You are your anger.
If you shut it down, you shut yourself down.
Fear of being Seen
I am afraid of people seeing me. I can imagine myself in a room full of people with the opposite political opinion, and having a difficult time telling them comfortably that I disagree.
I can imagine myself having a difficult time saying, “No” to the person who’s invited me to their party four times in a row. It gets harder with each subsequent rejection I have to express. What’s if they get mad?
I can imagine telling the dude on the back of the bus to turn his music down and feeling quite uncomfortable knowing that because I’m speaking up, he’s going to feel awkward and perhaps embarrassed because everyone’s looking, and then will lash out at me.
To do any of these kind of things means to stand out from the crowd and have a lot of attention focused upon me.
All those things are things that I want to do, things that my anger wants me to do ( in a civilized manner of course) but that I’m afraid to do because it usually means tension, awkwardness and conflict.
Being yourself shows. Like the main image of this blog post, imagine that your anger is like a light that makes you glow, kind of like a jack-o’-lantern, and whenever you do or say something that you want to do or say, it glows bright and everybody can see.
One of the biggest fears I have around being seen is that other people are not going to like it and therefore try to put my fire out, or dampen my light so to speak.
I know that many of those people are insecure and so they typically tend to express their anger in a hostile manner. They are used to being dominant within whatever group they happen to be a part of at any given time.
And so for me to stand out and shine would be threatening to them, and so they would come after me or retaliate in some way.
I remember when I was much younger I worked as a waiter in a restaurant and the owner of the restaurant was quite bossy and liked to dominate the people around him. One busy day I spoke to him in a confident assertive way and he didn’t like that one bit, because his knee-jerk reaction was to reply, “Now don’t get cocky on me!”
I was a lot less assertive then and quickly shut myself down and remained in that habitual pattern that I had been used to for years, since childhood really.
That pattern of course came from my parents, specifically my father. He was an angry, dominant man as I’ve said many times before, and he was also very insecure which is why he had to be that way. He couldn’t tolerate anybody else challenging him and so he would use his hostility (i.e. yelling) to shut everybody else down, so he could feel better about himself.
I learned early on that it was safest to keep myself hidden, which really meant being a good boy all the time, and that any attempts to be myself, or express my anger in a healthy manner – which really again just means saying what I want to say, expressing myself and behaving as if I have the right to take up space – was met with even harsher hostility from my father.
So that early mapping in my brain of how the world works was well entrenched in me. Stay down, don’t bother anybody and if you do have to take up space make sure other people approve or are pleased.
This basically made me a slave.
Once again my anger is me. I want to clarify that when I say anger I don’t mean yelling screaming and being hostile. I mean it in the healthy way that it can be expressed which is usually through being assertive, calm and confident. When anger is expressed this way it is civilized and beneficial for the person expressing it and for the person on the other end of it.
(Think of asking for a discount at a store. If you get it then you win. But so does the shop owner because they make a sale, and have a potential return customer. If they say no you still win because you had the courage to ask which builds that muscle in you. The shop owner also wins because they communicate their limits and build up that muscle as well.)
So now as an adult (back to my upbringing again), when I interact with the world and want to speak up and let my voice be heard, I have a conditioned fear response in me that says “danger, other people are going to want to hurt you”. This conditioned response, which is really just anxiety, is so strong that when i feel it, it makes me believe to this day that something horrible is going to happen to me, and that I really am in danger if I do let my voice be heard.
And the hardest part about this, is that there is some truth to it. The likelihood that I will be physically hurt or thrown in jail – or something to that effect – is very slim of course, but, it doesn’t feel that way.
The truth is that some people don’t like it when a person is themselves. When they see your light suddenly glow they will want to take shots at you. It threatens their status to see your status become elevated and so you will be exposed to much more confrontation, which is an additional layer of anxiety, and so it’s just easier to stay down.
This is especially true if the people around you are used to seeing you as somebody who doesn’t speak up. They will double down on trying to prevent you from shining because they know that it’s easier to take somebody down who is weaker and starting to come out of their shell, than it is somebody who’s strong and assertive. Also, they won’t like losing someone they know who used to be a ‘yes man’ because then they lose the benefit of having their way all of the time around that person.
It’s sort of like the girl who likes going to clubs with her chubby friend because that contrast gets her more male attention. If that friend lost weight the girl wouldn’t be happy for her.
So it’s a difficult road, especially when you’re just starting out.
But what’s the alternative?
If I’m going to resolve to be myself then I think I’m going to have to accept the following difficulties:
– Some people won’t like me and say nothing. They will passively aggressively avoid me
– Some people won’t like me and try to bring me down a notch, forcing me into a confrontation.
– Everywhere I go people are going to notice me more than usual, which makes me feel like a target.
– I will be a different person which will be hard to get used to. Changing the notion of who I am is hard because I likely rationalized that the way I have been all my life( being clamped down) is virtuous somehow or makes me a”nice guy” and so I’m better than others in this way.
I’m at the point now where I’ve been trying to do this for a while. Trying to glow more consistently, but it’s mostly an on-again off-again deal.
I’ve been carrying around a lot of resentment most of my life because I want to be me, but fear all the other people out there that will confront and be hostile with me. I thought they were bad people. I thought they were bad because they triggered in me that early trauma/anxiety response which felt too overwhelming for me to handle, and so instead of handling it myself, I blamed them.
Most of this was unconscious of course but it is coming clearer as time goes on. And yes, many of these people are jerks and/or immature and will use every trick in the book to try to keep me down me so to speak – for example telling me that I’m bad because I’m getting angry or assertive. Obviously when they do it it’s okay because when they do it it’s not anger it’s some other term that they’ve come up with to try to manipulate me into being okay with them to having theirs but not me mine.
This is reality though, and if I don’t face it I won’t get better.
And I think I’m in enough pain now. The pain ( frustration) of not shining is starting to eclipse the pain that arises when I do try to.
This is very important. If I don’t allow myself to be myself, and express myself how I really want to, AND stay that way the rest of my life, …
… then I never really existed.
And that scares the hell out of me.
*** If you’re going through something similar then I hope this helped. If you are, I invite you to share it with me and everybody else who visits here by typing it up and emailing it over. I’ll post it on the blog which would benefit everyone; you for writing it up – which gets you in touch with your unconscious more and with this issue of yours specifically – and us for relating with it and perhaps seeing our own issue from a different angle.
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