Feeling Anger And Not Being A Doormat

I’ve seen a few postings on Facebook in the last little while that I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around.  The first is a posting that said tears are not an appropriate response to anger.  The second is something to the effect that people and their behaviors have no control over us.

I agree and disagree with each of these statements.  The first about anger is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time.  Anger was never a safe emotion for me.  As I’ve said in other posts, anger is the emotion I think of in connection with my father.  He was angry, and if he wasn’t angry, he was just being mean, which seemed to make him happy.  Anger wasn’t safe for me to feel because if I felt it when I was younger, I had to feel it in connection with my abuse, and that simply was not allowed.  The only way I was supposed to feel about being abused was that I had done something wrong and that I should just be quiet about it, because, after all, “What would other people think?”  In my opinion, people should have thought that my father was a sick bastard who should have been punished and kept completely away from children.  Of course, that was not the acceptable response.

So for a long time, I could not say that I was angry about something.  I would say other words like sad, frustrated, irritated, annoyed, but never angry.  There are many things in life that make me angry.  Honestly, truly, throw your head back and scream angry.  Child abuse is one of those things.  Victim blaming is one of those things.  Domestic violence, war, murder, rape, oppression, poverty.  I’ve got a list.

Now, though, it is safe for me to feel angry about all of these things and every day things.  I do not consider myself an angry person, but I can at least be in contact with the fact that I do get angry.  I try to deal with anger in an appropriate manner and I try to apologize if I lash out at someone, usually someone I love, over something that makes me angry over which they had no control or did not cause.

Sometimes I get angry because it touches an old scar which is not completely healed.  Most of my scars are not as visible and certainly not as painful as they once were, but they are not all completely gone because scars don’t ever completely go away.  In a situation like that, I have to learn a new way to deal with my emotions.  I don’t need to deny the feelings, but need to figure out why the situation made me feel like it did and how to react differently.  It took me a long time to learn not to apologize for whatever I was feeling, good or bad.

The second statement seems to effect me more in my present life than my past.  Jennifer wrote in her post, “Is Anybody There?” her therapist realized that she didn’t have low self-esteem; she had no self-esteem.  I used to be very much like that and I never argued or stood up for myself in any situation.  I was a people pleaser extraordinaire.  It was always easier for me to go along with the crowd and just blend in.  At some point, I began to stand up for myself and voice who I was.

While I am in control and responsible for my reaction to situations, how others feel does affect me.  If Jeff is having a bad day at work, I empathize with him.  My day may have been completely fine, but I try to be in tune with his feelings.  If my friend is having a hard time, it is ok for me to be happy, but I try not to rub it in his or her face.  If someone at the store is mean or rude to me, I do spend some time reflecting on it, but realize it probably had nothing to do with me because other people’s lives do not revolve around me.  If it happens once or twice, I just brush it off, but if it happens every time I see the person, I am less likely to try to be nice.

When someone is mean to me repeatedly, it begins to feel abusive, even if once in a while, they lapse into niceness.  The person can keep being mean to me and I’m just supposed to take it and not say anything.  I try to always be empathetic and consider the other person’s story, which I will probably never fully know.  But I can’t let that go on to the point that I am a doormat for someone else.  I did that for a long time and now know that I matter and other people don’t have the right to keep treating me badly.

Emotions are a curious and interesting part of the human experience.  We all have them, though we may not understand them or have the ability to articulate them.  We are all people and have different experiences.  Each person has a story, which we will probably never know completely.  All we can do is examine our own emotions and responses and try to be as compassionate to ourselves and others as we can.


Gotta Be

4 thoughts on “Feeling Anger And Not Being A Doormat

  1. Profile photo of Jennifer Jennifer says:

    I couldn’t agree more with this. And I have also discovered that if I don’t allow myself to be angry about small things, that eventually, I get angry at someone and pile all the anger from multiple encounters onto them un-proportionately.

    I too have seen posts recently that say something like EVERYTHING that happens in my life relates back to a decision that I made and I am solely responsible for what happens. Wow. Really?? No. There is injustice, crime, abuse, rape, sexual abuse in this world and no one decided they needed that in their lives except the perpetrator.

  2. My therapist explained to me that anger was a good emotion and that I should not feel guilty about feeling angry. She convinced me that as long as I did not harm myself or others, it was okay to feel angry. She encouraged me to vent my anger using different tools. I often wrote in my journal whenever I was angry or in a foul mood. Writing in the journal helped me analyze my feelings and also allowed me to vent my feelings with no holds barred. I wrote a letter to my abuser using language that expressed my anger. I did not send the letter to my abuser but it helped me to get a grip on my anger. I discussed the letter with my therapist and it helped me to understand my feelings. I took refuge in my old hobby of reading books and that really diverted my mind away from the issue at hand. My therapist patiently enquired about how best I could let go of my anger. I did not have an answer to that. I contemplated having another confrontation with my abuser but I soon realized that it was not going to purge the anger from my system, because, there was nothing he could say that would excuse what he did to me. In my past experiences of dealing with anger, I realized that probably time was the best healer. My therapist assured me that time would definitely help the anger to recede to a point that it would not affect my everyday existence.

    • Profile photo of Jackie Jackie says:

      Hi Ester. Thanks for your comment. It sounds like you had a really good therapist and I’m glad she helped you work through your anger. It is a process and can be painful, as you know, but it is so important!

  3. Profile photo of Jennifer Jennifer says:

    Ester, I’m very thankful for your comment. Anger is such a complex and powerful emotion. Many times, when we’re angry, we do or say things that are not representative of ourselves. But anger is also something that can move us to make a change, or get something to stop or start. I would encourage you to keep visiting your anger. It’s a very reasonable response to what was done to you.

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