When I was a young woman, I had a volatile temper. Once I was angry, it was out of my hands. My mind would sharpen and just that right cutting response would erupt out of my mouth. I was also a thrower. I craved the sound of shattering glass as if it could soothe me. I was a real bitch when angry.
I used to say that I had inherited my temper from my Dad. “It’s just how I am” was my testimony. I didn’t think it was an excuse. I felt it was a part of me. I thought I was being self-aware by owning the anger. It took some time, but eventually I realized that saying I had a bad temper, as if it were something I had no control over, was lame. I started to think about the anger. I started to notice it. I started to reflect on it.
I realized that I had made a comfy home for the anger. I was even secretly a bit proud of how cutting I could be, how I could cow and control with my words and tones. Until one day, thinking back on my courtship with anger, I suddenly felt a shift. I didn’t want to cut with my anger anymore. I didn’t want to hurt others. I didn’t want to hurt myself.
I started to notice what was under the anger. Once I saw my own fear and sense of vulnerability, of perceived frailty, I felt a strong compassion for myself. I immediately stopped referring to myself as someone with a temper. I changed.
We all change, every day. We know this, we see it when we look back, but we forget that who we are in this moment is fluid, spacious, and ever-changing. The next time you describe yourself as being comfortable with your lesser character traits, such as anger, fear, aggression, arrogance, inflexibility, and so on, try giving the trait some attention. No judgment. Just notice it. Reflect on your emotions when it comes calling. See if you can identify the intention behind the action. Are you using the action to feel superior because you secretly feel inferior? Are you trying to control because trusting is too frightening?
This has been a great help to me over the years. It has helped me to identify parts of myself that no longer served or expressed who I was becoming. It has also helped me to undo the knots that keep me from living from a place of freedom. And it has sometimes surprised me by revealing a strong gift or passion, a fire that had incredible creative and transformative muscle when it was recognized and tended properly. Attending to my anger, I found the strength and courage to face my fearfulness. Anger, turned on its back, became my strength, molding a warrior, fearless and daring in the face of the chaotic, dreadful, juicy, mysterious, fertile void at the edge of who I am becoming.