John Michael continues his series Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise, reflecting on life and people encountered, shares his thoughts about anger and how he copes with it.
I wrote a little blurb recently about a breakthrough with my feelings of love for my family. Well, afterwards, I went on a cleaning spree; I just felt lighter somehow. Got rid of a bunch of my mom’s junk mail that was lying around, cleaned the kitchen and the fridge, scrubbed the floor, did all the laundry, watered a plant I had forgotten about (as I don’t spend much time upstairs).
I follow Christ’s teachings as best as I can and focus on the “love your enemies” missive, most of the time. Not that my family is my “enemy” by any stretch of the imagination.
I was an enraged human most of my life, mostly as the result of being molested. The thing was, I had no idea I was even enraged until I understood myself a little better while out on the streets. I have also had to employ forgiveness for myself and for others in my life.
For years, as an adult, I swallowed a lot of aggression, “along with a lot of pizzas,” to quote John Candy in Stripes. Then, I awkwardly started defending myself when attacked, not a bad thing at all. But I ended up screaming at some good people in my life, more than I should have. Granted, they had said some pretty mean things. My reaction, I’m sure, appeared way over the top. But I have learned that PTSD can create a huge surge of emotions when wounds are triggered.
Anyway, back to loving my enemies. After I would have a blow up, I would sit and pray for the person I was mad at. And, in a fairly short amount of time, I could restore a certain amount of peace, say my apologies, and move on.
I used to think I came from a love-withholding family, but that is a misnomer, we were an anger-withholding family.
I used to think I came from a love-withholding family, but that is a misnomer, we were an anger-withholding family. My mom would get pissed at me, for whatever reason, and I would get the silent treatment for long periods of time. Expressing anger just isn’t safe for some people and my mom was one of them. “I’m not angry,” she would say, “I’m upset.” I used to wish she would just get pissed at me, cuss me out, and then move on, instead of holding onto it for days.
I don’t think my family understood how much rage a person with PTSD can carry. I had a great conversation with my mom [before she passed] at the window of her rehab facility about some of this stuff. At one point she said, “You were an angry person.” At first, I wanted to deny it, but it is true. She also said she trusted me completely, which took me off guard. I’m used to her always being mildly disappointed with my efforts. But I was a good advocate for her while she was in those care facilities and I visited every day.
That kind of responsibility traditionally has made me nervous or I would feel overwhelmed. Like eldest children, I took on too much responsibility as a kid for my family’s well-being and, after my family fell apart from the divorce, so did my confidence.
Back to the rage and rage reduction through prayer. Many times, my rage would get triggered and I could feel it churning in me for weeks at a time. Then, when it would finally break, another piece of my inner child would return. That rage was protecting him [my inner child] from all sorts of wounds, both real and imagined. As my peace is restored, I am more playful and lighthearted.
“Come close to God and God comes close to you.” That’s from James in the Bible and is beautiful. However, God is always just right here. We can perceive that closeness more clearly as we remove our self-made barriers and protections.
“Pray for others and God prays for you” is a Hobo metaphysics of mine, and I’ll be practicing it until I’m dead. It makes me happy.