Wake Up Call
(Key West FL)
When I was a young woman, I used to joke with friends and family about my having an “Italian” temper, which I said was caused by my ethnic background. Anger came slowly to me and built up like a volcanic eruption on Mount Vesuvius. When it was time to explode, nothing could stop the explosion! At that stage of my life my anger was usually directed toward myself or to small, unimportant things that did not affect my relationships with others or create danger for myself. For instance, if I forgot to pack a favorite piece of clothing on vacation or if the grocery store was out of a certain brand of food item that I liked.
I remember as a child seeing my grandfather, an artisan who created fine inlaid wooden furniture, angrily rip his shirt off when an intricate inlay piece broke or did not meet his expectations. My temper was inherited for sure!
My turning point came one afternoon I was standing in the checkout line at the supermarket. There was a great big man standing behind me who was obviously in a huge hurry. He was huffing and puffing in annoyance at the wait and kept inching his cart nearer to me as if to hurry the line along. At first I tried to ignore his antics but then he actually nudged me with the cart. I am partially disabled and wear a brace on my leg that makes my balance a bit off sometimes when I am standing still. I grabbed onto the handle of my cart to steady myself, turned to the impatient man, expecting an apology, but got a dirty look and a sigh of impatience instead. I was next in line so I began checking out and ignored him.
When I went to my car, I was standing behind the open trunk putting the groceries away. Suddenly a huge pickup truck came barreling along. It was the angry man. He actually swerved toward me as he sped past. That did it. Mount Vesuvius erupted and I hopped into my car as quickly as I could and began chasing him through the supermarket’s parking lot. He knew I had given chase and he began weaving around the parking lot and then out onto the highway, tires screeching, as I followed close behind. He accelerated into another parking lot and was now obviously trying to elude the mad woman who was on his tail. I have no idea what little old me would have done had I actually caught up with him but I was trying to.
Out of the blue, something made me put an end to the chase. I abruptly slowed down and let the mad man and his truck disappear in the distance. I pulled into a parking space, my heart pounding, and turned off the ignition. I immediately took several deep breaths, appalled at what I had been doing. I could have hit someone or I could have been hit by the man’s truck if he had chosen to turn around and confront me.
Whatever caused me to call off the insanity, I am very thankful for it. The image of that car chase comes into mind whenever I feel an eruption. It seems to be the anger management I needed. My advice to myself and to anyone else who needs to control their anger in a situation is this: take a very deep breath and then another one. Then wait ten minutes and you will probably not be as full of rage as you were ten minutes before. The situation may not seem so important and your anger will probably have dissipated. If it has not, then a rational solution as to what angered you in the first place may be easier to come by.
So, remember, take a deep breath and wait ten minutes.
Response from Dr. DeFoore
Great story, Virginia! Good for you for having the good sense to take such an honest look at yourself, and offer help to others with this contribution. I'm sure a lot of people will benefit.