Friday, September 29, 2006

The Upside of Anger

I have long had a problem with anger, and not the way most people have anger issues. I have a difficult time getting and staying mad. I think part of it is owing to the fact that my dad had serious anger issues, hit us out of anger and often would lose control once he got angry. That was terrifying and, at least in my memories, I was often the one trying to calm him down when he got enraged. As a result, I usually take a mediator-type role when tempers get flared and always look for the solution to a problem, not a way to accelerate it. I am extremely uncomfortable with loss of control (self or other's loss), which serves me well in my chosen profession. I am the person you want in the throes of an emotionally-charged conflict.

Incidentally, my dad, like most folks, has chilled over time. He is a good man with an anger problem and he has gotten better at controlling his anger.

B has an anger problem, too, which I guess is unsurprising, as we tend to marry people who remind us of a parent. In some ways, he is absolutely nothing like my dad - my dad is a "by-the-books," play-by-the-rules, God-fearing man. He doesn't think outside the box. He doesn't abide by politicking or jockeying for success. He is the kind of man who believes if you do your best, give it your all and demonstrate an unquestionable work ethic, you will garner the respect and rewards you deserve.

B can't even see the box, let alone think inside it. He is quick on his feet, a great salesman and charmer, and the kind of guy that everybody instantly loves and wants to be around. He is very skilled at making you feel like one of the most interesting people in the room and he rarely forgets a face or a detail. He is the consummate deal-maker. He is currently the Chief Operating Officer of a company where he started in the (metaphorical) mail room and worked his way up. I was so goddamn proud of him for that, even though his commitment to his job often came at the expense of our relationship. He, too, has an unquestionable work ethic, although different from my dad's.

But they are similar in the anger thing and for most of our marriage, he intimidated me when he got angry. Like my dad, he learned how to better control his anger as he got older but he still would lash out and cross all sorts of lines when he got enraged. Those fits caused many (emotional) scars and probably kept me from communicating a lot of unspoken thoughts and feelings. Things were better when he was happy and it evolved to the point where I just didn't say certain things because peaceful was always better than strife. Keep the peace was sort of my mantra -- don't rock the boat.

Right now, I am prone to unbelievable feelings of rage, tempered by profound, indescribable bouts of pain and sadness. I have lost control of my emotions and that loss of control is utterly unsettling. The sadness parts I am more comfortable with, as it was my usual reaction when either my dad or B got angry to resort to tears. But the rage? The desire to hurt someone who hurt me as much as he did and continues to do so (albeit without thinking)? I have never experienced it and am totally at a loss.

What consoles and calms me, however, is a desire to manage it and grow from it, as fucking Oprah as that sounds (again with the Oprah?). I desperately want to rise above it and become a better person for it. It actually motivates me, as odd as that sounds. I will NOT become a bitter divorcee who hates and distrusts men. I won't resort to hate, because nothing good ever came of hate. Nothing good comes out of that kind of negativity. I know I have to work through it and experience it in order to come out of this as the kind of person I really want to be. So I am faced with the reality that I am going to feel like shit and out of control and prone to these awful feelings of hatred and rage.

That is a sobering reality. More on that later.

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