Born Or Raised Angry
First of all, thanks for the website. It's great to see someone like you offering great advice for free on such an important topic. I have read several of your responses to people's stories and you always ask them to go back into their personal history and write about their frightening, painful or shaming experiences.
I too have anger management issues that I want to work on, not only because I am getting into trouble with the law, but also because I do not want to behave the way that I do and feel that I am constantly letting myself down. It is also affecting my ability to form friendships.
So here is the question, is it possible that some people are simple born angry? I grew up with my brother, who has a very laid back attitude and very rarely gets mad, I on the other hand seem to be constantly getting angry.
When someone does something to me I seem to take it personally and almost need to react because if I don't I find myself constantly going over the situation in my head with a sort of snowballing effect and feel as though I backed down from a confrontation. So if I don't respond I get angrier and angrier, but if I do respond I usually overreact and then later feel bad and wish that I had not responded at all. So it's a no win--don't respond and feel like a coward, or do respond and feel like an arsehole.
I also find that I have a tendency to want to get physical, if someone says something to me and I ignore them and walk away I find myself wishing that I had instead kicked their head in.
It's like any confrontation in my eyes is somehow questioning my masculinity and not responding is cowardice. However, I do not think that my feelings are due to one or more experiences but more upbringing or how I am wired. My father was a big man and tough and would often encourage standing up for yourself.
Sorry for the length, and thanks in advanced for any response.
Response from Dr. DeFoore
Hi Craig, and thanks for telling your story on this website. I think I really get what you're saying. It seems to you that you don't really have painful or shameful background experiences, and so you're wondering if you were just "born angry." Based on the way you describe your situation, I can see why you would wonder that.
In my 37 years of professional experience, I have never seen or talked to anyone that I would consider to be born angry. However, I have found that some people are naturally more prone to angry and volatile reactions than others, and it sounds like that describes you. This just means that you have to work a little harder than other folks to manage your anger, but you can do it.
By the way, there has been some research showing that infants begin learning in the womb. You may have been exposed to some anger from your father or mother at that early stage, which would mean that you were indeed born with some anger already in you. Normally, anger is a secondary emotion, not a primary one. Anger is a response to pain and fear, and doesn't occur as an isolated emotion. However, anger patterns can certainly be learned from parents on a subconscious level, beginning very early in life. It sounds like your father was a strong influence on you, and may have passed a sort of belligerence along to you.
I can tell from the way you express yourself that you're an intelligent person. You can use that intelligence to help with your anger issues. Since the writing about past traumatic experiences does not seem to apply to you, I suggest you do the journaling exercises on this page. That will give you somewhere to "put" your anger, instead of just letting it rattle around in your heart and head, and you will also gain understanding of the causes.
Also, Craig, being human and raised by humans, you probably did have some kind of emotional trauma growing up. If you can think of any, I suggest you do these imagery processes for emotional healing. Pick and choose what works best for you.
Another thing that is going on with you (and anyone with your type of anger pattern) is that you are usually in a state of hyper-vigilance, looking for the next threat or possible threat. The problem is, you will always find one--that's the nature of this world. However, by training yourself to look for good things (and you'll always find them), you will be better able to manage your anger.
You have built an identity around your anger and belligerent manner, but that's not who you really are. That's why you submitted your story on this site. You want better, and in your own words, you often "let yourself down" with your anger reactions.
There is one confrontation that you do not want to back down from...that is the one with yourself. I want you to picture the face of your anger. Then give it a body, posture, etc. It may be human, beast-like or a mix of the two. It would also be good to draw a picture of this image.
Now, (I know this might seem weird, but it works)...I want you to talk to this angry part of you. Here's what I want you to say:
"Thanks for revealing yourself to me. You are a part of me, and you have a place here. You have been in charge for a long time, but that is coming to an end. You can stand by my side, but you don't get to drive the truck any more. I know you have just been trying to protect me, but your methods have caused me a lot of trouble, so I'm going to use some better ways of protecting myself that don't get me in trouble. Thanks for all the years of effort you have put into trying to protect and stand up for me. You can take a break now, but I know you're here if I need you."
Then, every time you start feeling angry, picture that angry part of yourself, and that will make it easier for you to make other (non-aggressive) choices.
I am giving you a lot to work with, Craig, because I think you're ready. If any of this doesn't apply, just disregard it.
I hope this is helpful to you.
My very best,
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