If you have met me, you wouldn’t imagine me to be an angry person. If you took the time, and have known me, you might have found out that I might be a little short-tempered, a little stubborn, but would have never imagined me as an angry person. I turn 25 this year in September and it was only last year that I realized I had anger issues. So I forgive you.
Why do I want to share this, and let you know that I am an angry person? Because anger and aggression have taken the bad rap long enough. I think it is time we re-know this emotion.
Between the ages of 19 – 22, I had issues with alcohol. I knew myself to be a stimulant-seeking person, so to me, it was understandable that I was naturally drawn to drinking. However, I had a problem. Under specific situations, when I go beyond the magic number 5 (number of drinks), I would be an aggressive drunk. The first time it happened, it naturally scared me. The next day. I was afraid of hurting my friends. But I noticed, it only happened when I was with people with bigger and stronger than I am. Subconsciously, it seems I wanted to be stopped. It happened a few more times, but one particular episode made me put my foot down and I knew I had to see a psychologist. In this particular episode, I had blackouts of very specific events. Important times when topics of family and relationships were brought up.
My sessions with the psychologist lasted six rounds. I tested myself and found that I still had the aggression within me. However, it felt less out of control compared to previous episodes. I felt more distant and emotionally void. I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing.
I guess before I go on, I should describe to you, how it feels like in a drunk aggression episode. In my younger days, I lack the resources and support to cope emotionally. I often physically abuse myself to cope with loss, anger, sadness and disappointment. As I grew older, I smoked, then I turned to alcohol. Why I was so drawn to alcohol, was because it gave me an excuse to stop being in control. Why is it that I hurt myself when I’m sober, and turn to hurt others when I’m drunk? In all my episodes, I was usually crying and screaming at people, ‘Do you understand how I feel. You don’t.’ I realized it is because I wanted someone to feel the emotional pain I did. Perhaps wanting to be understood.
The source of my anger is deep-rooted. Multi-factors. I lamented the fact that I had to pretend to be somebody I was not. Low self-esteem. Not being able to make eye contact. Bullied. Suicidal. I craved to be accepted but was rejected for being myself, by my family. I had to smile on the outside when I was crying on the inside. I was denied honesty with my feelings. Hiding, not knowing how to converse with people. Most importantly, I was angry that childhood was hard when it needn’t be that way. I grew up hating myself because the real me is rejected and not accepted. Not in this family at least. I was angry that, as a child, no one ever said, it is okay to be you. Just be yourself. And I love you for who you are. I couldn’t develop relationships, because I couldn’t trust. The people you love the most, are often the same people who hurt you the most. I fear intimacy and commitments. They are never there when you need them. When you are down, they will hurt you with thoughtless words. The worst part? They never knew the consequences of their words and actions, or the lack of it. Control. Keeping people out. Was how I survived the first twenty years of my life.
The last drunk aggression episode I had was three years ago. What changed? One thing, I no longer drank as much as I used to. Because now I have no need for that. What else? My anger has found its outlet, and I no longer need to rely on alcohol to release it. I first realized that it was not an alcohol issue that I had, but rather an anger issue, when I danced, and anger surfaced. I need to add, that I was someone who was uncomfortable with sounds. I grew up having to suppress my emotions, thoughts and words. That verbalizing was a skill I lost. When anger meets me on the dance floor, my voice flooded and I could hear myself within the sound, with all the might, anger, pain and loss. Ever since anger founds its place on the dance floor, I never had a drunk aggression episode since then.
Before you decide to go ahead and judge me, based on what you have read. I want to ask you, have you been angry before? I don’t mean petty anger. Like someone badmouthing you or stomping on your feet and giving you the finger. Have you ever felt overwhelmed by anger, to the point that you are hyperventilating, you can’t breathe? All you can think about is wanting to hurt something, someone because you are hurting so much inside and there is so much energy with nowhere to go? One part of you is angry like a hissing cat waiting to lash out, the other part fearful, that you will hurt the people around you. That you have no choice but to turn that anger on yourself or inanimate objects such as hitting the walls and kicking until your fists bruise and tears are rolling down your cheeks?
