Motherhood Helped Me Understand My Temper and Deal With Unresolved Misdirected Anger
Motherhood has taught me so much. I think one of the biggest lessons I learned in the last 10 years is that a lot of the time, the anger that we feel in the moment will subside within minutes if we allow it to allowing us that opportunity to address or deal with the problem in a reasonable manner.
Being a mother helped me learn how to curve my anger and shelf my “react first” habit. In dealing with my own daughter I have learned that delivery matters. I think what has helped me the most as a mother is having to come up with healthy ways to teach my daughter how to deal with her anger and how to control her temper.
What lessons have I learned from being a mother?:
Acknowledge Your Anger
Kids are nerve-wrecking. There is no other way to describe it. One thing I've learned from being an a self-proclaimed anger expert courtesy of mom'ing for 10 years it that you need to know and acknowledge when you are angry. Like with any other problem in order to control your anger, the first step is to acknowledge it and identify the source or the problem. Only when you identify the emotion, can you take steps to control it.
Ironically, I have learned that usually when I explode or I allow my anger to manifest itself in a way that I later can accept as being unnecessary, what I am actually angry about has nothing to do with what happened. Usually, there is some outside source or underlying issue that has gone ignored for some time in hopes that it will disappear. Not dealing with that issue allows it to fester and grow over time in a quiet little dark space within making me believe that I have dealt with the issue. By the time whatever it is that I was fusing at my daughter about has settled and I am left to rethink my actions, I now find myself in an awkward situation realizing that the real reason I was upset had nothing to do with what my daughter did, thus causing me to over-react and possibly over punish her as a result.
For me, identifying my anger meant knowing what things or events make me angry easily which wasn't an easy thing to do because the list is long. This means I NEEDED to know what my triggers are. If you have certain things that trigger you into a rage or upset you, these are things that the people around you need to know. For their safety and understanding as well as your overall health.
For example, I hate having to repeat myself more than once. That is a personal pet peeve of mine. The fact that I get annoyed by having to say something more than once is no one problems but my own. This isn't a life or death situation and as annoying as it may be it is no ones responsibility to cater to that pet peeve. Thus, the responsibility for identifying and working actively to "curve" my reaction to this pet peeve falls solely on me. Not the other person and especially not my daughter. Even if I had told her 5 times to pick up her shoes out of the hallway.
Realize that anger is a choice you make
I had to learn and accept that anger is not a form of power, strength, or control. At least it shouldn't be. It is, however, a toxin that sometimes provides a temporary high especially for those who have learned to use their anger to manipulate and/or intimidate people into doing what it is they have asked. After the high subsides, you are almost always left weaker and more uncertain than before, at times, leaving you more completely embarrassed for allowing something that you now realize was "small" get you so angry. Not only that, the negative consequences of the outburst now has to be handled. I can attest to the fact that most of the time when my anger is triggered to ridiculous levels of hostility it is usually fueled by the frustration that I am not “getting” what I want. Again, this doubles back to manipulation which in itself is a dangerous and toxic trait to have but something that most people possess the ability to do despite the many claims that people don’t. I mean, if we all did not possess the ugly trait of manipulation most of us would be unemployed and single. Shrugs.
What I noticed about myself is that in the moment I come so hard and because I am a Libra and always have to be the best, I put everything I can into one basket and deliver it full force with little regard in the moment of how what I said or did will effect that situation or affect the person to whom I am lashing out. It’s easy to say that I don’t care but the reality of the situation is that when that high comes down and the adrenaline that was originally fueled my outrage subsides, I feel regretful and am now left with dealing with the dilemma of apologizing or attempting to fix the mess that I created in my temporary moment of rage. I could also blame it on my diagnosed BPD, but that would be intellectually dishonest but most of the time it has absolutely nothing to do with my emotional or mental imbalances and more to do with being "angry" that I am not getting what "I" feel I deserve.
That isn't the result of a mental or emotional illness. That is a result of selfishness and self-entitlement.
Unlike when I lash out at an adult, lashing out at a child can severely damage their self-esteem and can build up a reluctance and resistance to the adult doing the lashing out. And most times, I have found that when I am angry with my daughter about something and I lash out, it has less to do with her not listening and more to do with the fact that “I” am not getting what “I” want. I want her to do what I want her to do. This is where notion that spankings and beatings are the ideal way to discipline your children (another topic I plan to discuss later).
I had to Pinpoint and identify my forms of anger.
Psychologists suggest that there are approximately 12 types/ways (up to 24 in total) in which untreated anger can commonly manifest in our day to day behavioral makeup. Most of the time, these manifestations are so subtle that we don't even notice. Other times, we are fully aware and are active in the growth of these behaviors.
