Yesterday morning I had a run-in with someone who made a less than desirable comment on one of my Facebook posts, and I reacted out of anger. The only reason I bring this up and write a blog about it is because I thought I had moved past being an angry person and my reaction to the situation upset me. Anger like all emotions, serves a purpose and can be healthy. At what point does it become destructive?
When I was younger I had a bit of an issue with anger. That's an understatement - I was an extremely angry person. It took many years but I got to the root of it, worked out some demons, and finally became a sane, rational person again. Basically, after years of being a punching bag to my peers, low self-esteem, and some bad situations, I had had enough with the world and something inside of me broke and all of this rage came flooding out of me.
On the one hand, it was good for me - I stopped letting people take advantage of me as I had for most of my life. I stood up for myself. I had such low self-esteem back then that when someone befriended me I felt that since I wasn't worthy of friendship to begin with, I'd better do what I can to keep them around. And so I lost a lot of myself to that. I became a people pleaser (those of you who knew me in college probably find the thought of that impossible). I made bad choices in many of the friends that I kept around and they took advantage of me time & time again. I poured all of me into every friendship I ever made, because if I had friends it meant that I was worth something, right? I would have done anything to not rock the boat with anyone. If there was a problem it had to be my fault and I took ownership of it right away whether or not I should have. I wouldn't allow myself to express opposing opinions on anything, wouldn't call anyone out on how ridiculous they were, all for fear of being made fun of or abandoned. It didn't matter as long as everyone was happy.
At some point I got tired of it all. Something inside me started screaming, "I deserve better than this!" and this dormant rage was unleashed on the world. I was angry at everyone and everything. And in a way, I deserved to be. I needed to be. It's how I found my backbone again, my voice. I was tired of being walked all over, tired of keeping my mouth shut just to keep the peace when nobody around me seemed to care how I was affected by anything. I was tired of giving and never getting anything back.
That part is fine, that's the healthy anger. We should stick up for ourselves. We should not let ourselves be walking doormats. We are worthy of love & friendship, and it is possible to maintain that through arguments and differences of opinion. Anger helps us protect ourselves.
But not when it's your only reaction, and to the extreme. I was never just a little angry; it was like a switch - all or nothing. I would react with the same amount of anger whether you accidentally bumped into me or if you started screaming obscenities in my face. I couldn't get it under control, and it was a problem. Add in college, some alcohol (and other things) and I was a total mess. Luckily, I was never physically expressive with it beyond slamming some doors and throwing french fries across the room. But I'm sure I damaged a few relationships because of it and I do have some regrets about that.
It took a lot of soul searching and hard work, but I finally made it to a place of normalcy. I wasn't angry all the time anymore, and when I did get angry it was reasonable. I've been in balance for a long time now and thought that my problems with anger were behind me. Until yesterday morning.
The actual argument isn't important. I allowed myself to be engaged in negative conversation, I let my emotions get the best of me, and I reacted in a way that I am not proud of. I only allowed myself to go back & forth with this individual twice before deciding to cut it off. And even then he sent me hateful messages that I simply deleted. So I did have some restraint - the old me would have gone on for much longer with much harsher commentary. And had I decided to cut it off, I would have fought to the death! But I didn't do that, I cut it off and then let it go right away. Well, not right away. I decided I needed to let it go right away and then I actually did let it go during my morning run. The old me would have been steamed for hours later.
But I don't want to be that person anymore. I don't want to allow anger to control me. And the fact that it did, even if only for a few minutes, worries me. The fact that I allowed myself to get sucked in to a negative conversation in the first place bothers me. Why didn't I just let his comments go? Why did I have to respond at all? I was just sticking up for myself though, isn't that OK?
Of course it's OK. But one thing I have learned is that anger & negativity begets more anger & negativity. I had to know what I was getting into by responding at all. I fed into it. Why did I feed into it? And at what point does anger go from being an OK, healthy emotion to something that is not so healthy?