I’m a recovering rage-aholic. My timid and anxious mother gave me whatever I wanted because she was afraid to set limits on me. My withholding and angry father played along by acting like he didn’t know about my verbal and emotional abuse of my mother. No limits coupled with a steady diet of dad’s anger made me a self-hating child. I came out of childhood with a hair trigger rage response to things not going my way and to my own “mistakes.” As an adult, I’ve had to learn how to live with the hand dealt me rather than “bending reality” to get what I want. I’ve also had to learn how to love myself despite being flawed.
Several pivotal points come to mind in my learning to live a more civilized and self-loving existence. I remember causing several embarrassing moments in my family life, including getting all of us ejected from a shopping mall by a security guard. Another incident involved provoking an angry motorist to threaten my whole family in heavy traffic. Both of these outbursts stuck with me as shameful, crazy reminders that something was wrong and needed to be changed. Also, my wife got stronger and stronger in standing up to me and once insisted that we enter family therapy. That therapist quickly labeled me as “arrogant,” and I was eventually able to use that feedback in my growth out of my rageful condition. Eastern philosophy also helped with its emphasis on living in the “now,” and redefining mistakes as “opportunities.” I’m currently much calmer and happier. I regret that most of my transition took place after my children were about grown.
Far from passive, I’m more assertive now with more respect for myself and others.
On a recent train trip (I love traveling by sleeper) to a professional conference, many things went “wrong.” But I accepted the reality dealt me and made some great lemonade out of the lemons in my path. On my unexpected 24 hour layover in Washington, D.C., I had a wonderful time seeing our capitol city in all its glory, thanks to fate and Amtrak.