because this is a form of self care that I need. My hope is that others will take something away from this exercise and check out the resources they have available to them like books, blogs, therapists, and supportive friends. Today I am a better person because of this book, my faith, my family, and I know that anger is something I can manage that can be a positive in my life. It's harder that I thought it would be to do something like this. I would recommend having some alone time and a big glass of water so you can take sips when you need metaphorical cooling off. Other than that, the only other advice I have is to write from the heart and let the emotions flood you no matter how upset you get. One thing I've always respected about the people here is how they don't shy away from writing about intensely personal experiences. A lot of the things others have written have helped me, I guess maybe this is my roundabout way of trying to add something here that isn't a shitty daylog or erotic fiction, not that there's anything wrong with wanting to improve yourself on any level. Those were escapes and releases for me, and having those things in my life has made it richer and fuller. This was a place to be when he was ignoring me, when we were ignoring our children, and damaging the very foundation we were supposedly trying to build. Don't be like us. If you're in any type of an abusive relationship get professional help if you need it to get out. I promise you, waiting and doing nothing does not end well. But you're going to be smarter than I was and learn from someone else's mistakes, right?
I am and have been a very angry person, but getting this off my chest feels like a good start toward improving the quality of the rest of my life. I have to take it one day at a time, each memory as they come, and remember that there were positives in these relationships too, but those are for another day...