This happened just today.
I was at a store not far from home and was ready to check out. The lineup consisted of a woman with her children, and behind her was a grumpy old man.
I wanted to get in line behind the man but I didn’t have space, so I parked my shopping cart beside the mom and her kids for the time being. The grumpy old man looked all pissed off and I reassured him that he was next and I was just waiting on the side.
At that moment the woman and her children went to the cash and the old man stepped up. As he got closer to me I started to explain to him that the reason I parked there once again was because there was simply not enough room and I was just waiting there by the side …
… but he wouldn’t have it. He walked right by with a disgusted look on his face and didn’t even acknowledge me.
I felt uncomfortable, which is really a vague way of saying I felt a bunch of different emotions. I needed to get specific.
The first is anxiety because of course I have a fear of anger (once again hence the name of this blog) and any expression of anger, whether from another person or myself causes me anxiety. This specific situation would be considered a very mild confrontation and confrontations generally involve anger.
The second one is resentment. After the old man snubbed me I wanted to tell him, “F*ck you!” because I felt he was being immature about the whole thing, and he was. Here I was trying to do everything I could to resolve this incredibly mild scenario in a civil manner, which people do a million times a day in different shops, and he wasn’t having anything at all to do with it.
He didn’t want to hear what I had to say, talk with me or interact with me in any way. He didn’t want to interpret the situation in any other way than one of me trying to get one over him by butting in line, and that I was a real jerk.
He made me feel uncomfortable.
But did he?
No he didn’t. I already have a certain sense of myself, that I am not good enough and so him “making me feel” uncomfortable was him making me feel …
A part of me inside felt like I was a bad person. I know cognitively that I didn’t do anything wrong, but because somebody else was angry with me, and looking at me like I did something wrong, maybe even that “I” was wrong as a person, I felt that in that moment I was bad somehow.
In truth that grumpy old man didn’t really do anything. Because if I had a high sense of self-esteem then this man’s reaction would’ve likely been somewhat amusing to me.
“What? Me bad? I’m sorry (I say politely) I think you have me confused with somebody else.”
It was because the feeling that was already inside me of being wrong, or like a bad person, that I felt uncomfortable with this confrontation.
In other words the shame was already inside me and he just triggered it.
All Good Though
These are exactly the types of situations that I need. They help make me more aware of what’s going on with me emotionally so that I can expose more and more of myself, to myself.
Doing that gradually makes the unconscious conscious and so when my emotions are brought up to the surface I can actually do something with them. When they remain unconscious then I suffer a lot more. In this example, if I wasn’t conscious of what was happening then I would’ve stayed resentful all day long, felt that stress hurting my body, and blamed that guy.
Instead I was able to get in touch with the extremely uncomfortable feeling that is my shame and restructure the event at the same time. That means I didn’t feel resentful all day long and allowed myself to become in touch with that deep shame, which is something that needs to happen over and over again for a couple of years at least for the shame to gradually dissipate.
I did notice an overall improvement though in this interaction compared to what it would’ve been like for me a couple of years ago. When the old man first got angry I was able to feel my own anger; anger again in the positive sense of being assertive and still polite, and confidently tell him that I’m aware of the situation and that he was still in line ahead of me.
I felt like that I kind of took charge.
Then when he walked right on by and snubbed me, I had less of a reaction than I would’ve had as well. Less anxiety, less resentment and less shame.
I also was able to allow myself to stay with my feeling of shame in the moment and not try to dissociate from it, but allow it to be there, with me feeling like a five-year-old, or a bit of a loser amongst all the other adults in the store.
All this I was doing in almost real time which means I’m able to almost catch myself and my reactions (emotional states) as they are happening, interpret them and allow them to happen almost instantly.
Then on the way home I was able to reinterpret what happened, to tell myself a different story and journal about it.
This I consider a win in terms of psychological growth, and now I need at least a good thousand more experiences from hundreds of different people (especially those closest to me) like this one.
If anything like this happened to you, please write in and share it here on the blog. It will one hundred percent be helpful to everyone who reads it, as it it gives them more insight into how they may feel the same.
I hope this was helpful to some of you.
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