I can’t tell you how many times a day I sit there thinking something like this:
If so-and-so would just do “this,” they’d have no more problems.
Maybe you have similar thoughts. My problem is that my thought doesn’t stop there. I will spend hours in this thought cycle thinking about what so-and-so should be doing. I will go over every detail in my mind of all the things so-and-so needs to be doing, should be doing, or could be doing better. As if that weren’t crazy enough, I will obsess over how I would do things if I were that person, and I think how I would do everything better.
Then I start to get angry.
In my mind, I start to complain about why so-and-so isn’t doing all these things that I have thought about. Why aren’t they taking better control of their lives? Why aren’t they doing things more effectively? Why aren’t they doing everything I have thought for them to do?
I let this thought process stir me up into such a frenzy of rage that by the next time I’m around so-and-so, the moment they do the slightest thing wrong – and I do mean the slightest –all of my anger unloads on them. I start to go off about what I think they should be doing with their lives. Realize that all of this comes out in a burst of degrading belittlement that so-and-so DOES NOT even remotely deserve.
After recognizing that I do all of this madness, I’ve started looking at my life and my relationships. Obviously, I have an anger management problem.
When you admit to having this problem, you will most likely do what I did. You start Googling how to get over it. I came across the following term:
I reviewed the definition on several websites. Most sites argue that people prone to repeated outbursts of anger suffer from some form of anger or rage addiction. Many sites also describe the cycle of anger addiction, and I’ve included a graphic below:
From this graphic, the implication is that people let their anger build up instead of talking about it. Eventually it comes to a breaking point, which is when people burst out with moments of yelling and rage. Letting everything out feels good, but that feeling is only temporary. Anger addicts will then supposedly apologize and start to act differently to show remorse for hurting the ones around them. Unfortunately, they haven’t really dealt with the problem, and once again they let all the anger inside of them build up until it bursts out again, and the cycle repeats itself .
When I look at this cycle, to me it doesn’t seem like addiction in the classic sense. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, addiction means “dependent upon; unable to do without; devoted.” For myself, I’m not addicted to being angry. I don’t like how I feel when I’m angry. I don’t enjoy screeching at my loved ones and then watching them turn away. I’m not devoted to anger. In my opinion, I’m addicted to the need to be in control and this addiction is significantly affecting my communication skills and causing me to act out in anger.
The definition of obsession is as follows, “preoccupy; fill the mind continually; a persistent idea or thought dominating a person’s mind.”
Before we can move on with the idea of obsession in relation to anger management, let me tell you about myself. I am a planner. I deal with the problems directly in front of me and I foresee the problems down the road as well. As a writer, I have developed this skill fairly well. Many aspects of my life have contributed to my ability to forecast, predict, and plan future events. The downside to being a planner, at least for me, is that you become hyper dependent upon always having a plan. It gives you control in a world of chaos. As I try to maintain control, I plan out my life, but I can’t have true control if I don’t take into account all the variables.
What are the variables?
Everyone in my life is a variable – I don’t mean to come off cold or calculative, but for a control addict like myself, this is how we see the world. We know our loved ones very well, and we know the choices they will most likely make. In this knowledge, we can plan out how things will happen, what to expect, and what obstacles will most likely occur. Realize that when control addicts do all of this planning that it’s not necessarily overtly methodical or well detailed. Planning is what we do and how we live. We do this all the time, so it becomes almost subconscious. In fact, you may not know you have the addiction until things fall out of your control.
When you review anger management psychology articles, you come across the following phrase repeatedly:
People become angry because their needs are not being met.
My obsession with over-planning and controlling the situation is directly stopping my needs from being met; in many ways, my obsession is a self-sabotaging road to anger town. I have noticed that I let myself get angry when the people I love act in a way that does not go according to the plan I obsessively laid out in my mind. My need to be in control is not being met, which sets off my anger, at least in the cycle of anger as described above.
When I say all of this out loud, I realize the bigger issue here:
My need to be in control of others is not reasonable for myself nor is it fair to the people around me.
Most of the people in my life are fully capable adults able to make their own choices. My need to micromanage others is an obsessive behavior that stems from many other issues.
Which other issues am I talking about? Well, during the past two years, my life has been in a constant state of transition. I’ve gone through a divorce, moved twice, job hunted for over a year, gained and lost several clients, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! All of my normal planning strategies can only work to a point these days, because there are so many variables I cannot affect let alone control within my life right now. It is not surprising that most of my rage problems have manifested during all these transitional moments in my life.
How to Move Forward
Through my research and writing out my thoughts, I can admit to myself and to all of you that my addiction to control and my obsession with controlling others has created an unrealistic lifestyle. Rationally, I know that I’m wasting precious time with obsessing about how others should live their lives. Furthermore, letting the anger build up inside of me is taking all my focus away from more deserving projects. Obsessing about others and getting angry at them shows that the real issue is that I’m upset with my own lack of control.
There are many factors out of my control right now. Adding more problems to my list, I also have MAJOR issues reaching out for help or admitting I have been hurt. All of this has led to less communication and more outbursts of anger.
For me, my anger builds, because I don’t tell people when something upsets me. I’m failing to communicate my actual emotions, since I’m afraid of hurting their feelings or because I don’t want to admit vulnerability. It’s a stupid show of pride, perhaps, or it’s an unreasonable obligation of having to be nice ALL the time. Either way, it’s a habit I have had for probably over a decade. Kicking the habit and facing it every day will prove the greatest challenge.
As I’ve been researching all of this, I’ve tried to talk to those people around me who are doing things that upset me. I have had to be very careful of my tones, because I know I can sound callous or demeaning if I’m not careful. During these recent experiments, for lack of a better word, I’ve expressed why the other person’s actions were upsetting me and why I felt my needs were not being met. In both cases, the other person had no idea about how I was feeling, and for the most part they responded positively and we found an arrangement that was beneficial for both of us. I was also able to let go of the upset feelings (anger seeds) that normally I would just bottle up. It made me feel a little lighter.
It hasn’t all been a productive experience, though. My obsessive thought cycles happen sometimes without me even realizing it for several minutes. I’m trying to catch myself when these cycles happen and redirect my thoughts somewhere else. If I can’t redirect my thoughts and my mind wanders back to the obsessive cycle, I’ve been loudly singing a song in my head. While traveling on public transit today, I was singing and bobbing my head together as a way to try to move myself away from that negative thought cycle. I had to do this repeatedly, and I probably looked ridiculous, but it worked.
My fight with addiction will be a two-front battle. Part of it will involve stopping myself from the obsessive thought cycles, and the other part will be learning how to deal with my need for control. I do not think being a planner is a bad thing, but I know I have taken it to an extreme that is causing major issues in my life. During this past week, I have had several moments where I started down the control freak path. I managed to stop myself with the following thought: “It’s their life. Plan your own moves, and get focused on your work. You have plenty to do without worrying about their crap.” It’s a long mantra – true – but for the moment it is helping me deal with my addiction.