I can honestly say that on more than one occasion my anger has pushed me to do and/or experience one or more of the above listed at the same time to someone who I was angry with. Some of the forms of anger that I’ve learned to identify within myself have been :
Passive aggressive anger
I guess you can tell that I am sort of a spiteful, vengeful person. I promise I am working on that.
Anger camouflages itself and manifests in many ways. Unrecognized anger turns into all kinds of unwanted behavior that become impossible to stop. I had to become aware that this behavior is just another form of anger and pull it out at the root. This was a struggle for me personally because this required a rather large dose of honesty from myself. And not just regular honesty, but overly critical.
Stop Giving Guilt To Make You Feel Better
There's a huge difference between giving and manipulation. Martyrs manipulate with guilt. Because guilt is a lethal toxin, one that can be fueled by anger. When you make someone feel guilty and you go out of your way to ensure that guilt is something they feel, the underlying goal is to wish them emotional harm. Most people, with a conscious, when feeling guilty will find some way to punish themselves and sometimes others. For someone who is operating in anger this is actually what we want. We WANT the person we are lashing out at to feel guilt. We want them to feel bad about themselves or whatever the situation is so we continue to push. We push until we can not push anymore or until we get what we want.
I, like many other mothers and fathers out there, have used this tactic on our own children since they have been able to understand our words. How many times have we tried to manipulate our children with gifts and promises in order to get them to do what we want? Just writing this today I can think of at least three instances in the last month where I have found myself attempting to manipulate or “make a deal” with my daughter to get her to do something that I wanted her to do. Usually that deal, however, is proposed out of anger and it doesn’t really come out as a compromise moreso a dictation that is not up for debate.
Recognizing that this not only a residual trait of anger, which has no constructive outcome, it also serves as a force of mental and emotional abuse has helped me be more mindful of how I approach situations that I feel need change or adjustment.
Learning to Stop shifting Blame...
Blaming others (and ourselves) is an expression of hurt, disappointment and anger and never leads to a constructive solution. Stop casting blame. Your reaction is your own.
"If you had done what I told you to do the first time I wouldn't have had to hit you."
Sound familiar? As adults we know that nothing anyone does to you "should" move you to react with violence or with the intent to do arm but we are groomed from a young age to respond and react to disappointment thru acts of violence and discord. It's a leftover ideology from slavery that we as a community have not been able to quite yet separate ourselves from.
I remember reading a book where the author was explaining how to properly "discipline" your children. Explaining that when you whip your children, it is helpful to sit down with the children afterwards to explain "why" they were whipped so that they understand the punishment and why it was necessary. Excuse me? Maybe it was just me, but after a fresh ass whipping the last thing I wanted my mother to do was sit down with me and "talk to me" about why she was hitting me.
"Some kids are just bad as hell and you have to hit them."
Children are bad. It is what it is. Because children have not learned societal norms and behavioral acceptance codes for society so, of course, they are going to be unruly and, at times, out of control. Control being the operative word here. When a child is hard to "control" or doesn't take commands well, we always result back to the idea that the child is bad. And yes, at times this is true. I have more than my fair share of bad ass minions in my day but I have learned that generally, the fault falls on the shoulders of that child's parents. Because children learn from us, not the other way around. Most behaviors start at home, so in most cases, when you have a bad or unruly child, that behavior either started at home and went unchecked or corrected, or the parent was completely blind to things they should have been privy too due to not being actively involved and present thus making room for behaviors to grow until they have reached a point of spiraling.
Read: Issa your fault.
Acting in anger is not the same as "handling a situation". Because the situation isn't handled. It just got silenced. The other day I had a moment of slipped anger with my own daughter. She did something that upset me but could have been forgivable with simply a lecture but she lied to me about it despite me holding evidence in my hand and because "I" felt as if my intelligence was being played "I" snapped in an attempt to assert my authority and reenforce my position and control over her. To make matters worse, I did it in front of her friends. Something that I have long promised never to do because of how many times I was embarrassed in front of my friends as a child.
In that 10 minute moment of complete rage I felt justified in my behavior. She needed to learn that lying to me was something that "I", her authority, was not going to allow or accept and her friends needed to see it to because they also need to know that "Mama Jenn" isn't to be played with. But at the end of the rage fit, once I called down I felt nothing but embarrassment for myself, shame, guilt and still nothing had been resolved. I was no more closer to the truth than I was initially. The only thing I managed to do was make a sense, embarrass my daughter and possibly make future interactions with her friends awkward, scare the hell out of the neighborhood kids and hurt my daughters feelings.
