On Anger: The Beast Below

Anger is a tricky thing. Everyone I live with has issues with it one way or another, myself included.

My hub and my sub are the ones with tempers and anger issues that conform to the stereotypical image of someone with anger issues: my hub isn’t a yeller, but he stomps around and gets really sulky and snippy. My sub is more of a yeller, even when he’s not angry (grew up with a half deaf parent), and also was raised with 2 brothers with anger problems and an abusive step father.

After a decade with my hub, he has improved a hell of a lot. My sub has been with us for about 5 years, and over the last year or two has made huge strides as well. We still have flare ups and fights sometimes, but nothing like we used to. But both of them still have serious issues with communicating their anger, as they know how to do so unhealthily or not at all. Striving for a healthy middle ground is hard but vital in our house.

My anger issues are like the flip side of the coin to theirs. I grew up stuffing my anger down, pretending it didn’t exist, because expressing it would have set off the ticking time bomb that was my emotionally complicated father. I was afraid of his anger, and as time went on, more afraid of my own, as it built up like a self digging well that just gets deeper and deeper, continually filled to the brim with water, pressure constantly building. The only way to relieve the pressure was to dig deeper, lest it erupt into a geiser. So I kept digging and burying my anger.

I am very sensitive/hyperreactive to expressions or displays of anger. My natural instinct is to either freeze like a mouse and sit silently and take whatever yelling or words come my way, or to start enabling like no one in the history of mankind has ever seen before.

Given the nature of my dad’s behavior and attitude towards me as a kid, it’s not surprising (though of course, still not healthy). He was emotionally and verbally abusive, and enabling/codependency was the only way I knew to cope. Even after him leaving, and much later, passing away, it was the only skill I had developed to deal with anyone being angry, and I was firmly committed to continuing to dig my well and keeping my own anger from ever seeing the light of day. I had learned no other way.

At first, just telling someone I was angry with them (and not downplaying the language to “upset” or “ticked” or “pissed”, or some other less direct word) felt like climbing Mount Everest. Every step, every syllable, I could feel myself being pulled taut as piano wire with fear, imagining every possible overblown reaction that might be about to hit me like a tornado. Even when the hub and the sub reacted well, actively encouraging and pushing me to express it, to let out what they both knew I had held in for days to decades, it was like pulling teeth; each honest statement of my anger that came out felt like someone stabbing a hole into my well built defenses. But I keep trying, and I’m making slow but steady progress.

So we keep on fighting. Emotional health is worth fighting for.

Please leave comments with materials on anger management, codependency, and healthy communication. Thank you.

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