Another unexpected experience I had today involving anger and guilt.
The Angry Woman in her Car
Before I tell you about this, just a quick word for those who are reading the blog for the first time that the posts are all about my central psychological issue, which is a fear of anger and how I navigate that in my daily life.
This morning I was at a crosswalk and had the right-of-way to cross the street. I was about to step onto the street when this woman came barreling down the road, obviously in a hurry, and looked like she was going to drive right through.
My eye caught the car and her high speed and so I quickly lifted my foot from the road and decided to wait for her to pass. Looking at her through the windshield I could see that she was visibly upset and stressed. When she stopped because I was waiting there she looked up at me with disgust and gestured for me to cross, as if to say, “Fine! Just go.”
She stopped because she knew she was in the wrong for speeding and trying to cross the area when it wasn’t her turn and resented that she had to do that. So being already in a bad mood, her having to stop made her even more stressed and she decided to take her anger out on me.
Now this isn’t to judge her – although I guess I am in a way – because I can relate with what she’s going through. When I’m stressed or in a hurry and some situation makes me fall even further behind I get like that too.
I wouldn’t blatantly take my anger out on another person like this lady did but I would feel similar. Nevertheless, it turned out to be another opportunity for me to see myself psychologically.
The moment she glared at me and gestured for me to cross I felt that familiar anxiety that always arises whenever I confront somebody else’s anger. I immediately looked away and crossed as if nothing was wrong, which shouldn’t have been the case because I didn’t do anything wrong.
All I know is that somebody else was angry with me and I automatically felt guilty. It doesn’t matter that it was clear that she was at fault and I wasn’t, I still felt guilty and she seemed to feel entitled, as if other people should always move for her.
The interaction tells me that I still react to anger the way I did it as a kid, the way most children react to their parents’ anger, with guilt as if whatever bad that happened was their (kids) fault.
It’s funny how I was noticing that in real time as it was crossing the street. I should’ve been the one to glance at her with a quizzical look, as if to say, “Was that all about?” and then proceed to hold my head high and walk across.
But I didn’t. In that moment there was no way that I could have reacted any differently, the stimulus happened (her anger) and then the automatic response came out of me. After feeling guilty for a few moments, I talked myself through it the way I just explained it above and the guilt subsided.
That’s progress because a few years back that guilt would have stayed with me for probably an hour two, maybe even the rest of the day. But because I’m noticing my psychological responses as they arise and am journaling about them afterward, the reactions get better as time goes on, meaning much less tension for me. Next time I’m in a situation that’s similar, I’ll probably still have an anxious and guilty reaction but it will be a fraction less.
The anxiety also was not as intense as it would’ve been a few years back and it too subsided rather quickly.
Another emotion that I noticed aside from those first two was anger. I was resentful toward her because she made me feel bad. In truth she didn’t make me feel anyway, she simply triggered feelings of anxiety and unworthiness that were already inside of me.
So in a way she did me a favor, even though I don’t feel like thanking her right now. The anger I still have toward her (which again is less than it would’ve been in the past) is not because of her, but because I don’t feel that psychological strength yet that I need to be unaffected by an issue like that.
[I am aiming to develop that though, inch by inch so to speak.]
So to that woman in the car this morning and to all the other people out there who want to be hostile with me, I say keep it up. I’ve avoided you my entire life and I think I could use more practice confronting anger, and confronting people like you in a healthy way.
She’s probably not a bad person but someone who has issues. I know we can say that about everyone but with some people it’s easier to say than for others because those others behaviors make me feel, like THEY made me feel all bad about myself. I’m thinking of parents and those who have affected us so much through trauma.
They expose the beliefs that are already inside me. The beliefs tell me that I don’t have the right to take up space in this world the way other people do, and when someone looks at me angrily they are sometimes saying just that, “Get out of my way! I’m important and you’re not!”
But as an adult it’s up to me now to validate myself and say ‘no’ or take up space. It’s hard though.
That’s why I’m always so mad at people who are angry. I’m afraid of confrontation so I usually keep my own anger hidden or turned off so that the world doesn’t explode.
Today I reclaimed 1/5000th of my anger so that the next situation that comes up I’ll be just a little stronger.
Rinse and repeat. It is a long and tiring journey and that sucks, but there really is no other choice. My psychology is my foundation and without it the rest of my life won’t go the way I want it to, no matter how much money I make, how many push-ups I do and how many other people like me.
It’s one of those things that I pull myself through but know when I look back in a few years I’ll be happy I did.
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