Anger Management

I was molested and raped as a child. I spent my teens and twenties filled with anger. My therapist once said something like "How did I know you were angry? Maybe it was the flames shooting out your ears."

He wasn't actually talking about me. He was describing someone else. But he could have been talking about me.

I took up role playing gaming in my teens and my first character was a Red Sonja-esque character with long red tresses. She was a fighter mage and she had issues.

Gaming was good for me. I made a lot of friends and they were mostly male and they were protective of me. I began to put down my baggage.

At some point, I retired that first character because she was so angry and toxic and I wasn't anymore. Playing her required me to put back on the mantel of so much baggage that I had worked hard to put down and it wasn't good for me to keep that alive.

In my late twenties, me and my husband bought a house and it was about thirty minutes from the military base where my career military husband worked. At least twice a month, I would go do a major grocery shopping trip on base, usually without the kids.

We never had a lot of money and I didn't like spending money on myself because my kids and family came first. One of my few indulgences was that I put together a collection of audiotapes to listen to for the thirty minute drive each way for these twice monthly shopping trips.

One of the things I listened to was Def Leppard's Hysteria album. A group of men singing about love and relationships did me a lot of good. One of my favorite songs was Love Bites.

Their work was meaningful to me in part because of the personal stories of the band members. Their drummer had anger management issues and, in a fit of rage, one night he wrecked his car really badly.

I saw an interview with him many years ago. My recollection, which may not be accurate anymore, is that he walked to a nearby farm house carrying his severed arm and said to the person who answered the door something about how he was a drummer and he had just lost his arm.

He actually came close to losing both arms. It was fairly touch and go at first and my recollection or impression is that it had the flavor of someone wrestling with personal demons and he could have lost his second arm had he lost the battle to his inner demons.

He decided to let his anger go and his remaining arm survived. And then he began a long, hard recovery.

His band mates stood by him and they never considered replacing him. One of them said in an interview "The music was still in there. It just needed to be redirected elsewhere."

They got him a custom drum set and he had to relearn how to make music with one less arm.

Of course, a big thing is that it is just as much physical labor but with fewer muscles to carry the load. Plus recovering from a limb amputation is a major health event, so stamina was a big issue for a time.

They hired a backup drummer for their first tour to take some of the pressure off of him. At some point, the backup drummer was like thirty minutes late to a show for some reason and no one had noticed. At that point, they decided they didn't need him anymore.

A group of young men singing about love who also stood by their talented but now severely handicapped band member after he lost an arm is something that spoke to my soul. To me, these people had to know something more than pretty words. There had to be something deeper in their songs than just "sex, drugs and rock and roll."

I would listen to these songs by myself while driving and sometimes I cried. The voice of the lead singer was the sound of my soul healing, yet I never can remember his name. I think it's Joe something.

I didn't fantasize about having sex with the man. Sure, he was a sexy guy, but to me this was a spiritual connection. His voice and his music were washing my soul clean of things that the world often seems to think no one can wash off.

But a man who can say "The music was still in there. We just needed to remap it." -- and my recollection is that it was the lead singer who said that -- and stand by his band mate, his brethern, this is not just a musician. This was the high priest of the sound temple of my car trips and I wouldn't sully it by treating him like a sex object in the privacy of my mind, though he's no doubt sexy as all hell.

I'm also a fan of Aerosmith. Their song Janie's Got A Gun used to regularly bring me to tears any time I heard it.

It's a song about a girl who is a victim of incest who kills the perpetrator. I saw an interview and they talked about the fact that initially the lyrics said something about "He raped a little baby girl" and the music company wasn't willing to publish that. So they changed it from raped to jacked and that went through.

A group of men singing about how child molestation is a bad thing, so bad that in the fantasy world of their song lyrics they are willing to celebrate the murder of such a man, this was also good for my soul. I needed to know that not all men thought that women were just sex objects whose feelings and personal sanctity didn't matter to anyone.

Not all men would turn a blind eye to how some men treat women and little girls. Some men very strongly disapprove of such things to the point that they implicitly believe such people deserve to die for their crimes, or so their song lyrics would suggest.

If I was alone in my car and it came on the radio, I would listen to it, even if it meant delaying my errand because I had already parked. I would listen to it and cry and let go of just a little more of my baggage.

There are a lot of sayings about anger and I used to collect such sayings. Here's one I held near and dear in my twenties when I was trying hard to figure out how to put down my anger instead of continuing to cling to it:
Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.
-- Mark Twain
But it didn't really work for me to try to be some sort of pacifist who never felt anger. I had to learn to relate to my anger in a healthy fashion and not just treat it like it was a bad thing in and of itself.

Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.
-- Aristotle
I developed a mental model that there are basically two responses to a crisis: Depression or anger.

Depression is a coping mechanism of hunkering down and enduring a crisis. It is about not rocking the boat and that's sometimes appropriate.

Anger is energy for doing something about the problem. Righteous anger can be a force for good.

So I learned to stop just stewing and being mad and wallowing in that feeling. I learned to do something about things that made me mad and this was the best thing I ever learned.

If I'm really, really mad and just can't let it go, I need to take action. It doesn't mean I need to yell at people or be loud and emotional necessarily. But anger tells me there is injustice and working on a solution is the best way to stop being mad as hell.

I think hurt people tend to cling to their anger because they hope to use it as a shield. They hope to not be made a fool of again. They think being mad as hell will serve as protection from bad things.

It's a case of "Once burned, twice shy" so to speak. But it's often not a very effective approach to protecting themselves.

Women who have been raped sometimes decide to hate all men as their solution, their idea of how to protect themselves. If they are, themselves, heterosexual, it can end up depriving them of any means to get their own sexual and emotional needs met.

If you have been burned and you are angry, recognize that you need to learn how to protect yourself effectively. Sometimes the best cure for anger is to find a better shield that will more effectively protect you.

HN Discussion