ANGER..was a coping mechanism that I taught myself early on in life; perhaps as a child? Although at the time I did not know it. By the time I reached adolescence, this was my means of survival. Slowly it turned from anger to rage. It consumed me like a drug will consume a drug addict. I needed it to live. My anger was alive and thriving, and waiting to pounce whenever it could. It often got me in trouble; at school, at home, and eventually as a young parent in anger management classes. I had so much anger, rage, and hate inside of me, I would black out after not being able to control my temper. This scared me because the last thing I wanted to do was put my children in harms way. I was the harm, and they would be in my way. I would feel this horrible sense of pain in the pit of my stomach because I would be filled with guilt and resentment which caused anxiety and panic attacks. I would isolate and pity myself. I would stay in my apartment for days in the dark and punish myself for this disgusting behavior. But this didn’t last long because within a few hours I would be right back to this place where I found great solace and comfort. It was familiar and in some twisted way a safe haven for me. I carried these cement weights everywhere I went. Into personal relationships, into my marriage, and what is most disturbing; I taught my children to live this way. I blamed everyone else for my misfortunes. I would not let anyone get close to me, they would not hurt me, and I was not weak.
I had been following the same path for more than twenty years. My personal and professional life was no different except for some odds and ends here and there until one day I found myself in a couple’s therapy group with my husband. As I sat in the chair surrounded by complete strangers, all I could do was manage to hold back the little voice inside crying out for help. Instead, I listened to everyone else’s problems, and thought how pathetic I was still in this same predicament for as long as I could remember. The facilitator asked me how I was doing. I told him fine, and he moved on. But later on in the group he circled back and said he wanted to check in. And that’s all it took for me to start my temper tantrum. I told him how annoyed I was and all I wanted to do was punch my husband, everyone in the group, and most of all I wanted to punch him in the face. He remained seated right in front of me; stoic. My blood was boiling, and I could feel myself starting to reach that point right before things would turn red, and I wouldn’t be responsible for what happened next. I counted 12, 11, 10; I prayed please God make this stop; I focused on short small breaths, anything I could do to avoid the inevitable. He sat there looking at me, glaring at me, and asked me “May I?” May you what I responded?” Just stay with me” he said. “Let’s play a little shall we?” He began to tell me with great certainty, the anger I was holding onto for so long wasn’t anger- it was fear. All the pain he saw, it wasn’t anger- it was disappointment. The feeling I would get often at times in the pit of my stomach , it wasn’t anger- it was resentment. At that moment I was vulnerable. The room seemed so empty, all the people there so small. As it were just he and I. My heart was beating through my chest, he reached out for my hand and asked “now, do you still want to punch me in the face, or… I replied … do I want to punch myself in the face?
I sat with this for awhile and thought about it at length. It was quite disconcerting. The facilitator helped me identify the root of the cause. Now that I had this information what was I going to do with it? This is where the work really began. I became aware of my actions. Each second, each minute, each hour; in the morning, afternoon and night. I was truly aware of what I was doing, how I was behaving, what I was saying and how I was reacting. Focus became a priority. I was responsible for the injustices in my life, no one else; and although crazy, very true. I let something else take over the course of my life, and now it was up to me to get it back on track. I had become accustomed to living this way in my life, which turned me into a bitter, damaged, scarred, lost soul worn out by my own hand. If anyone was going to change this process, it had to be me. I could not give up, that would not be tolerated. Failure is unacceptable. Forgiveness became my goal.
My weekly meetings with the group facilitator became my new norm. He became my mentor. I went from a quiet angry individual, to a vulnerable scarred woman, to one day a hopeful and meaningful person. I figured if I am going to commit to this it will be with full force and everything I have. I would not hold back. I learned the anger, rage, resentment, and guilt were all defense mechanisms I learned as a child. I learned to cope at a very young age from being ignored, ridiculed and made to feel unworthy. I was taught that I was weak and could not do much of anything. All this disapproval I kept inward and carried with me throughout my life and thought I was using the anger as armor, but instead I was using it as a dagger on myself.
Now that I set a goal for myself, I will heal as I never have before. I will heal for myself, for my family, but most important for you. I am showing you the years of turmoil I put myself through. Things I would not wish upon anyone. Believe you can heal. It won’t be easy. In fact it might be one of the hardest things you will do. I am figuring that out. It is a long process and you must do the work daily. This is what I did not follow through on in the past. I never did the work. It was too hard, it hurt too much, and brought back painful memories I tucked away for years. Now that I am doing the work, I am shedding all these things that have held me back for years to do what I was meant to do. Help you to heal as I am. True peace only comes to those who don’t waste time or effort on what you can’t change. The daily demands that life places upon each of us make us aware of precisely how precious our time is. Focus on doing the work rather than all that occurred in the past- the objective is to stay in the here and now and move forward with fierce determination. How we continue to heal is the ultimate goal and all the people we help in the process. Motivation is what gets you started habit is what keeps you going. Be kind to yourself and recognize your accomplishments. See the value you bring to the table and realize your worth is independent of what others think. Remember to pay it forward and appreciate everyday. Work hard, think big and always have a dream. The pain from the past stops dictating how we live our lives today.