Before you decide to say, “But you have a choice not to be angry,” have you identified what is important to you? At my core, lies my identity. I stood before the gates of hell and came back before I started to learn to respect and love myself. Since people around me couldn’t love me, I had to. For months, I had to lift my head up and stared straight ahead, while walking, till it hurt my eyes before I could walk without my head bowed down. I had to re-learn how to laugh out loud. How to talk in front of a group without stage fright. Most importantly, I had to re-learn and rebuild my relationship with my family. To date, that is still a work in progress.
Nothing is more precious to me than who I am. I lost and gave away my autonomy and my identity, for most years of my early life. Being someone I thought would let me be accepted, being someone my family wanted. At the end of it all, I still faced isolation and loneliness. I no longer knew who I was, what I would have said and done in such a situation because I was always too concerned with how I thought people would have wanted me to react. When I reclaimed me, it was a long, arduous, painful journey, and no way in hell am I giving her up. I may be short-tempered, but I hardly ever get angry. I only ever turned into the hulk thrice my whole life, when my sense of identity was threatened.
And once again, before you go off, pitying me. Let me share with you a bit more of my journey. If I had a choice to change any event in my life, would I? Nah. Without all those sleepless and lonely nights, tears and anger, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I wouldn’t know how being helpless, lonely and rejected would have felt like. I wouldn’t have appreciated the courage in hearty laughter, and comfortability in sitting in all sorts of funky positions the way I do or even going up to you, smiling, saying hi and giving you a hug. I don’t think all those would have been possible. If it wasn’t for my past, I wouldn’t have embarked on my journey of self-healing, met so many wonderful people, and found my faith, spirituality and courage.
Lastly, if you have known me, and I, you, I would probably have gushed about my passion for dancing. Where alcohol used to be my outlet, dance is now my salvation. My passion. My religion. My life. If I knew you had a liking for dance, or am at a stuck point in life. I would have shared about 5 Rhythms, the global dancing tribe with you. The rhythms. Flowing. Staccato. Chaos. Lyrical. Stillness. My home rhythm is really flowing and still. Chaos is like a trap that pulls me, where beats dance my feet in a fury. My body, hands and legs shaking like they have been possessed. Chaos is the doorway for my anger to unleash. The few times I danced in chaos, my body often hurts for days after. Energy flows out of me in torrents and torrents. I often do not like it. It hurts. My body hurts. My heart hurts. One time I danced out my anger. The second time, I danced out my anger, it transformed into pain. It hurts so much like someone carved a knife into my chest and dug out a hole, leaving a part of me empty. The third time I danced. Anger. Pain and sorrow. Last but not least. I felt joy. That image still stays in my mind. My arms raised high, in the sunlight that streams from the tall windows in the parish hall. Tears roll down my face, but the corners of my mouth lift in a small smile. I know. Life wasn’t easy, but I was never forgotten. Only I had forgotten myself. I was loved. I was embraced. By all in life. The Source. The creation. It was the first for me, experiencing the transformation. From anger. To pain. And joy. The source of all our pain and sorrows, our fears. Lies deep within. Heal fear. And heal our hearts, bodies and souls.
Why did I have to go through anger, pain and sorrow, before I could meet joy? Aptly said by Tao, how are we to know the light, if there was no dark. How are we to know and appreciate joy and compassion, had we not known its counterparts? Anger is something that makes many people uncomfortable, a part of themselves that people are often ashamed or feel guilty about. But it is a part of us, part of our transformation, our self-healing. We all have it, just in various degrees, cloaked in different histories. Anger is where our transformation and power lies. Face it. Accept it. And start to relearn it, and re-known ourselves.
Lastly, a personal message to all who stayed with me till this point. It matters not that we had made mistakes in the past, it is the willingness to transform past mistakes into learning points, so that we may share this love and wisdom so that others need not have such a tough time going through the same things. Not too much at least. And so. Be proud. Be proud of who you are, where you have come from, and where you are going from this point onwards. Share your light, and spread your joy and laughter.
Peace and love,