… it completely hijacks my brain. I feel like I have very little control over the automatic programs that start running through my body.
First of all, yes, I realise this is the second post I’ve written about anger in a week’s time. It should give you a clue about my struggles with it. They are real and they are numerous.
Secondly, I react very differently towards anger in my children, than I do towards anger in other people. I find anger in my children much easier to deal with.
I’m very sensitive to how people respond to me, what they think, and, more importantly, how they feel about me, and I seem to have a hard time letting that go. My immediate response is always to ‘try and fix it’ when someone’s not digging me 100%.
That’s not always a bad response. I’ve made actual mistakes, big mistakes, that I needed to apologize for. And I’ve done so, many times, with all my heart. I’ve made mistakes in the past that I needed to make amends for, and I’ve done everything within my power to do so.
But, there are times when people feel anger towards me, say that I’ve wronged them, and I don’t actually think or feel like I’ve done anything wrong.
I can usually tell by my total surprise at their anger. I have no idea where it’s come from. Often it’s based on a misunderstanding, or expectations the other person had, or it’s something that is totally unrelated to me as a person. I just happen to trigger some deeper trauma. I’ve had people trigger my trauma’s too, I know how it feels.
It’s tempting for me to take up all the blame. It’s my go-to response. Oh no, they’re angry, I must be a horrible person. But it’s in that moment that I put myself in the corner (and no one puts Baby in the corner!) All kidding aside, putting myself on the back burner in order to cool someone else’s furnace is not fair and it doesn’t match with my values. So what do I do?
More recently I’m slowly learning to look inside, first. Have I broken any of my own values, such as honesty, authenticity, fairness or compassion? If not, perhaps I don’t need to take this one onto myself completely. I can express myself openly and honestly, and leave the other person’s feelings where they belong: With the other person.
I also try to practice compassion. Where is their anger coming from? Do they feel hurt in some way? Can I be there for the other person AND be there for myself at the same time?
And I try to practice self-compassion. What’s so hard for me here? Why does it worry me when people so much as walk by without smiling at me? What’s this innate fear of being disliked really all about?
This video below has some useful tips on the topic too, even if the style is not quite what I usually go for…
Any tips you may have to let go of taking up responsibility for someone else’s feelings are very welcome in the comments! Books, talks, ideas… I’m grateful for anything that may help. It’s always a struggle to unlearn things we learned as children.