Step number nine in the thirteen steps toward anger management is ‘Accept the inevitability of loneliness as you struggle to be understood.’ (from The Anger Workbook by Les Carter and Frank Minirth).
I didn’t realize how deep anger could run until I started therapy. How many faces anger takes on. From withdrawing my communication with someone to chronic muscle tension. The workbook has helped me help myself.
But step number 9, listed above, is particularly hard for me.
My family of origin was shattered before I entered it. The broken bits were every where. They cut deeply from babyhood on. I don’t like using such a lovely name as ‘family’ when talking about the people who gave me chromosomes. As a result I have always wanted true family. One worthy of the name and all it denotes. Warmth. A place to belong. Lingering hugs even when you stink in the mornings. The opportunity to wear your bedhead look without being called ugly or gross or told ‘why don’t you go put some make up on and do something with yourself.’ More importantly: the opportunity to voice your own opinion without someone calling you the B word, or telling you that you were wrong and here is what you really meant, how you should have said that, and ultimately how you ought to be thinking.
Families listen and hear. Or, is that hear and listen?
If those things aren’t happening, there are genetic links, but there isn’t a true family.
I’ve created my own family in adulthood. A scrappy assortment of unlikely connections. Strays; most of us, people who have parents but are more or less orphaned. Usually they get me in a way that I’ve never been understood prior. Yet, there are days when even they do not understand me. Do not support me. Do not listen and hear me. Try to suggest I really meant something else instead by that comment I just made that they didn’t like. Probably because they too grew up with similar abuse and ‘mind control’ being used on them. Taking control of another’s thought process became a normalized response when we heard something hard; or challenging; or something that might reflect badly back upon us, from someone closely linked to us. I’ve done it, myself, to others close to me. Told them they didn’t really mean that; but this instead. Told them they ‘ought’ to be doing this or that; or thinking this way instead of that way. It’s an ugly cycle. It can be broken, though.
I am leaning toward acceptance of the inevitable loneliness of my life. But it is the loneliness which gets to me most. Loneliness was overwhelming in my childhood. I had pets and the great outdoors to give me a sense of companionship. And God showed up early in my life as a companion too. But, as someone once said to me, ‘Sometimes it would be nice if God had skin.’
And so I go to church and I listen, because church is also supposed to be like family. Church can be another beautiful word denoting connections that are so deep; you can get a hug even when you stink. But, like family, when church goes bad, the very word itself can be hard for some of us to redeem.
Sometimes I get angry in church. I’ve been sexually abused by a member of clergy. I’ve also had my fair share of mind control and spiritual abuse. I don’t do well with the soft lighting and the emotion-swaying music playing during prayer times and altar calls. I chafe at sermons that psychoanalyze the Bible character and then turn and psychoanalyze the congregation. I want to cry out, ‘just tell me about the Bible story. Don’t tell me what to think about it. I can reason and think for myself!’ But I don’t want to look any angrier than I am.
And so it goes back to loneliness; for me. It’s inevitable. Even with family. Even in church.
Especially with family. Especially in church.