This is a highly personal entry, so if you don’t want to read about that kind of thing, you might want to give it a miss.

One of the biggest problems i have is with anger. I seem to react one of two ways, when i’m angry. I either squish it down, swallow it, compartmentalise it off in my brain and don’t allow myself to react, or i go the other way. I completely overreact. I rarely get my responses to an angry situation right, and this is something that i’ve wrestled with all my adult life.

This goes back to my time at boarding school, when i was 11, i think. I was bullied badly – i inherited my father’s explosive temper, and, as an only child, i wasn’t used to sharing. I was put in a dormitory with 4 other girls, and my personal space wasn’t respected. I don’t remember what happened to trigger the first explosion, but i do know that it soon got to be a game to push me and push me to make me explode and to stand back and watch the fireworks.

It soon came to the attention of the matrons and teachers of what was going on. The entire year was hauled aside, spoken to sternly, myself and a newcomer (who had just joined the school that week) sent to the library. it didn’t make a blind bit of difference. I was told that i had to learn to control my temper – if i could do that, they would stop pushing me, and leave me alone.

so i learned to push my anger aside, to stomp on it, to compartmentalise – to disassociate. i didn’t learn any healthy methods of dealing with anger. I didn’t learn that sometimes, just sometimes, expressing anger in a healthy manner is necessary because people can and do push too far, they do take over your personal space, and do things that they shouldn’t. At the time i didn’t know what i was doing – all i really knew was that it was essential that i held onto my temper as long as possible. i didn’t always succeed, and when i did explode, the results were far far worse (if its possible, i think, because all the things i had pushed aside also exploded) than if i’d been allowed to just express my anger in a healthy form at the time.

Now, as an adult, i have real trouble with anger. As i said, i either meekly fall on my sword and allow people to do things they really shouldn’t do (either because i think they’re right, or i deserve it, or some such other)… or i totally overreact about something ridiculous. While i’ve realised that i’ve had this problem for a long time, for a while, i was able to bury it much more (as an adult, initially, people respected my space much more) and it wasn’t until i was getting into deeper romantic relationships that this problem started to ressurect itself. It was then made much, much worse by what happened with my ex (which i won’t be going into here).

When i met Michiel i really struggled to deal with anger, anyone’s anger. an expression of anger from him (even a simple.. “arggh this computer is bleeping me off!”) would leave me huddled behind the sofa, clutching a knife, convinced i needed it for my own safety. I was a wreck for a long long time, and time, Michiel’s love and my own hard work has put me back together. But in all of this, the anger has been the one that i’ve never been able to control.

I think i know why now. I was reading someone else’s blog today, a blog written by someone who had a much worse childhood than i did. She wrote about how in her worst moments, she would block her mind off from what was happening to her, so that it wasn’t real. She split her mind, buried the core of her down and away, so that nothing could touch her. In other words: she Dissociated.

Initially.. i didn’t relate my experience in any way to what she’d been through, her experience was very very different. It wasn’t until i was reading the comments on the blog, and someone described some behaviour that was me to a “T”.. that i went back to read the blog with a new light, and that sent me scurrying off to read some about dissociation.

My understanding now of what happened, and what is happening, is that back then.. i tried to dissociate. I tried to compartmentalise my mind, so that i didn’t respond to what was going on around me. What was happening, however, wasn’t bad enough for the full on dissociation that my fellow blogger experienced, but led to a partial dissociation, able to block off some anger that would periodically break loose. I understand now that as an adult, when i’m angry, i automatically try to squish it down, to dissociate the feelings that i can’t cope with (and this extends beyond anger, by the way, to most negative feelings – just that anger is the biggie), often delivering monosyllabic “nevermind” or “whatever” or “don’tknow” responses (Michiel’ll be familar with those). trying not to show the emotion.. automaton. every so often though the dissociation doesn’t work, or i’m pushed beyond endurance.. and i explode. messily. unpleasantly. It leaves is both nervous wrecks, and our relationship is suffering for it.

What i think has to happen is that i have to work on the instinct to squish the feelings down. I have to learn to express them as they come, and while initially that’s gonna be uncomfortable because i’ll probably express them inappropriately, in the long run i’ll learn control. That’s the intellectual hypothesis, anyway. Take baby steps into learning how to express the emotion appropriately, instead of repressing it.. and the pressure doesn’t build up, so the explosive messiness doesn’t happen.

I don’t know if it’ll work. All i do know is that i have to try. Certain things in my life are not negotiable (as Prince Charles says of Camilla), and i won’t give up on them. Michiel’s one of them. myself is the other.

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