Help! I’m angry about anger. Ugh. I’m trying to reason through how to be less reactive and volatile. I’ve been flipping through my anger books today, and only one thing jumped out at me: go back to when you were angry and figure out what you should’ve done differently.
It’s a tricky issue. So, we’ve got the grocery store employee yelling at me like, “Ma’am? Ma’am? MA’AM!” with me standing there, staring blankly at her like a doofus.
I can’t just let her lead me to the other U-Scans, because then I’ve let her win, and she’s turned me into a trained circus animal. Not happening.
But being reactive and soundly telling her off–the choice I ultimately went with–leaves me feeling sort of… scared,I guess, that I’m out of control and thisclose (all one word) to getting my stupid self arrested.
And I was trying to visualize what went wrong at the fish fry, with that man who was yelling at us about how we weren’t supposed to be inside. This, despite the fact that there were no signs to help us out, and there was no organization at all.
Interestingly, I was discussing it with my dad in the past hour, and he said that when he returned to the fish fry in subsequent weeks (I stayed home), there was a new sign up saying, “Don’t enter the building.” Either I got through to them and made them realize with my righteous anger that they needed more organization; and/or they were so peeved with me that they put that sign up front and center in case I returned. Either way, I like it. It’s good to know that when I blow my top, it actually inspires needed change, if nothing else.
I mean, for all we know, they’ll quit treating late-night grocery-store shoppers like animals; and that would all be thanks to me.
I don’t like this fear that my temper’s going to just go batshit on me. However, I’m never prone to violence or physical destruction. The worst expression of my anger is going to be verbal, albeit out of control. Part of this is that, as a writer, I want to hurt people with words, regardless of how well I “succeed” at that. I can be rather harsh, that’s for darned sure.
I might be being too hard on myself. There was no “good” way to react at the grocery store, because if I were to let her corral me over to the other U-Scan area, I would feel degraded, as if I were an animal.
That said, I’ve come up with a solution for such future situations: I’ll set my groceries down at my feet and exit the store without buying them. It’s classy, it makes a statement, and it saves me from feeling like I’m a dog on a leash at obedience school.
Power struggles are a huge issue for me. They go back to my mother, obviously. She was always engaging me in them. And that gets badly triggered when the employee at the grocery store is screaming at me to follow her irrational, illogical instructions with the implication that said instructions have no logic.
See, when there’s logic, it makes sense. For example, there are two ways you could tell a kid to do something:
- “Clean your room! Do as I say because I said so, and you have to obey me.”
- “Clean your room! Phew, it stinks in here. What died under your bed? You’ve got to develop better organizational skills. I’m happy to make suggestions. Here’s some air freshener.”
So when that lady at the grocery store was trying to get me to comply with something that seemingly has no rhyme or reason–as if she wanted me to obey her simply so she could have power over me–I was having none of it. I’m sure this goes back to my mother. Power struggles are bad. My mom went out of her way to engage me in them at every chance.
Things that trigger my anger:
- Making me feel stupid, like the guy at the fish fry: “You’re not supposed to be inside!” Um, then why wasn’t there a sign? And why was no one outside being helpful?
I hate feeling stupid, and if made to feel stupid with deliberate intent (e.g., I don’t sense any regret from the speaker, and I feel as if I’m being blamed for something I should’ve just known somehow in the absense of any written rules), then I can really lash out.
- Being intrusive, like the employee at the grocery store. As Ashley Leia pointed out, her job should be to man the U-Scans in case anyone needs assistance. Treating us like animals shouldn’t be in her job description.
Being intrusive goes hand-in-hand with forcing me to interact. I can tolerate forced interactions if it’s a valid emergency. Otherwise, I won’t even initiate such an interaction. For me to initiate an interaction with a stranger, I’d have to be having an extreme and debilitating emergency. Like, whoops! My right hand appears to have been mostly severed from the rest of my body. Methinks I need help. That sort of thing.
- Not meeting my needs. This is interesting. I have a need to see the U-Scan as being a safe landing place for introverts, but it isn’t. The employee lurks over your shoulder to see if you’re stealing, and that’s on a good day. Don’t go there late at night!
It’s hard to deal with this sort of issue, but when I express my needs and the other person rejects them, I get really mad. As you all know, I have a phobic response to Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings”. One time when we went to the now-closed Borders bookstore, they were playing it through the speakers. I went to the desk and said, “Can you please play different music? I’m afraid of ‘Adagio for Strings’.” And the woman rolled her eyes and said, “No.”
“But I’m scared of it.”
“So?” She shrugged.
Fair enough. I took to my browsing and went to all my favorite departments in the bookstore–with both fingers shoved deep into my ears. After about five minutes of this, an employee tracked me down and tried to talk to me. I couldn’t make out her words, so I just shook my head in confusion. She finally raised her voice, megaphoned her mouth with her hands, and yelled, “We turned off the music! You can take your fingers out of your ears now!”
I know it seems like entitlement, but that music genuinely scares me.
So I’m thinking that I need to maximize that sort of reaction–the sort where I’m making my point with my physical actions (but not including flipping someone off, ideally, although other rude hand gestures are fine) and asserting my needs with an obvious yet unspoken statement.
Because the fact is that I can’t seem to get a better grip on my anger. All I can do is send my message without causing extra drama. Disappointment needs to be seen as the lesser of two evils–if I can’t get my groceries or my fried fish, that should be less important than protecting myself from my anger. And if I already ordered the fried fish (which was the case), I could definitely challenge the charge on the credit card. I went to get my fish, and they yelled at me and kicked me out. Refund, please.
So… that’s all I’ve got in terms of anger management. I need more, though. Oh well. It is what it is.