Saturday, July 7, 2012

Humanity (24)

Journal entry
July 11, 2011

“I really could go for a fight today.  I am feeling really agressive and I need to find a way to vent my anger. . .” The first sentence said it all.  I was in for a fight--not with any one person, but with myself.

I had been working so very hard the last several months to calm my incredible rage, and the only way to release that overwhelming emotion turned into a need for screaming, yelling, and fighting with anyone who would take the bait and my verbal abuse. I needed to find a more healthy way to release the confusing feelings that were stored up inside like a soda can that had been shaken up and the frothy potential energy stored up inside just waiting for the slightest weakening in the seal to explode, gushing cola in all directions.

On this day, as I worked to be the man I wanted to be and not the man I saw in the mirror,  I actively chose to recognize that my emotions are valid.  Rather than gritting my teeth and pushing them down into a chasm of denial and suppression, like you would press the teeth down into an old bear trap, poised, just waiting to spring, slamming shut and trapping its victim in a deathly bone-crushing hold, I knew I had to release the coiled spring and somehow not inadvertently hurt someone.

I couldn’t do that--keep spreading pain.  I needed to move forward to become a more whole human and not the old broken animal that I was before the "Core Issue" came to light. As I wrote in my journal that Monday morning I began to reflect on some of the advice I had heard over and over in group therapy and in my individual counseling sessions:

“It is OK to be angry,” one person said to me.

“What AFB did to you was not right. You did not ask for it.  Your anger is justified.”

I closed my book and silently pondered that epiphany until my coffee was all gone and it was time to load the kids into the car and go to the gym for my morning workout routine.

As I drove to the nearby storefront 24 hour Fitness, my children were happily babbling in the backseat. All I could think about was how incredibly angry I was. Yet, somehow, instead of the old way of doing things I wanted to try something new.   I chose to allow myself to feel my emotions. All of my life I had told myself and others that “emotions are evil, and should be suppressed.”  Instead I gave myself permission to feel the anger. I was allowing it to be there.  I began to discover that my anger wasn’t as frightening or as violent as I had feared. I was angry and it was ok. I was ok. My children were ok. Almost as if my anger was being tempered with love and the desire to heal rather than blindly wounding by lashing out, my anger was being transformed.  It was no longer a weapon or a wound.  It was just an emotion.

This strange and opposite realization has given me such a priceless gift--the gift of my own humanity. Even now I sometimes strive against it.  My comfort zone has always been deny, deny, deny. Emotions are not to be shown let alone experienced. Each day that passes and experience those "evil emotions" I become more and more human.

The next day I woke up with my body vibrating with rage, betrayal, and confusion. I had a dream in the early morning hours that I could not accept. It was going to be another grueling day of war against the wounded, broken animal with teeth showing and a deep guttural growl and the emerging human that I desperately longed to be. That day, I took a cue from the 12 step programs many of my fellow group members are a part of and repeated to myself over and over. . .

“My name is Joel, and I am ANGRY!”

“My name is Joel, and I am ANGRY!”

“My name is Joel, and I am ANGRY!”

Each time I said that I felt slightly less angry. Each time I did that I felt slightly less out of control.

“My name is Joel, and I am ANGRY!”

“My name is Joel, and I am ANGRY!”

“My name is Joel, and I am ANGRY!”

Each time I said those words to myself or out loud as I focused on my household duties the compulsion to scream and yell or take my anger out in an unhealthy manner decreased in measurable increments. As I allowed myself to feel my anger I was able to discover a level of once lost humanity inside the emotion.

For the next month everyday was a struggle to keep the animal within from showing his raging venom filled fangs. Each day I would repeat the mantra, “My name is Joel and I am angry.” Some days I was more successful than others and I would have to remind myself that I am re-training myself from an old habit and that it is ok to have a bad day. Over time there was progression and slowly the good days began to outnumber the bad days.

I knew I was changing when my children began to notice.  I was becoming, “New Daddy.”  Often times my daughter would crawl onto my lap and wrap her arms around my neck and gently coo, “I like new daddy!”  I asked her what “new daddy” meant to her and she said, “You don’t yell as much and you don’t get mad all the time.  You like to play with me.”  I held back tears as I realized how much I had separated myself from my children through my uncontrolled wall of pain and anger.  Even my son was becoming more affectionate toward me.  He wanted to spend time with me. The more time we spent together he cried less and less. Our new morning ritual was to snuggle and watch cartoons in the morning.  When I would have a bad day, my kids slammed me back to reality by just saying, “Uh oh, it’s old daddy.”

July came and went.  August was going to be a difficult month. My sister and her family were coming out from another state to visit some friends and family. I needed to tell them of the struggles I was experiencing over the past year and attempt to regain a forgotten friendship that had not been there since I moved away.


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