The futility and stress of anger

I have a tendency to react before I think through events that have happened. My mom used to say I was "cutting off my nose to spite my face," and I pretty much ignored what that meant until I was well into the process of adulting my way through life.

I'm trying to remember at least one situation that I made a choice in the heat of the moment that I later regretted. I know it happened - more often than I'd like to admit back in my teens - but I can't seem to dredge up any examples from the depths of my brain. After all, this year, my teens are officially over 20 years ago. (Whoa.)

The thing is, I learned this response from both my parents. My mom and dad both had strong views and reacted with equal strength at times. They weren't hotheads, getting angry at the least little thing. There was usually a good reason, but their reactions weren't as measured as I believe either of them would have preferred to be. It didn't help that my mother had to take steroids as part of her treatment for neurosarcoidosis. I'm pretty sure we're kinda wired to have strong feelings, too. That doesn't mean it has to be the default reaction, though.

Mom eventually mellowed, partly due to a therapist that helped her figure out how to look at things differently so that anger and irritation weren't the default response. (Frankly, when you're chronically ill, is it all that shocking when there are bursts of anger from time to time? Because that's a sucky way to live.) My dad has mellowed, too. I think living just gives you a different perspective in these situations if you're open to it.

Being with Matt for the past 19+ years, I've mellowed too. Matt is ridiculously slow to anger - in fact, I've only seen him get truly angry a couple times and it comes nowhere close to what most people think of as an anger response. It's been humbling to watch how he reacts and compare myself to him. I never went to therapy but watching others in potentially charged situations has helped me learn the value of taking a step back to breathe and think.

My son has been the best possible teacher in this. He does such frustrating things. Try to imagine someone who's more stubborn than my son and you probably won't succeed. (Well, unless you know someone who thinks very literally, black-and-white, wrong-and-right about the world.) Communicating with him about various issues and events can feel like you're driving in circles and can't find a single exit that goes to your destination - or even close to it. 

I've had to remind myself that there's a reason for his response to every situation. When I remember to stop and talk to him about it, I get to understand him better so I can help him navigate similar circumstances when he experiences them in the future. And I've reinforced those ideas for myself in the process. 

One thing I've started to do is go to trusted friends for a gut check. That one step of describing a situation and asking for their input has made an enormous difference. Especially when I'm advocating for my child. 

Report cards came home recently and I have yet to sign and send his back because of one teacher's grades and comments. They're infuriating, particularly since I had no warning, despite meeting with her just a few weeks prior. I've done several gut checks. Described the situation to friends who are removed from it. I've talked to a friend who has two children in classes with this teacher - one is Brandon's best friend. 

My view has been validated, but I haven't gotten to the point where I don't want to swear when I talk about it, so I'm waiting a bit longer to address it. Because I've learned how much anger stresses me out and that it won't help me to get what B needs from school. Instead, I want to use it to drive the right actions to make things better for him. 

Anger's not a bad thing. But I think we have to be careful how we express it and when. You never want anger to undermine your ability to get the right response and you certainly don't want to regret decisions, actions, or words you make, take, or say in anger.