I’m sorry to admit that I learned how to be violent when angry. It was the only way of getting any attention. It was easier than sitting down and explaining why I was angry and how I really felt and what I think we should do better. My father is not one to listen when he is angry. Few people honestly know how to do that. Few people do it well. So I’d throw things, and simmer until I was exhausted. The problem never gets resolved, and I leave myself with a nagging sense of incompleteness.
As I got older, things got worse, not better. The fights became more frequent as the teenage years are some of the most stressful times for parents. Parents see their children changing before their eyes and don’t know what to make of it. A simple “grunt” is so easy to read as disrespect. Without patience and God’s grace, it’s almost impossible to navigate through these years without some scars. Maybe my parents felt as if they were looking at someone completely different from the son or daughter they’d had for years. My brother changed a lot during this time. He grunted more, stayed up later, woke up later, and talked back occasionally — you know, the normal things teenagers do. They try to test their limits and end up pushing all the wrong buttons. It pushed all of my dad’s buttons, and he was none too happy. His face also became longer and his eyes became smaller. To this day, that’s something my mom can’t figure out.
My dad saw many things that my brother did as deliberate attempts to provoke. Maybe they were deliberate, maybe not. I don’t think so. I do know that my brother was figuring out what was going on in him, and it wasn’t easy. He had this massive case of acne that he had to take meds for. The medicine made him sleepy all the time and less productive. That ticked my father off, big time. Plus my brother didn’t have the best time management skills.
And me? I think I’m still figuring out what was going on with me. I think things are still happening. I’m still trying to figure myself out. Where am I? Where am I going? Who am I? Those are questions every teenager wrestles with. On top of that, there’s the changes that are going on with my body, the peer pressure, and the boys. Oh yes, the boys. And the hormones. At one point, my hormones were all out of whack. I had to take pills to keep things all balanced out and keep myself from getting anemic.
I know that it was extremely hard and still is extremely hard to keep my emotions on check. One moment I would be laughing, the next I would be in tears. One moment the sun was out, the next I would be depressed. My friends couldn’t understand it. I couldn’t understand it. All I could do was grit my teeth and wait for things to even out.
What the tempestuous emotions meant was more than simple ups and downs. I also got angry a lot easier, sometimes irrationally. My parents had trouble understanding why I had to get so angry so easily. The worse thing was that my anger could get violent. After years of watching my father and grandmother struggle, it was now my turn. This wasn’t a good thing… not at all. I had to learn how to deal with my anger, and deal with it in a way that wasn’t destructive to me or others.
The bad thing was the urge to inflict self-harm. I never understood why people even cut themselves when they were depressed or angry or helpless. It did nothing good. That was before I got the urges. It’s not something I can explain really well. I just know that it happened, and even though I knew perfectly well that it was wrong to hurt myself, I couldn’t seem to stop myself from doing it. It was as bad as cutting myself with a little pocketknife (no scars) to as little as scraping my skin with the sharp end of a paperclip. These episodes didn’t happen often, thank God. But when they did happen, it was as if someone else was in me. Something dark and dangerous. My anger.
It felt that I had to release it in some way. Or drown in my emotions. Or break from the strain.
You can always say no. There’s always a way out. You know that in your head. But when you’re angry, that emotion overrides all reason. You actually WANT to cut, even if you don’t want to cut. It’s confusing. You don’t want to be controlled.
One time I was angry at a friend of mine. Our friendship had degenerated to the point where he went out of his way to avoid me. I did my best, but he didn’t care. I was angry with him. I couldn’t talk to him. I still can’t talk to him, and I’m still angry at him. Oh, you won’t see it, but it’s there. Lurking under the surface. Just the teeniest drop will cause an explosion. Even if it’s my father speaking angrily to my sister, I will blow up. Until I can’t tell what I’m really angry at, my father, my friend, or me? I feel that I won’t be able to resolve this unless I go talk to him, but I can’t do that.
I wish there was something to do. For a while I entertained ideas of going up to him and slapping him or something silly like that. Just to get his attention.
Even though it’s easier to throw things rather than talk, I still believe that we should make an effort to communicate. To talk things out instead of immediately shouting and destroying the furniture. Too few people do that nowadays. If we learned how to listen first and speak later, perhaps the world would be a better place.
If we did our best to work together to work on this problem, things would be better.
Also we have to understand that anger is not a bad thing. I was listening to a Christian radio station a few days ago on a driving lesson and the pastor stated that “anger is not a bad emotion. It’s something that we can use for good.” We don’t know how to use it for good, though. All we know is that it can destroy. And that’s what we do with it, whether we like it or not.
What can we do?
PART II ends here.