March 12, 2013 – Picking a fight?

I’d be amiss if I didn’t write about some other sides of me. One thing I’ve always fought was an internal aggression. I would become so full of anger and self-hatred that I’d pound the sides of my head when I was a young child. It’s amazing how one can internalize external stresses. Regardless, when I was between the ages of 7 and 12 I wasn’t very aggressive. I did get into a few fights at school, but I can’t recall of any within that time frame that I started myself. Around age 13 though, that was changing. I was a quiet nerdy kid without the grades that would come along with that stereotypical persona. The only class I performed well within was art class. By the time I was 13 though, I was simply fed up. I was fed up with my home life and fed up with bullies at school. I was in a number of fights from that point until about 10th grade. By that time, conflict at school was pretty much over with and I was left alone.

Since high school I’ve been one to verbally rage. As I have aged this too has slowed a lot. I still detest conflict, but I came to the realization that I almost crave it when it’s something that I perceive to be wrong. Fighting over simple things is pointless to me. My wife and I have had at most 10 arguments in the last 3 1/2 years since getting married. Neither of us like conflict, at least at home. My wife is more outwardly assertive than I am. Most things don’t bother me as I simply don’t see them as being things to be confrontational about. Luckily, when something comes up we can actually talk it through. We can agree to disagree sometimes. We’re more like friends who happen to be married. When I’m upset about something I literally ask myself if this is something that I’d be upset about if she were my friend and not my spouse. The only real line of distinction is fidelity. That’s the one thing where marriage comes into play with us. Even then, I’d not argue. I’d not yell. I’d simply leave.

I do have hot-buttons though.. I need to make the distinction between healthy versus unhealthy reactions where anger is appropriate. If you see someone harming someone else, anger is appropriate, as are a number of other feelings. If it involves a child, then more anger. If it involves an animal, well, I guess it depends on how you feel about animals (for me animals rank very high). It’s one thing to react with anger to stop a situation. Sometimes, in very rare instances, the only immediate choice is violence. Maybe that’s just me – I’ve cast away the flight in fight or flight. I’m not one to flee from anything. Regardless, situations like this in the rare occasion when they present themselves are ones that I thrive on. I know my response is overreaction. It isn’t even that I perceive a situation to be more than it is, either. I simply *want* to engage.

A few weeks ago I was put into a situation involuntarily where there was a high risk and probability for physical violence to unfold. Out of respect for some involved I will spare the exact details. I will say that there was a significant amount of alcohol involved from the perpetrator, they were living in the same building as others that were victims. The perpetrator had forced entry to an apartment and physically assaulted a female in that residence. She was taken to the hospital by the police while other officers searched for the assailant whom has sped off in his car before the police arrived. We received a call in the middle of the night and were asked to give the victim and an elderly relative of the victim a ride home from the hospital. It was around 2:00am when we received the call. There was travel involved, so I got out of bed and dressed for work in case things took awhile. As I drove the two women home one recalled what happened in detail. A number of things struck nerves with me. Alcohol – I’m no fan of violence further fueled and enabled by alcohol. A perpetrator who was roughly 20 years old and was very arrogant. He also had a long history with the police for domestic violence and minor crimes. He was having sex with a minor who was also living in the same residence (though she was technically the age of majority for the state). He regularly gave the same minor alcohol. Other descriptions of this character didn’t help my overall idea of what I may be walking into when arriving our destination.

Here’s the thing though… Most people would be uncomfortable in that situation. I wasn’t. This wasn’t anything that I wasn’t prepared to deal with emotionally or physically. I wanted this conflict. I so wanted it to get physical with this kid. It wasn’t about wanting to teach him a lesson, put him in his place or anything like that.. He was an abuser on a number of levels. I wanted to do harm to him simply for that alone. The details were irreverent once I had made up my mind that he was “bad” enough to be one to attack. Only when I deem someone to be bad enough am I willing to engage physically. If I see someone being attacked or abused I will intervene. I have in the past and would again. This is different though.. This isn’t completely about being in defense of someone in need of protection. This is an outlet for a deep anger that makes my blood boil sometimes. I’m not one to go around looking for an excuse to justify a fight, but that night I felt blood and adrenaline coursing through my veins. I knew this feeling well. I hadn’t felt it in years, but something about this situation triggered it in me. I was bothered by this later. Obviously it didn’t come to that, though I dare say, if this character would have come out of that apartment in even a slightly aggressive tone or manner, the night would have turned out much differently. I’m glad it didn’t. I’m an imposing figure and physically very powerful. At best, one of us or both of us would have been very harmed. At best..

