Friday, August 20, 2010

Anger Management Part 2

When a friend has the balls to tell you that you are acting like an asshole... recognize how much they must care about you to say so. It takes an enormous amount of emotional energy to confront a friend. It also takes patience. They can anticipate that however delicately delivered their message might be, it is likely to be initially rejected. It natural to dismiss pointed statements as hyper-judgmental and coming from a perspective of superiority. A common response is to instantly criticize the source and search for evidence of hypocrisy. But doing so only subverts the true purpose and meaning of the act... which is: That they care enough to enter into a painstaking process in the hope that, after your initial resistance fades, you will hear their message. In essence, they are showing they believe you have the maturity and intelligence to accept and consider their feedback. They like you enough to sacrifice their time and energy towards helping you make a positive change. I think its commonly referred to as "tough love".

It's not an easy thing to swallow your pride when someone openly calls your behavior into question. But if the motivation is sincere, that sort of communication should be welcomed. This is something it took me a very long time to learn. Yes... opening yourself up to criticism can be a double edged sword. You may receive some undeserved blame that you would not otherwise... but I still think the overall benefit outweighs the sacrifice. You have to take to bad with the good. A second benefit of this whole process is recognizing your true friends.

My last entry was not an excuse to remove myself from blame. It was not a long winded way of saying "It's my parents fault that I sometimes act this way..." or "I was just unlucky in my surroundings and genetic pre-disposition. That's why I can be jerk at times." In the end we all have a choices. And while our choices may be heavily influenced by the aforementioned factors... they are still ours to make. But through recognizing the reasons why we have developed certain reflexes, and how we have been conditioned to respond in certain situations... it helps us to identify the triggers, and to take preventative action... with the end result being a shift in reaction. This is the basis for behavior modification.

There is a whole series of books "Don't sweat the small stuff (and its all small stuff)". This has commonly been my problem. By the Freudian definition , I can easily be classified as anal-retentive for the classical reasons outlined in the definition. When little things go wrong I have reacted poorly. Conversely, I am at my best in catastrophic situations. Traffic on the freeway making me late for a meeting = freakout. Arrested for DUI = calm and accepting. Lost my phone = Defcon 1. Lost a relative = calm and accepting. The washer machine breaking and leaking water onto the carpet = Nuclear meltdown. Outbreak of war = calm and accepting.

Suffice to say, this strange outlook has cost me. I've lost friends, significant others, and professional relationships... mostly because the energy required to manage the relationship was too much. I exhausted people. In the very same way that my mother imposed a general anxiety even when not present... the very possibility that I might fly off the handle at any moment puts people on edge... even if that moment never comes.

So, having recognized this shortcoming, with the very much appreciated help of people around me (you know who you are)I have implemented the use of tools. This blog is one such tool. It's the chronicles of efforts towards become a better person. Others are more simple. Sometimes I wear a rubber band around my wrist and snap it whenever I feel myself "heating up"... a simple Pavlovian conditioning method. Conscious breathing and meditation also work for me. My ADHD medication also helps keep me focused. There are others, but they all serve the same purpose... to a achieve balance.

It's working. :)

No comments: