Sunday, July 02, 2006

Angry at all the wrong people

This week's session with my therapist turned out to be rather surprising for me by the time we finished. Our session began with my telling how I had made a choice not to believe the lie that I am defective (see my previous post). We talked about that for quite awhile. Then, once again I brought up the issue that I so easily get angry at people. I express my anger by lecturing people, often ad nauseum. The latest episide was a week ago when I lectured a motel clerk because the price for our motel room was higher than I thought it should be. (I used to lecture our children also. I don't know if I did so with anger but I do remember that my lectures were lengthy. Sometimes they would tell me, "Dad, you've already said that. We heard it the first time.")

After we talked for awhile about all this, my therapist said, "It sounds to me like you haven't forgiven your father." What?! I've been forgiving him all my life. I've been in the process of forgiving him. I have consciously released him from any further "debt" to me. He doesn't have to do anything to make up for how he abused me. I told my therapist what I felt and said I didn't want to argue with her. She said it was OK to argue with her. Wow, again! What kind of people are these that can tolerate someone arguing with them?!

I said I recognized that there was a connection between how angry I get with others and how my father abused me. I said it's like I'm determined, "I will never, ever allow myself to be abused by someone else." And so I try to fix the world, especially my world, and control things so I won't be caught off guard or inconvenienced. I told my therapist I rather liked trying to be in control and lecturing. I am a moralist. I try to right the wrongs of the world. I have often tried to give driving lessons to others on the road who are not driving as I think they should (I've cut back on that in the past few years).

I told my therapist that I recognized that my lecturing people angrily was wrong. I have been angry at the wrong people, angry at people who themselves usually haven't harmed me in the least. I told my therapist I wanted to change (and, of course, a part of me wants to stick with what is familiar and continue trying to control my world). She suggested that when I get angry and feel like lecturing someone I just don't say anything. Wow again! I pointed out that that would be difficult. I said that I feel like how I lecture people is like an addiction. She just nodded knowingly. (She really is quite good.)

I don't watch the clock during our sessions. I think my therapist probably has a clock somewhere behind me that she can see. But the point came where I glanced at my watch and noticed it was nearly time for us to stop talking. We have some silent times, which are good because they allow the emotions to get involved some with what we are discussing. I started feeling emotions close to the surface. The idea of giving up displaying anger to all the wrong people was getting to me. I was starting to feel some loss. I didn't know whether I should take a bit more time, but I decided to tell my therapist that I was feeling sad. She said, "Yes, you do look sad." She asked me to describe the sadness. I told her it felt sad to give up using angry lecturing. It felt sad to give up something I was so used to. It felt sad to give up my way of striking back at the world, to try never again to be abused. The feelings got stronger and stronger. I think if the session could have gone on longer I might have sobbed out my grief. But it was time to stop. The tears came as I walked out of the medical building toward my car in the parking lot.

I have never walked on this road before, grieving about giving up a behavior pattern that has done me no good. I'm still processing the grief. It may take some time yet. I want to gain sobriety in this area of my life. I recognize that there is a good chance that I will fail again in the future and get angry at the wrong people and lecture them. I told my therapist that. But I also told her what I would tell my friends who gained sobriety but have fallen, "OK, you've fallen. But you've proven that you can be sober. Now get up and keep going."

I haven't posted about our most recent session until now, partly because I have been busy with other matters, but partly also because this issue is really, really difficult for me. I now know that if I am to make progress in those areas where I know progress needs to be made, I must change in how I angrily lecture others. I must stop my longtime behavior. I'm scared of failing. I'm sad about giving up what I'm used to. What will fill the void left if that big ball of anger isn't around to keep me company? For now I have told my therapist I want to try to gain my sobriety in this area. I have talked to my wife telling her the same thing. This is my third day of sobriety since Thursday's therapy session.

4 Comments:

Blogger Marj aka Thriver said...

Thank you for the strength, searching and insights you have shown here. I can truly relate to a lot of what you've said in the last two posts, Al. If someone who abused you as an innocent, impressionable child led you to believe (to your core) that you are defective, damn right you're going to be angry!

What worked really well for me personally was to do some "anger work exercises." I made little effigy figures of both of my parents and beat and stopmped the heck out of them! I found this a much more powerful release than the angry letters that I never mailed. Another thing that was transforming for me was this: During this anger exercise stuff, I got a nerf ball and I threw it as hard as I could while I imagined throwing it in my parents' faces. While I threw, I shouted, "Here! This is your sh*t, not mine! I'm not holding it anymore!"

1:36 PM  
Anonymous Susan said...

My kids always hate to ask their step-dad anything because they know they will never get a cut and dried answer, it always has to be a lecture...of course his in not in yelling, but even still he thinks he has to fix the world, right wrongs done, and make sure that EVERYONE is in sync with his way of thinking.

It doesn't fly with me - I tell him to pipe down, gently of course. I wish you well on your road to lecturing sobriety. I'll pop back in and see how your progress is going.

3:40 PM  
Anonymous Catharine said...

wow I just read your blog on grieving the behavior of practicing anger.

Mind boggling.

My sister committed suicide. I am sober. I was listening to some very arrogant guy at a meeting go on and on and on and on and on but dealing with his trivial anger issues. I wanted to scream at him. I wanted to say "Hey MR, let me tell you a thing or two about anger. You don't even know what anger is, you arrogant A-hole.

And sitting in another meeting tonight, asking God for the Grace not to slap about 8 people. Really really praying for a more loving and forgiving spirit....personal growth and necessary change.

Trolling the net looking for someone who KNOWS what anger is.

7:19 PM  
Anonymous aljohnson1967 said...

Yes, Catharine, dealing with our anger is difficult. Sometimes I have felt like I am about to explode. I fell off the wagon again, recently. A package arrived a day late due to bad weather. I spent a lot of time on the phone with the customer service people, expressing my anger to them. But I think I am still making some progress. It's not easy.

7:32 PM  

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