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Angry Since I Can Remember

by Mary
(Orlando, FL, USA)

I read Craig's message regarding the possibility of being born angry and you suggested that he was probably not. However, I feel as though it must be possible, since there is no time in my life during which I have not been angry.

At the age of five, I believed that it was horrible to inflict life upon a person--I could not imagine a worse fate than to be a baby, because one would then have that much longer to live. I am now thirty and so angry I cannot see straight most of the time. One life event at the age of twenty-eight did aggravate my anger and led to serious alcohol abuse (my fiance was falsely accused of a crime while I had witnessed his innocence during the event), but I have always found humanity despicable.

My parents did not abuse me one bit yet I despise them with every ounce of my being because they created me. I despise the drivers next to me on the highway. I despise the cashiers in the grocery store. I despise every mother and father in the world because they have created life, and I can't imagine any worse act one could commit.

The only possible alternate explanation I can find is that I have had an intensely logical mind which rejects theism since I was a small child, and I was raised by intensely religious parents in an intensely religious nation (the US). I have always felt alienated as a non theist and angry to be a shunned minority. I do find great prejudice against non theists in my society.

Can you please further address the concept of anger as a hereditary or congenital predisposition?

Response from Dr. DeFoore

Hello Mary, and thanks for telling your story here. I must say that I was fascinated by your story. It is well thought out and well written, and I can tell you're a serious person who has developed her mind well during your 30 years.

In response to your request, I cannot speak with any authority about "the concept of anger as a hereditary or congenital predisposition." I am not a geneticist, and to my knowledge there has been no thorough research in this particular area.

I will, however, make some statements that arise from my 38 years of professional experience and 62 years of living.

1. Some people do seem to have a much higher level of excitability, passion and irritability than others.

2. Emotion is ultimately an electrical patterning in the nervous system, and it is easy to see how there could be genetic predispositions there.

3. I read a comment by a geneticist that went something like, "We can no more predict how a human being will develop from genetics than we can predict what a rain forest will look like in 10 years." The suggestion being that we are highly complex, and there are many different intervening variables determining how we develop and what we develop.

4. There is some evidence that learning begins in the womb, and you may have begun developing your anger pattern there. you are, with all of this anger. You must not like it very much, or I assume you would not have told your story on this site--you mentioned you are "so angry you cannot see straight most of the time." That can't be fun.

As for the reasons you are angry--you are exactly right. Life is hard, cruel, unfair and being born seems to be the cause of the suffering, since life itself is full of it. No one who is paying attention could really argue with you. The reason people turn to religion is that they can't stand the despair, fury and loneliness of such a negative view of the world. From that perspective, we might say that you have more courage than religious people, since you're willing to face the stark horror of the world you see, with no idea of redemption or salvation.

I encourage you to be sure that you're not choosing your non theistic viewpoints as a rebellion against your parents excessive religiosity. It is absolutely essential that you be in charge of your choices and beliefs, and as long as you're in a reaction pattern to their beliefs, you are as much a victim as you would be if you became just like them.

Here is an exercise for letting go of your parents, if that is of interest to you:

1) Write down all of the ways in which you are like your mom and your dad. Look at that list and ask yourself if there's any of those qualities or behaviors you want to keep. In other words, choose what you like from the list.

2) Then write down all of the ways you are different from your mom and dad. These are the things that make you unique as an individual. Look at this list, and choose what you like from it.

3) Make a third list, that includes only those things you like from the above two lists. This gives you an idea of who you really are, and who you are becoming.

4) Next, picture both of your parents in front of you. Thank them both for all of the good things they've done for you, leaving nothing out. Then tell them both about the things you didn't like. Get it all out, and write it down--but picture their faces while you're writing. Now tell them, "I'm not your child any more. I'm a grown woman, and I take total responsibility for myself. It is time for me to take charge of my life and make my own decisions, without your influence." Then, when you feel a sigh of relief in your body, say "Goodbye" to them and let their images fade.

I do not suggest you say these things directly to your parents, unless that absolutely feels like the right thing to do. This is just for you.

Another thought or two, Mary...about your anger. It has become a friend to you, part of your identity. You probably can't imagine who you would be without it--and if you could imagine yourself without it, you probably wouldn't like that person very much.

So let's look at the possibility of healthy anger. Healthy anger is simply strong emotional energy that gets channeled into effective action. Do you ever use your anger in what you would consider to be effective ways? Most likely, the answer is yes.

Here's a perspective for you, if you're interested. Your current unhealthy anger that condemns the world and everyone in it has something to say to you. It would go something like this: "You're stuck in a horrible place, and there's nothing you can do about it. You will be angry and miserable the rest of your life. You're a victim to your parents giving birth to you, and you're doomed to suffer a whole lifetime of misery because of it."

For what it's worth, Mary, I don't buy it. My belief is that once we're adults, we're no longer victims, and we get to choose what we focus on, what we do and therefore to a large extent how we feel.

I think you're too smart to buy the idea that you're a helpless victim of a miserable world. You might want to consider looking at some other viewpoints.

I choose to focus on the good in myself and the world around me, simply because it works better for me. I choose to focus on the good in you, also--and whether you can see it or not, there is a lot of good in you. When I focus on the good, I have more energy, feel better, have a better time and get more done. Selfishly, I want to enjoy my life and contribute to the world around me. I don't ignore the bad stuff, I just don't dwell on it. I dwell on what is working more than what is broken.

The journaling processes on this page are designed to help people make the shift from a negative to a positive focus, if you're interested.

Thank you for writing your thoughts here, Mary. I've enjoyed responding to them.

I wish you all the best in being exactly who you are.

Dr. DeFoore

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