Angry All the Time

It was only a few years ago when I found out that the therapist I was seeing in high school was for anger management. I don’t recall what exactly I thought the reason was then, but if I had to guess today I’d say it was because I was sad. Most likely, I was both, sad and angry.

There are only two things I remember about those sessions. He offered me a glass of water when I walked into his office for the first time. During that first session, he pointed out to me that I was apologetic when accepting his offer. The second thing is that he said I would grow into my own around the age of 27 or 28. That would’ve been ten years away then and ten years ago now.

I know that I have a bit of a temper. I don’t like feeling cheated or wronged. I get very worked up when people disobey the rules of the road, especially when they are taking advantage of me. The other day, I pushed someone along through their backpack at the grocery store because he cut me off for the second time. I have a bad habit of hitting the car window on vehicles that cut me off when I’m walking across the street. Pedestrians who choose to play chicken with me when we’re walking toward each other on a sidewalk boil my blood.

I don’t only get worked up when commuting. I’m still not over my experience at BestBuy a few years ago. The long and the short of it is that I was told to shop elsewhere, within the context of me being a person of colour who wanted to return a product that didn’t match the description on the BestBuy website. I once had a few choice words for the manager of a restaurant that charged something like $16 for a short skewer of kebab and nothing else. The picture they posted online was deceptive. When dealing with the rental office at the last building I lived in, I had to steel myself up before going in by pulling back two cigarettes. Just the other day, I used the word “ludicrous” to describe the injustice of displaying a misleading price tag for a box of 18 cans of Coke. I was told that I wasn’t the first person to bring this up and couldn’t help but wonder why nobody chose to correct it then.

I’ve been trying to work on myself to improve my responses to these types of situations. Unfortunately, I don’t have the wherewithal to respond appropriately until after the situation has passed. Even when I appear calm, the effort required for me to restrain myself makes my brain murky.

Lately, I’ve noticed that my fuse is much shorter than it used to be. I’m usually worked up about something even before anything has happened that day. There’s this stagnant ember keeping my limbic system warm.

Just over a year ago, I drastically reduced my drinking. About four months ago, I quit smoking completely (including vaping). I thought that these changes would eventually calm me down because my body wouldn’t be chasing a fix. What I’ve found is that I’m a little more on edge, or at least I feel like I am. I don’t let things wash over as much anymore. Instead, I’m more inclined to say or do something. I’d rather not go out because there are likely to be people there.

Maybe some of this is just a readjustment to post-lockdown life. All of the love we claimed to have for each other a couple of years ago has turned into animosity. Compassion has become competition. Getting ahead is now more important than getting along.

The one thing that seems to echo is how we are only in control of ourselves and our responses to situations. This is not untrue but it’s also not very helpful. It often feels as though people are actively putting me in a position that requires me to compromise my objectives in order for them to achieve theirs. Sure, I can respond calmly and readjust my goals but at what point do my concerns supersede those of others? Am I meant to work within the arbitrary and transient space left for me by people who are equally as capricious to me? If the measure of my value is only determined by the standards I set for myself — my self-esteem and self-worth — how are we ever to build and maintain a community?

In my work, I often find that people want their self-perception or self-worth to be reflected in their assessment. That is, external standards are not considered to be a fair measure because they don’t align with how one sees oneself. Instead, it’s most appropriate to ensure that one’s personal standards establish the criteria.

This appears to be the crisis of the privileged and entitled. The plague of anxiety is likely an outcome of this. When I run up against these types of situations, I find myself battling between a person’s well-being and an honest assessment against a standard I’ve set as a professional in the field. Compromises must be made.

I think what angers me is that I recognise what I’m able to do and when I’ve done wrong. Sometimes I respond by making apologies and other times I retreat in shame. I’m never able to apologise to myself, however, because I should always have done better because I knew better. I also don’t want other people to get me water because I could’ve gotten it for myself and will feel indebted. I suppose, these are the standards I’ve set for myself and have set for others.


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