Recently I’ve stopped listening to the news. The sad thing is, I only have been listening to it over the course of the last year to hear if some nut set off a nuke somewhere. Not that knowing this would make any difference, much less that I’d inevitably hear about it upon arriving to work or interacting with anyone in public. Politicians upset me on a deep level. Intellectually I see so many things deeply wrong with governance on nearly every level that I can’t help but be infuriated. So, I don’t listen to the news anymore. Leaders or organized religion infuriate me. In particular the leaders of the Catholic Church and their archaic views on sexuality and a number of other social issues. I’m not saying I’ve a problem with members of the church, just the upper management. I’m good with people whom have faith. At times I can say I wish I could have faith myself, but I simply can’t reconcile that one in my own mind. At least not for now – never is too powerful of a word. After removing those two things from my day to day exposure of things in the world, I’m left with those whom wish to force their views, beliefs or themselves in general onto others who are unwilling recipients. I’ve yet to meet anyone who has any right to take moral high-ground over anyone else, especially myself. That said, I itch for the opportunity to kick out the leg of the pedestal that someone puts themself upon. It’s not about taking higher ground myself, either. I simply don’t like being talked to in a condescending manner, and I particularly don’t like others being talked down to. Being mild and meek may work for some, but in some instances, people like me are of use in that moment.

So, why this need to fight? I’m a self-proclaimed man of peace, but see that sometimes the only way to maintain peace is to act in a highly aggressive manner. Arguably, some people cannot be reasoned with. Still, instead of working within the confines of the systems in place to remove someone from a position of power of one sort or another I simply see a mental kneecap that just needs a verbal strike to accomplish the same thing without all of the sensitive or politically correct means to an end. Am I better than those who have harmed me? Maybe.. Maybe not. Maybe I’ve just been more selective of those that I choose to abuse and rationalize the hell out of it to make it feel like a virtue, or worse, that I’m doing someone a favor.

I can’t argue that I have a lot of unprocessed anger. I need to find a healthy outlet for this. A physical one, at that. I have a couple of health issues that complicate exercise at the moment, though I’d wager that 3-5 hours in the gym every week would likely do me good on a number of levels. One of those health issues I would be able to grit through with pain medication, but I’d prefer not to go down that route again. It was necessary when I was on them years ago and will likely be necessary again. I’m in kind of a tough spot with that as well… I’ve an unknown liver disease (not deadly, but I can’t drink alcohol very much, and if I do in very small amounts). Pain medications are generally hard on the liver. That and I don’t ever want to go through opiate withdrawal again. I’ll figure out some way to make this work. I’m pretty good at avoiding triggering situations, but would rather be proactive in finding an outlet over time than being disturbed by how I think and feel when angry. Anger can be healthy, but I assure you, this is of the toxic variety.

If you are reading this, what do you do to alleviate anger and aggression? I always feel in control, meaning I don’t fear losing control and doing something horrible or anything like that. I just dislike the extreme discomfort of it. It goes against the grain of who I am, or at least who I believe myself to be. Internalizing it isn’t healthy – I am certain of that.


5 thoughts on “March 12, 2013 – Picking a fight?”

  1. I am reading this. 🙂

    I have had anger and agression – mostly verbal aggression, sometimes physical expression of aggression. I needed a better way, even though I didn’t know how to find it. I kept searching.

    Anger is usually masking pain, underneath which is a hidden need.

    I’ll share something of a spiritual nature first, to help you understand why our anger exists. We who have experienced abuse as children know what it’s like to be powerless. I think as we get older, stronger and more powerful, we come forward to protect the powerless. We know what it’s like to be there, having no one come to our aid. I think it would kill us to let another suffer alone, as we had suffered.

    This article speaks in terms of anger with our loved ones:

    “As a response to being wronged, anger is a boundary-setter that says, “Stop! I can’t tolerate this,” or, “This isn’t working for me.” It is not blaming the other or shaming the self. Often experienced first as a contraction in the throat, chest, stomach, or abdomen and a clenching of the fist, anger may be associated with the words “I can’t go on like this” seared into the mind.

