I jump when a man gets angry and yells, even if it’s something as simple as “shit!” when he realizes he screwed something up. I jump even if it’s not aimed at me, was never intending to be aimed at me, and in fact is aimed at no one. I have been trained to jump. If a woman yells “shit!” I run towards her and ask what’s wrong; if a man yells “shit!” I run the other way. Except that I don’t, actually. Because I hate being afraid.
Anger often led to violence, but the violence never went so far that I couldn’t hit back and it would stop. And while I knew that it didn’t stop because I was strong enough to win, it still stopped, at least somewhat. So I learned to turn the fear into anger. I would rather fight back than be afraid.
But that was the only time my anger was ever useful. At all other times it was ignored. I was not allowed to get angry – no, not even that – my anger was irrelevant. It changed nothing. It – I – was ignored.
I learned three things about anger growing up. I learned that anger is something to fear, that it can become unruly and violent and say and do things that never should be said or done. I learned that anger can be a tool, sometimes it wakes people up and makes them notice things that they otherwise wouldn’t. And I learned that my anger is pointless, that it’s not a way to get what I want because it won’t work.
I’ve been thinking about anger lately, and how I relate to it, and how I’ve learned to express it or ignore it. I don’t like my relationship to anger.
With my family I yell all the time because everyone does because it started somewhere and has now spiraled out of control, because the only way to be heard is to yell but even then you’re not actually heard. And it’s not even anger anymore, it’s just yelling, just being loud. Either that or it’s years of pent up not-being-heard-ness that is screaming to get out. I know where it started. I’m trying to get them to fix it. We’ll see if it happens. Meanwhile, we all still yell.
And with everyone else I don’t get angry. I don’t yell. I don’t say that I’m angry. Instead, I get upset. I get annoyed, or frustrated, or hurt. And I talk about it. I talk it to death. And once the other person hears me, then, whether or not it’s actually been fixed, at least it’s gone. It’s out of my head. Because they listened to me! And they understand! So it’s over with! Except that it’s not. Not always. A one-way conversation can’t fix a problem.
So I’m trying to learn how to be angry. When should I yell, when should I talk, and when should I do something completely different like go for a run or write in my journal?
Because sometimes yelling gets the point across better than anything else. It shows that I’m fed up, I’ve reached the end of my tolerance, and this is really damn important to me so it better be dealt with.
And sometimes talking is the best way to go about things. Because when you talk you can have a conversation, a discussion, and decide what to do so that it doesn’t happen again.
And sometimes it’s best just to leave it be and do something else for a while. Do physical or mental exercise to get it out of my system – let myself be angry without having to address or fix the problem. And then, when I come back to it, I might still be angry, but I’ll be able to figure how to stop being angry. Or maybe all I needed was the run in the first place.