Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I'm 47, and I am still learning new things about myself, some good, some bad, some just useful.
Very few people know that I have a truly terrible temper. It has been a decades-long struggle to learn to control it. I have never struck another person (except that one time in college when a guy tried to pull me down into his lap and I was having none of it) but I have in the past thrown a few inanimate objects across the room, aimed at other inanimate objects.
Yesterday my temper went off again, and I sent an email (actually 2 emails) that would have been better unsent, or at least sent after my temper cooled. It doesn't take long for my temper to cool, usually only a few minutes, but especially in this age of instant communications, without my usual level of control, the damage is done.
I try to take my 'temper temperature' fairly often. If something is bothering me, it is WAY better to think about it and express it in a non-violent productive way rather than hold it in until it is too big for my control. I have gotten pretty good at it over the years, but somehow I was at flash point before I realized it, and took action without forethought. I was able to call today and leave a message of personal apology to the person I wronged, and I hope she can forgive me.

Anyway, I always feel horrible after losing my temper. There is the guilt, of course, but in the past 10 years I also often have an anxiety attack afterward. Not a mild one either, one of the full-blown PTSD variety, hands shaking, chest pains, rank sweat etc.
Yesterday I finally made the connection as to why.
A little background; my first marriage was not a good one. My husband was an alcoholic who became extremely abusive when drunk. He also had untreated mental problems. Back then, when I lost my temper with him there were immediate and severe consequences. It is understandable then that after I lose my temper now, my body goes into PTSD mode.
I had a lot of trouble expressing anything negative after leaving Marc, and it felt almost triumphant the first time I was able to feel angry with Oscar over something minor and express it to him. (Poor Oscar, but he understood when I explained).
I never understood the panic attacks afterward, though. Even getting angry over some injustice in the news leaves me feeling sick to my stomach and shaky afterward.
In retrospect, it seems pretty obvious that the loss of my temper throws my body into a state of expecting violence to be done to me even though my circumstances are so much happier now.
It has taken me more than 10 years to finally understand the obvious connection to my previous situation. I am glad to know it, perhaps it is a sign of further healing.

Anyway, this has been the deep thought of the month, I'd say.


AlisonH said...

I'm so sorry you had to go through that, both yesterday and long ago--and so very glad you got out of that first marriage.

Anonymous said...

you are a strong woman -- and wise too. hang in there!

Leslie said...

Wow, I am struck by your words. No pun intended, I just learned something about you and myself, yet another thing we have in common.

LynnM said...

I don't have time to write now, but I share your temper trait. Sometimes people (who only see me at my best) tell me I'm so relaxed--HAHAHAHA. I think I help explosive people accept themselves because I know what it's like to feel like that. I was going to start sharing here in the comments (TMI) but basically I do believe some people are wired to be more placid than others--and I ain't one of those, but that doesn't make outbursty people bad, just different. Tell you this--I can handle loud, overt aggression in others SO much better than passive aggression. One is honest and sometimes a bit out of control; the other is manipulative. You can guess who my friends are!

Karen said...

I'm so sorry you had to go through that first marriage. Please be kind to your self--always, always. You're a good person.

Kym said...

I think that's more like a deep thought of a lifetime! Personal epiphanies like yours don't happen all that often -- but when they do. . . Wow! There'll be no stopping you now!