3 Bad Habits that Enable My Anger Issue
I’m a logical person until I’m an emotional person. One of my greatest drawbacks is, as with many Taurus brothers and sisters, an earth shattering temper, multiplied by a razor sharp tongue that can tear a person into pieces. I’m not proud of this and feel like absolute shit when I let myself get there. Over the years, and thanks to my incredible husband’s patience and simultaneous 0 tolerance attitude towards this ugly behavior, I’ve been able to drastically reduce the eruptions to about once or twice a year. But each time I go there, I then dive into an intense introspection to identify triggers and alternative approaches to avoid another outburst. Sometimes it’s completely my fault and basic restraint would have been enough. Other times, non-stop provocation ends up owning my ability to stay calm. Usually it’s a good mix of the two. In the end I can trace each tantrum to a relapse of at least one of three bad habits that enable my anger.
Why I Needed to Change
First, I want to clarify that this isn't some violent rage situation. I come from a very fiery family. Everyone is passionate and artistic, so my overreaction issue didn't really stand out. I didn't even realize that my behavior was out of the ordinary until I stepped way out of my circle and met my husband, Larry; the first person who didn't see this trait as a source of strength.
Larry and I met at work and started a business together shortly after. I fell in love hard and fast before we dated. But that didn't stop me from expressing all my feelings and opinions. Raised in very mild-mannered surroundings, my passionate ways were unmanageable for Larry. He had no idea how to deal with me or what would set me off and walked into landmines via jokes, carelessness, and even attempts to diffuse bad situations. On the flip side, I had no idea how to deal with him. I was offended by like 78% of the things that came out of his mouth. I never had male relatives my age growing up so no one made fun of me or talked shit to my face. Larry grew up with an older brother and that was pretty much how they communicated (and still communicate today). Unfortunately I was also head over heels in love and stuck seeing him all day every day. The first two or three years of our interaction were very much us adjusting to each other, while navigating a start up. It was intense. Our big dreams and long nights were paying off fast and locking us in for the long haul. We had to find a functional way to co-exist happily and more importantly, efficiently. I had to learn to be nice in fights. He had to learn to be nice in friendship.
Fights were daily, exhausting and a big waste of time. Our differences were our greatest strength in business but the force of our confrontations severely affected our ability to get things done. Determined to reduce the big fights, I started replaying each one in my head to identify the exact moment I lost it. I began the process of identifying my anger habits.
1. Social Sensitivity
Larry is soft-spoken but has no problem saying anything, with no consideration for the other person's reaction, if it proves his point. It's never directly mean but it can be indirectly insensitive.
Social sensitivity was my parents' primary focus of discipline. Each time he said something I felt was inappropriate it was like nails on a chalkboard for me. I'm different. I'm super sensitive to other people's reactions to everything. I weigh all my words for maximum effect towards my desired goal. If you feel offended by me, it's probably intentional. I assumed, for a very long time, that the offensive things he said were spoken deliberately. Even after I understood that he wasn't trying to be mean, it took me a long time to accept it without resentment. Until today, this ability to not take people's words so personally has led to a generally more relaxed Mariam.
2. Figth Breaks
Before Larry, my go to coping mechanism for getting too mad was leaving the situation before the point of no return. Cool as a cucumber, he didn't understand the concept of getting so heated that you said things you would regret, and felt I was running away from my problems when I did that. I had to learn to control myself in the moment.
I found it's much easier to prevent feeling annoyed than to stop yourself from crossing the line between manageable and unmanageable anger. Recognizing and correcting my anger at the lower levels became my goal. In any confrontational situation, I monitored my feelings in real time and worked on neutralizing conversations when I felt anything negative. In essence, I stopped fighting and started debating.
3. Pride Issues
Larry has profoundly changed me for the better. The most important life lesson Larry taught me was to stop being so fucking principalistic. The minute I dropped my pride issues my world changed. Most of the fights went away. I made it a point to immediately acknowledge when the other person was right or had a point. Of course at first this was so painful. It took all my strength to say, "you're right" when he was. And I had to deal with that aftertaste of resentment. But the more I did it the easier it got. And in life, people treated me with more respect when I allowed them the dignity of the win if they deserved it. It's funny. When you stop needing to win, you rarely loose.
What I Learned After Overcoming Anger Issues
Let there be no doubt about it; not being so sensitive, controlling my feelings at lower stages and dropping my pride issues took years of hard work, years of learning things about myself I didn't like, years of going to that ugly place and still striving to do better next time. Even now if I let any of the above slip it's a quick fall back to square one. But the benefits outweigh the effort it takes to be a good person. Besides my own mental health, it feels great to be respectful towards people I love, even in conflict. I love that my overreactions don't overpower my points anymore. Most of all, no satisfaction can compare to having control over something that used to control you.
What's a personal flaw you would love to take on but have no idea how?