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Anger Management

Posted by MV on April 30, 2003 at 09:26:44

Anybody seen this movie (Jack Nicholson/Adam Sandler)? Itís a funny movie. Funnier seeing the diff between overt anger (JN's character) and covert anger (AS's character). The mousy, placid guy really had a lot of unexpressed anger inside which he was covering up with his excuse-me-for-living persona. He was slowly imploding and was capable of inflicting a lot of damage had his anger not been addressed. Can anyone relate? I can. That's exactly what happened to me in TF except that my anger was not addressed.

I was sorta like Adam Sandler's character, or at least that's how I was being molded in TF (I was more like Jack Nicholson's character before I joined). We were taught to suppress and repress any and all negative emotions. To rebuke them as if they were evil and from the devil. They were not from God so they were not valid, nor acceptable. We were not allowed to be angry or depressed and were trained to bounce back to victory at the word "amen".

Coming from a culture where passion and emotions run freely plus a personality that had a lot of innate fire to begin with, that metamorphosis was close to impossible for me. I was always getting in trouble first for saying the wrong things, so I learned to shut my mouth. Then I got in trouble for thinking and feeling the wrong things (they found out via my OHRs---I was too honest), so I learned to be more ďvictoriousĒ in my writings. Then I got in trouble for showing the wrong emotions on my face, or giving off the wrong vibes, so I learned to be more guarded and unexpressive. But I simply couldnít contain it. I just kept getting in trouble. This rigid exercise in repressing anger and all volatile emotions they said was all part of the training, the preparation to rule another world. What crap. Now I understand how damaging it all was. Now I know that the steady build-up of repressed anger were the implosions that I was to spew out and wreak havoc later on. I was programmed to self-destruct.

When I left to make a new life for my young son and myself, the mountain of repressed anger was unconsciously released in very disturbing ways. Different things would trigger my explosive bouts. Psychologists call it PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), the sudden bursts of disproportionate anger, among other things. Triggers like, me feeling too controlled or ordered around, people dragging their feet or not following instructions, being kept waiting, even people forgetting my birthday. Stuff that may piss others off too but not in the disproportionate way I got pissed. I got violently pissed. But only verbally, thank God. Amazing that I had enough self-restraint not to get physical with my anger. Nevertheless the emotional injuries I inflicted were massive. My outbursts confused and frightened me. I always felt remorse and ashamed afterwards. I hated myself for it. Seeking help never crossed my mind as I relied on prayers and the Word to manage my temper. Itíd only work for the moment, underneath it was still there. Besides, I was too busy starting all over again and playing catch-up to stop and assess the damage, much less deal with it.

It would be several years and a number of damaged relationships, destructive behavior patterns, and endless cycles of guilt and shame later that Iíve come to realize and admit that I had a problem. I finally got tired of denying it. I realized that the anger was just the manifest behavior of a deeper problem. In order to manage anger effectively I had to get to the root of it. The root was the loss. I was grieving my losses.

Understanding that my anger was an expression of my grief was crucial to my getting past the anger, past the lashing out. Although it was essential that I release the pent-up anger that the years in the cult had stored deep in my subconscious, I had to get past it in order to move on. I had to accept my anger as a valid emotion and stop demoralizing myself by invalidating it. It was alright to be angry, and itís not of the devil. I didnít have to rebuke it! Itís a valid emotion given by God as part of the complexity of being human. Oh what a relief! In accepting it, I became free of it. Not that I donít get angry anymore (far from it). At least now I address it right away. This is just one of the steps Iíve been taking as part of the process of accepting myself, warts and all. Itís a painful process this self-acceptance. I know itíll get easier with practice. I feel Iím a lot calmer these days.

Now Iím learning non-destructive ways of managing my anger (as well as other negative energies). Writing is one. This piece is a result of the anger I felt realizing the connection of my cultic experience with the movie. I just released it consciously and I feel better now. Thank you for reading this far. If this resonates with you, Iíd be happy to hear you comments.