Sure, I could blame her for "making me" act that way for lying to me so blatantly, but seriously let's be honest here. I am a fully grown adult who "should" be capable of controlling my emotions especially when my opposition is a child. She didn't make me react that way. I made the decision to act that way because of my egos need to gain control over the situation. What I should have done was stopped the moment I felt myself getting ready to burst and/or took a step back to gather my thoughts.
I could have spared her the embarrassment, me the unnecessary expended energy and all that yelling and awkwardness that followed had "I" not allowed my ego to be angered to the point of displaying violatile behaviors towards someone who literally holds no power of me.
This is how so many situations happen with children striking parents and given the fact that I have had my fair share of physical altercations with adult authority figures in my life (including my step-father and mother - not bragging, just being honest) I should know better. All it takes if for a parent to buck not realizing that the child is prepared to buck back, so now the parent feels challenged and the next thing you know you have a parent and child exchanging blows in a fight to see whose "power" is actually the strongest. The person who wins rules the house.
And the house is never the same...
Create Realistic Expectations:
There is nothing that makes a parent more angry and hurt than expectations we've been holding onto that have not been met. And there lies the problem. We have our own set of expectations for someone else whose expectations for self are more than likely nothing like the ones we have mapped out. Are they realistic? Does the other person hold similar expectations in your relationship? Does this person care about the things your care about "naturally" or are they simply clinging on to ideas and thoughts that they think will make you happy out of fear you will be disappointed?
Most of the time the answer is going to be the opposite of what you really want and it is also the reason why so many adults, including myself, are well in out late 30s before we finally get to a point where we are "living" for ourselves. Most people spend their 20s trying to live up to expectations family members and society has for them. That's also why s0 many people are walking about depressed and lost. But, of course, no one wants to hear that.
When dealing with my daughter I had to let go of unrealistic fantasies that I had for her and acknowledge the fact that I was trying to live vicariously through her which was not fair. I wanted her to do things that “I” wanted her to because they made me happy, completely ignoring the fact that she has her own ideas of what her life should be as well as her own separate likes or dislikes that I have no control over no matter how much I try.
Acknowledging this and working through it helped me realize that most of the time, the anger I felt was of my own doings. Because I had built up this idea in my mind and ran with it without so much as consulting with my daughter.
Maybe what I want isn’t what she wants?
I’ve always had problems controlling my anger. I was an angry child, I had every reason to be. Of course, if you were to ask others if my anger was justified I am sure others may disagree but really the only person’s opinion who matters when it comes to my personal traumas is myself. My anger developed early in my childhood as a result of feeling silenced and voiced out. Growing up I never felt as if I had a choice. On more occasions than I can count, I was left feeling as though what I wanted or how I felt mattered not to anyone to whose care I was under. I grew up under the teachings that children had no say so in the household. My entire life was pre-destined and organized by my parents and little concern was given to what it was that “I” truly wanted.
Because I was unable to voice my opinion and for fear of being beat or “whooped” (definition varies depending on who you speak to) I found myself turning into a miserable and unpleasant zombie with a vicious attitude hell bent on being the main cause of headaches. My “attitude” and “temper” became my go to reaction because it got me what I wanted and people listened to me. If for no more than a second, I hate the attention of whomever it was. I figured it no one would listen to me when I was trying to be nice, they will at least take notice if I cause chaos. And I wasn’t too far off. Over time, that “react first, think later” mentally began to take over my life and I found myself getting into so much trouble behind my not taking just 5 more seconds to think out my next step properly. That suppressed anger trickled over into my teenage years. What was once my “childhood” anger had now transformed to “teenage” anger which showed it ugly head through a massive amount of “disobedient” behavior dubbed as “rebellion”.
I continued this way for years. Intentionally pissing off people and doing what ever I could to make others uncomfortable. I could argue that this was done in fun but the truth of the matter is that “I” did all of those things which was fueled by my anger because deep down inside I was hiding from the truth that “I” needed help. It didn’t dawn on me until I was almost 30 that the defense mechanism had worked so well for so many years, no longer felt right.
So, what exactly has motherhood taught me about dealing with pent up anger and how do I apply it to my day to day life as well as implementing it in the teachers that I pass on to my daughter. Anger is an emotional feeling and an expression which we all have from time to time. Each and every one of us reacts to anger differently. Some people may feel the need to express or manifest their anger through violent bursts of energy or activity, some people shouts at the top of their lungs to vent their anger while others will remain silent throughout the entire time.
What I learned in all of those years of walking in my “anger” is that anger can lead to destructive consequences. When I am angry my focus narrows, creating confusion and limiting my ability to find constructive solutions. Luckily for me I was fortunate enough to come to my senses before I found myself in a situation I couldn’t get out of. It also doesn't hurt that I am terrified of being locked up. I mean, with my smart mouth and need to have the last word, I’d imagine I’d be in a hell of a lot of trouble pretty often.