    Anger—sparked by injustice—is at the root of all protest movements, all major processes of change. In our most intimate relationships, when we or our loved ones experience or express anger, it is an opportunity to get to know one another better, to get closer and clearer, and to work with ourselves in a new way. It is an opportunity to ask ourselves, “Why am I feeling this?” “What needs to change here?” and “What do I need to do about it?”

    Because anger is expressed at a moment of need, the person expressing it is vulnerable. If, when our partner is angry, we inquire into his need to be seen, treated, known, or held more wholly, dearly, or fairly, we have a chance of accepting our beloved more fully. In our closest relationships, our fate is bound up with the fate of the other. In Buddhist terms, our karma is interwoven and we cannot easily escape feeling the consequences of the beloved’s actions. It is a natural desire for us to want to keep our partner safe or happy, for both selfish and unselfish reasons. But, as a result, we have a tendency to want to control our beloved—and that often creates a sense of being unfairly treated.

    Our closest relationships are the most challenging in our lives when it comes to practicing fairness, equality, and kindness. That is because in these intimate relationships, we always begin to get to know the other person (even if that person is an infant) through a process of psychological projection: seeing/feeling/experiencing the other through already familiar views, desires, and ideals. This is especially true in romantic love, where we “fall” in love through an idealizing projection and assume that the other is ideal for us and meets our needs in some particular or general way. When the other person does not do or become what we want, which is always the case, we can easily turn against him with hatred, rejection, or pain. Working with anger skillfully can actually be very helpful in our not doing this.

    Anger has unfortunately been confused or conflated with aggression, hatred, or rage—some of its more destructive siblings. Many people make the mistake of pushing away anger, being afraid that it will be destructive if expressed. Some may hyper-value silence as though it were its own virtue. Others may express aggression, blame, anxiety, or rage instead of anger. But if you have the skill to feel your feelings with a gentle acceptance of them), you are less likely to dissociate from your feelings or distance yourself from another in times of anger. You won’t have to hide your anger from yourself and you can learn about speaking it honestly and kindly—and about inquiring into your beloved’s anger at you.”

    But in dealing with both our loved ones and people in general, I like Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication because he teaches you how to find that need underneath the pain and anger. He used NVC in prisons and with different political/peace talks.

    You’d really like the logic he uses. There’s no need for anger or violence, when people are able to identify the feelings and needs, and communicate them and negotiate.”

    As far as the dynamic between you and your wife goes. Be careful that you learn how to express your needs, and not let her dominate even accidentally. I was the more outwardly aggressive of my husband and I. He had no PTSD, though he had witnessed his father beating his mother. His way was more passive-aggressive. He thought he was not being better than his father by not making demands on me. But he still had needs he wasn’t asking to get met. Then, his resentment would grow, and he’d thwart communication between us…and I’d get angrier and try to get him to stop stonewalling me but getting angry and leaving, not dealing with the conflict.

    Over the years, my anger and his resentment and reticence grew. He only spoke his true feelings when drunk. And often he binge drank. And he’d go from a Dr. Jekyll, to Mr. Hyde.
    And no matter how much I tried to reason with him, he’d get increasingly irrational. No amount of logic would work on him.

    It was painful…so painful. Still working a lot out about that.

    So much could have been avoided had we both learned a simple process of NVC. We didn’t know what we didn’t know, you know?

    1. I’ll reply to your other responses soon-ish.

      My hubby is inquiring if I’m going to go to bed.

      I hope I can sleep tonight. I didn’t very well last night. 😦

  2. This post really resonated with me. I feel anger very deeply when there is injustice, someone being abused, someone behaving in terrible ways. I’m not able to act upon that anger directly…oh my, I’d take a baseball bat to their heads. Instead, I find some sort of activity that can completely consume my mind and hands for awhile. Piano. Gardening. Sewing. Moving slowly and deliberately, almost a Tai Chi of my own creation, sometimes with Ministry blaring in the background, penetrating my skull. It sounds mundane, but it lets me imagine the anger dripping down through my feet. I let the anger soak back into the ground.
    (and cheers to you, a fellow Michigander– I also fled for greener pastures, but have been unable to flee from myself).

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