When I was young it was common for adults, teachers, parents etc. to talk about somebody having a chip on their shoulder. It was a reference to holding a grudge or having an angry attitude.
My parents used it to describe me when I would walk around angry, just daring somebody to cross me. It didn’t matter who stepped up, I just wanted a fight, not physical, but just somebody I could take my anger out on. These days, the saying is “You want some of this!?”
Well I outgrew that kind of blind frustrated adolescent anger… or so I thought. As I look back it was present with me my whole adult life. I believe being abused and unable to emotionally process those feelings contribute to that dysfunction, but I think a lot of us go through life a little pissed off for lots of reason. Always ready with a middle finger for the driver that goes around in the right lane and slips in just ahead of our front bumper, or a quick word to someone who cuts in line at a store.
When I addressed my abuse in therapy over a period of years I changed a lot. I thought I had gotten in touch with my emotional self. I tried to be more open and direct with people. I even got feedback that I was different and easier to be around.
Over the last year or two (while I wasn’t looking) that anger began to take hold again. I would go on a total rant while driving yelling at other drivers and I found myself thinking how other peoples lives would be so much better if they would just do things my way. Randy’s rules; and yet holding that anger and resentment I lost track of myself. I got buried under the mounds of frustrated anger.
It was like I had too many power strips plugged in and no surge protector. The only pressure relief valve I had was yelling. I was holding all my frustration with life and the ills of the world, adding more every day, until I finally just popped like an overfull balloon. It all culminated this summer when I blew up in an angry outburst at a family gathering. And of course like we often do, I took it out on innocent people and jeopardized my relationship with those I love. I believe that when we hold our emotions and do not have a healthy outlet for them, they are going to come out anyway, generally in an inappropriate and destructive way.
It took me a while to get through rationalizing my actions to the point of taking full responsibility. What is interesting is what I did to release it all. First I ate a large helping of humble pie for my actions. It is amazing how healthy it is to just to say I am so very sorry for what I said and did. I was wrong and I hope you can forgive me at some point (it helps get you off your high horse, if you have been sitting on one).
Next I unplugged from the news and electronic media. I had overloaded to the point I could not deal at all. Stopping the flow of negative news and events into my psyche gave me time to empty all that pent up emotion. My learning curve was that it all fell into two categories. The first were things I couldn’t personally do anything about. The second were things I could change, but I often kept my mouth shut out of fear. It is not necessary for me to tell people every time I think they are wrong. I will speak up when I see injustice and feel the need to add my voice to the oppressed or to defend myself when necessary. I find I can have the most impact, by walking my time on earth just being my values. People do notice.
As I said earlier, I don’t think you need to be a survivor of child abuse to find yourself a container for frustration and anger. I think it applies to many of us. If you find yourself pissed off a lot of the time, I hope my little story here will help move you to a healthier place. In closing I will share a piece of wisdom I somehow lost track of.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can
And wisdom to know that I need pull back periods to stay healthy.
May I learn to respect the wisdom of nature that every living thing needs different seasons over a year’s time, every year, to replenish and sustain life.
May it be so.