Its a scene often played out in public. The stage may be a supermarket, a sporting ground, the schoolyard… the actors are typically a child and an adult whether its a parent, teacher or someone else in authority.
The scene involves the censorship of anger, usually where a child is reacting angrily and the adult is responding with something along the lines of “calm down, don’t be silly, don’t raise your voice at me, stop that or you wont get xyz’.*
I was young when I was taught to censor anger.
I realised early that becoming agitated only resulted in my parents ignoring me, refusing me or yelling back, it never resulted in feeling heard or understood, and it certainly never resulted in getting my way.
The problem however, was that whilst I learnt what not to do, no one ever showed me what to do with anger. Whilst I learnt anger wasn’t a useful social response, I never quite learnt what I do with that big ball of rage and frustration that filled up inside me.
So I dealt with it to the degree that my six year-old self could. I stuffed it down inside. I solemnly stewed, or I would whisper to myself scripts that would later turn out to stick (I hate you, they hate you, no one listens, no one cares). When I got a little older (and really angry) I would punch my thighs, scratch myself or pinch my skin until the pain drowned my frustration.
It was only years later that I learnt I wasn’t the only one using self-harm as a method to soothe (until then I just added my scripts to my growing list of inner critiques “oh my god what have I done’, ‘there’s something wrong with me’, ‘maybe I am crazy’)
It doesn’t take a Psychiatrist to work out that I’d developed some pretty maladaptive ways to manage anger. In fact the relationship I had with anger went something like this:
Yep, let’s just bury this sh*t down and hope it doesn’t come back as some awful zombie-fied version of its former self!
It was, ironically, only when I had something to really feel angry about that I learnt how to cope with anger. And, what a powerful and motivating force it could be! It was only when I experienced an anger so overwhelming that I decided to roll up my sleeves and find a new relationship with anger.