Steps to Anger Management: Identifying the Triggers

In yesterday’s post, I revealed to myself and the world at large that I have a rage/anger problem. That was an extremely difficult thing to realize about myself. I think it is also one of the hardest things to accept about myself. However, accept it, I must. If I don’t accept it, then I will continue to be at war with myself. Constantly fighting internal battles leaves little room for letting other people in or engaging in relationship with others in significant, meaningful ways which let them know of your concern and love for them in emotionally healthy and tangible ways. At least, this is what I am discovering has been a truth in my life and my relationships. If anger and rage are occupying the mental and emotional space, then anger and rage are the expressions which seep out or rush out into interactions with others, including, and sometimes especially, the ones we love who may be least deserving of anger being taken out or projected onto them.

I have a lot of anger triggers, most of them having to do with my children. A portion of that anger is triggered by how they interact with me. However, the largest portion is how they are treated by others. This is especially true when it comes to my six year old. That being said, how my 21 year old daughter is treated, generates a rage which is not just rage, it is fear and sorrow so intense that, at times, I feel physicaly ill. Since she is 21, a legal, independent adult, I have no say, and little influence, in her relational transactions. It is not within my power or my purview to protect her or decide what she accepts, receives, or allows into her life. All I can do is to make myself available and find a way to become a safe and stable source of unconditional love who can be trusted. I still have a lot of growth to do in this area. For the moment, my anger and rage which are triggered when she is mistreated, in my eyes, gets rolled into the triggers with my six year old. I think that may be because she is my last child, the last bastion of innocence in my charge.

At this point, it could be written off and accepted as the way a mother loves her children and never wants to see them hurt and wounded in any way by anyone. That is a typical and natural response . . . or at least the expected response. Yet, I know there’s much more to it. The volatility of my internal and, sometimes, my external reactions is indicative of a much deeper and personal connection. I’m realizing it stems from experiences in my own life, from childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood.

As a little girl, I seldom had any space that was mine. When I did have space which was mine, briefly for about a year, year and a half, between eight and ten years old, my room was the catchall for the clutter from the public areas in the trailer we lived in. I remember, at one point, I wound up sleeping on the floor of my room because all the other places were full of stuff my mother had shoved in there before company came over. Later, when my mother and I lived in a one bedroom apartment, there was so much clutter throughout our small apartment that she reacted in painful ways when she thought I was exposing the mess to the view of the outside world.

The prevailing memory of my mother was when I had barely turned 12. It was an extremely hot day. The apartments we lived in were connected to a motel in the front of the property. it was a collection of three rows of single story, stucco buildings, with two buildings in the front, which were placed 90 degrees counter to the other rows. One bulding faced the road and which was the small motel, the other faced inward and was a row of two or three apartments. That was the building in which we lived. Two other of family units we were related to lived there, as well. My grandfather and his wife lived several apartments down the first row our bulding faced. My uncle and his wife lived in the middle row, which faced the bulding my grandfather lived in and was catty corner to the building I lived in with my mother. We could see each other’s front doors. There was no shade, no grassy area; the pavement between the buildings were made of black asphalt and were the pathway and parking for vehicles. So, the heat was amplified and made going outside uncomfortable and unappealing.

We had only been in town a few months. I had entered the sixth grade at my newest school well after Spring Quarter had begun. I hadn’t made any friends whom I was connected to outside of school. As a matter of fact, I had incurred the ridicule and wrath of some of my classmates simply because I was an outsider and I was from a different part of the country, with an accent and peculiar ways of relating to my peers and the world around me. So, I was socially isolated. I was accustomed to this, as we had moved several times throughout my childhood and frequently found myself in a new school, in a new town, sometimes in a new city or state. So, I had no place to go and no one to hang out with.

Our apartment was hot and stuffy. It was too hot to have the windows open. Even if they had been open, the blinds and curtains would have been closed against both the sun shining in and the possiblity of others seeing the mess we lived in. I was restless and uncomfortable. I didn’t want to be inside, yet going outside wasn’t any better. So, I stood in the doorway, with the door held close to my body. I actually think my body was completely inside and I was holding my face between the doorframe and the door itself, so, my body would block the view of anyone passing by.

My mom was harping at me, wanting the door closed. She was anxious about anyone possibly seeing in. She wanted me to go completely in or completely out. She didn’t care which, she only wanted the door closed. I refused. Her voice became increasingly strident as I continued to resist her pleas and demands to close the door. I argued and tried to reason with her, according to my 12 year old logic. She finally became so distraught and angry that she yanked me in by my hair and pushed me over the arm of the sofa, closing the door, then sitting down on top of my legs so that I couldn’t get up and reopen the door. I honestly don’t recall what my emotions and thoughts were in that moment. I do know that the more I demanded and yelled for her to get off of me, the angrier I became. Finally, I sat up, bent forward, and bit her on the thigh as hard as I could.

Within a very short time, my uncle came over. He had seen my sudden departure from the doorway and the succeeding slam of the door.

A few weeks later, my mom and he went to a bank to notarize a handwritten note signing guardianship of me over to my uncle. Then she left to move back to where we’d come from and moved in with her mother. I never saw her again. She died of a reported suicide a few weeks shy of her 28th birthday, a month or two after our final altercation.

This cycle of instability, chaos, and out of control parenting has continued in my life ever since. I think a lot of my anger stems from all of my childhood, which culminated in this event. More of my anger is directed at myself. As much as I have attempted to disrupt and alter my perpetuation of this cycle, I have continued along this trajectory. I wounded my adult children in similar ways in their childhoods. I feel the intensity of my frustration with my youngest daughter. It scares me and hurts when I see hurt and fear in her eyes, even though I know I’ve changed how I act, she still senses it through the tone of voice, the look in my eyes, and the demeanor of my body. Earlier this week, during a huge blow out between me, my adult daughter, and her boyfriend, while the youngest was at school, my daughter stated that she sees little difference between her growing up years and her little sisters. Yesterday, my little girl told me she feels scared when I am mad at her. This breaks my heart. I don’t want to be that mom.

There is so much grief and sorrow within me I don’t know what to do with. I think it has been bottled up inside for the past 33 years, growing every time I put them through the things I went through, that it has been transmuted into the rage and anger that simmers and boils inside of me. I have to find a way to let the sorrow and grief be what it is and be expressed.

Matthew 5:4New International Version (NIV)

4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

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4 comments

  1. That seems like a very accurate assessment. I emailed my therapist and said I need to work on these issues. I think I’ve spent so many years feeling trapped by my curcumstances, many of which have been consequences of choices made when in hypomanic or seriously depressed states, before I knew I had bipolar & ptsd, and sought intermittent treatment for the depression. I think the rage is from suppressed and impotent anger. Anyway, she emailed me back and stated that current issues warrant anger, but she also agreed that it is a key area to work through the grieving and anger from the things in my past going back to early childhood. I’ve known I needed to work through my past, but, it terrified me that I would be overwhelmed in facing it. I feel stronger now and have hooe that I’ll get through it, relatevely intact.

    Like

  2. Anger and rage. It’s so easy for me to go from one to the other. Anger can be useful. It can motivate us to make necessary changes. Rage, I find, is never useful, except as a wake up call. I try to keep it in check by recognizing and admitting the anger..and by taking one of my meds in particular.

    Liked by 1 person

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