Until recently, I never knew what it was like to feel angry. I always blamed my self for bad outcomes in relationships with others so I never experienced anger that made me feel like there existed another responsible party for how I was feeling. I finally knew what it was like to truly feel treated with disregard, disrespect from an outside antagonist. It is a strong and for me, scary experience to have this emotion. I was not to blame this time. My long-time therapist and someone very special had encouraged me to feel anger due to being driven to direct it inside all the time. She described me as “beating myself up with a baseball bat in the corner.”
I personally don’t enjoy this emotion. It made me feel out of control. My way of dealing with conflict and hurt from others was always to internalize and self-blame. But for whatever reason, I truly believed I could not explain this particularly hurtful instance of interpersonal interaction as being my fault. I had to let go of a long held idea that everyone in the world thought like me. That seeing the best in others and having no ill intention had been a disservice to my self-esteem and awareness. It screwed me emotionally. When I was told that people react to you in a way that is usually pre-contemplated, I couldn’t quite understand. To be enlightened to know that people, for the most part, have what is best described as an agenda in how they treat you, was a revelation.
I could examine these antagonists mainly in work environments. Cohorts, superiors and everyone in between was a breeding ground for the most tormenting social interactions. I questioned everything about myself, especially how I looked physically. That was my fail safe. I didn’t have to be angry – because I didn’t want to be – I just had to blame it on myself and the anger would go away. After a lifetime operating this way, and then being told by someone I respected – someone that actually have saved my life prior to this – opened up my eyes to reality of life. There is likely no one that thinks like you. Now matter how hard you try to get along with some people, you will always fail. I happen to fail a lot because of my high expectations of the human race to not be self-serving, but gentle and kind. This doesn’t mean I’ve never come across another humble human being – it’s just been very few.
No one is perfect and I’m certainly no saint. I just had a skewed way of handling interpersonal conflicts and I suffered from a mentality that the few times I tried to assert myself, it always backfired and resulted in a bigger, messier conflict and in the end, I still blamed myself for the encounter. I didn’t know what to do and felt very alone.
I still retain the same hope that people are and can be trustworthy, but I’m pretty perceptive about people so now I remember that if the interaction goes badly, it’s not me harboring contempt, it is the other person. It just took someone I trusted finally giving me the answer to why their is friction in interpersonal reaction from the very start, or eventually if that person is already determined how they are going to react to you before they know anything about you.
Sometimes, admittedly, I’ve been fooled by what I thought were genuine people and it has broken my heart. I am without a victim mentality despite the years of interpersonal conflict and loss of my own self-esteem in the process. I still don’t enjoy being angry at others, but now I no longer need the excuse that it is my fault – that I’m defective in some way and constantly question my identity in the process. Reclaiming my value and worth is sometimes challenging, but I have learned that the anger has been misdirected all this time. And it was much easier to accept fault then to get angry at others. But it’s not fair or accurate.
My therapist that encouraged my anger was to change my self-defeating behavior, but I needed a reason why. So now that I have it, it has changed my life. I’m more comfortable now with this knowledge of human behavior and ready to allow myself to feel angry and hurt by someone else, without being afraid of it or redirecting it.
Michael Jackson said that if you want to make a change in the world, look in the mirror. I did no service to mean people by not pointing out their behavior, nor did I do myself any good by allowing it to continue.
“Anyone can become angry – that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not easy.”
–Aristotle, The Nichomachean Ethics