Therapy Helped Me Realise and Accept My Anger
My therapist, around the 4th session in, told me that the voice she felt I needed to express, which I had been suppressing to my detriment, was my angry voice. When she shared this view I felt surprised, unsettled and was keen to deny it wholeheartedly: ‘But I'm not an angry person, I don’t like getting angry’; I iterated the same sentiment many times, realising I was in fact getting more and more angry each time and trying harder and harder to conceal it.
She asked me to talk about what anger meant to me, and to pinpoint a time that I remember feeling angry. Vaguely unwilling to prove her point of me being an angry person, I hesitantly revealed my most obvious memory of being angry, when I kicked in the glass wall of a restaurant, while people were inside. Not my best moment. At the time I was working full-time, studying full-time and, as I found out a few days later in A&E, was also coming down with a kidney infection – so I wasn’t in tip-top condition - and my partner at the time walked away from me in the middle of a disagreement. I don’t remember thinking I would break the glass by kicking it, if that helps you like me any better. Here I am - ironically, as you will see - making excuses for myself. The kind restaurant owners decided not to press charges, I paid for the new pane of glass, and the police dropped me back at work, helpfully suggesting I should consider anger management classes.
I explained to my therapist how much I hated getting angry, that I felt it only happened if I lost all composure and control. We mulled over it for some time, until I found the words to describe how I felt: ‘If you’re going to get angry, you better hope that the person you are angry with gives a damn about your feelings – otherwise you end up looking like a fool’.
I came to therapy because of the breakdown of my marriage, but we spoke mostly about my relationship with my family. I don’t have many memories of my childhood, but there is a lasting understanding in my mind that getting angry doesn’t get you anywhere and the only response it achieves is being mocked. I remember as a teenager being ignored in my anger – a result of my strained relationship with my mum – being told to get over it, calm the f*** down, no one cares, stop being so sensitive, grow up and deal with it. These are not atypical descriptions of teenage experience, I am aware. The memories that we really focused on in therapy were not so much to do with anger in the end, but apologising. All of my angry memories reveal the same pattern. My feeling bad about my part in the argument, embarrassed that I let myself get angry, humiliated that I lost composure, panicking that they don’t give a damn and ultimately I will lose them, and me apologising and trying to comfort the other person for the damage I must have done by expressing my emotions.
Therapy helped me to understand how my past has shaped my relationships as an adult. It has helped me be honest about the unhelpful patterns that have informed much of my experience and thinking, and this greater awareness I hope will help me move towards a place where I am not scared of my anger, and also where I am able to do more than apologise for myself, but to genuinely and wholeheartedly forgive the other too.