Thursday, April 7, 2011

White Hot Anger

I don't know how to handle my anger sometimes.  It's both OCD related and not I think.  The OCD part comes in with beliefs like, "I must never show my anger."  "I must, at all times, maintain composure."  "I must act cordial and polite even if I am incredibly furious."  "Letting anger affect your actions and decisions is unacceptable."  "As an adult, you cannot let emotions affect your ability to do your job and do your best."  "You can't show your anger or express your frustration unless completely, 100% certain you are justified in being upset."

These are the kind of should/must type statements that I have known as a common OCD pitfall ever since the day my therapist handed me a list of some of the cognitive distortions often found in OCD.  The perfectionism takes the original anger and fuels it.  It stokes the fire by adding to the initial anger another kind of anger:  anger at myself for not being able to stay completely emotionally detached, anger at myself for giving in and letting my anger get the best of me.  Basically, it's anger at myself for getting angry.

Why am I bringing this up?  Well, I got incredibly angry yesterday.  And in the process, I actually said aloud, to a friend, a small fraction of the things he does or says that piss me off.  Like REALLY piss me off.  I finally just let it out.  I couldn't take it anymore.  Or that's how it felt anyway.  Something he did and a few things he said just finally broke my self-control.  I picked a fight with him.

I don't fight with people.  I just don't.  But I picked a fight with him.  A very loud, angry, no holding back kind of fight.  And yet he still insisted that he had no idea why I was mad at him, which just pissed me off more, because a large part of my anger at him stems from his seeming inability to go out of his way to consider others' feelings, to do things, not because he has to, but because he wants to show that he does consider others and how they might or might not be affected by his actions.  His inability to understand why I was angry was the perfect example of why I was angry in the first place.  I just wanted him to put himself in my shoes from a moment, to at least TRY to see things from my point of view, rather than dismiss my concerns as nonsensical.  I wanted him to show some sense of apology.  I wanted him to meet me halfway.  I agreed that he had a point on some things, but he was too stubborn to even give consideration to my way of looking at things.  He just dismissed me again and again and showed no remorse and made no attempt to apologize for having hurt me, whether or not it made sense to him.

Anyways, I let it affect my choices, my behavior, and that really bugs me.  If I like a sense of control, well, anger and making choices because of anger seem like the exact opposite of self-control.  And that made me even more angry - at myself and at him for having the power to unleash such strong feelings.  I don't really know what the "right" thing to do would have been in this situation.  I will concede (and did) that he had a number of good points.  But he refuses to acknowledge or consider any of my own.  For every reason I gave him for my anger, he proposed a counter reason, a defense.  All I wanted was an, "I see, well, I may not agree, but I acknowledge your argument.  And you might have a point since I know that others may see the world differently and I may not always be right.  I may not be able to put myself in your shoes, but I'm sorry."

But all I got was a dodge, a dodge, and another dodge, followed by, "I still don't understand what we're fighting about."  He didn't understand what we were fighting about because all he was willing to consider was his own side.

I think what gets me more riled up is his seeming lack of self-doubt.  I say "seeming" because I know part of him is deeply lacking in self-confidence.  I hate that, even if any of my arguments do reach him, he certainly won't ever show it.  Besides, I'm not sure he believes any arguments or is willing to believe any arguments other than his own.  So he won't budge, staunchly assured that he is right, leaving me fuming because he keeps questioning why I'm angry and then discounting all the reasons I give him and claiming that he still doesn't know why we're fighting.

The fact is, whether or not he understands it, I am extremely angry with him.  Furious actually, in a way I don't often become.  And the fact that he won't come down from his tower of superiority to stop and think for a moment that he might not always be right, well, that just compounds the anger further.

Anyways, I don't know how to handle anger.  I spend most of my time telling myself that I should not be angry, that I should keep my frustrations to myself.  That I should be able to keep a civil outward facade at all times.  But the anger slowly wears cracks in that facade.  And well, yesterday, it came bursting out.

I feel both dumb and yet also justified.  However, I hate how I am already beginning to feel like I am the one that should apologize, like I am the only one in the wrong.  He seems to in no way think that he could be wrong, and it infuriates me that, even now, I am losing grip on my feeling of being justified in my anger.  I am beginning to believe him.  I am beginning to succumb to his confidence again.  And that just spurs more anger.  More anger, more anger, more anger.  Anger that he provoked me, anger that he can't seem to understand how he provoked me.  Anger that he doesn't seem to doubt his arguments in the slightest.  Anger that in his facade of certainty, my ability to justify my anger seems to melt away. Anger that he doesn't seem to feel he could be wrong in the slightest, and anger at his unwillingness to really consider my thoughts and how I might have been hurt rather instead of just throwing out counterarguments about why I can't be angry with him.  Because the fact is:  I am angry.

Angry.  Angry.  Angry.


  1. I relate!!!! It must have felt so good to "unleash"!!!! My OCD doesn't let me have any negative feelings (see my most recent post) so good for you. Who knows what the "right" thing to do would have been but isn't that just another "should" anyway? I don' know. And I can totally understand your frustration with your friend - that's one of the things that drove me crazy about my ex-boyfriend!!!

  2. I suppose it felt good in the moment. But now I just feel bad. I want everything to be "happy" and "right." I feel like I can't focus if I'm fighting with someone, but I also just need to distance myself from the person for the time being. Maybe I will eventually conclude that perhaps I do owe him an apology, but right now, I just need to keep away. The anger is still too strong, and as much as I wish I could, I probably can't change his behavior or way of seeing things through that anger.

  3. Probably a good thing to get some distance, calm down and get some objectivity - for him too!! I also share that desire for everything to be "happy" and "right" (ie: perfect!). My OCD would be all over this injecting doubt about whether or not I said the wrong thing, whether I will now lose him as a friend etc. This might be good exposure for you?

  4. Anger was extremely hard for me to tolerate. I've really had to practice the idea that anger does not need to be "justified"--it just is. My OCD and perfectionism would jump all over anger, like yours, being angry at myself for being angry, and analyzing if my anger was justified, and that intensified it even more. My therapist said anger won't kill me, which I was highly skeptical of, and of course, made me angry. . .but he said anger is a motivator to change things, that anger often comes out of feeling taken advantage of, and maybe something needs to change. You can't control how the other person reacts to your anger--you are only responsible for yourself. The more I practiced letting the anger be there, the less intense it got.

  5. Expwoman - I like what you said here "the more I practiced letting the anger be there, the less intense it got." I have asked my therapist why I seem to feel my feelings so strongly - especially the negative ones. He said that those who grew up not allowing themselves to feel certain feelings usually tend to experience these feelings more strongly, and that the more I can practice just letting myself have the feelings without compulsing about them (analyzing, checking etc) - the quicker they will settle down. It is VERY HARD for me to allow myself to have certain negative feelings without compulsing to make them go away.

  6. I just came upon your blog after googling "I am pissed". I recently was diagnosed with OCD. I am still obsessing that maybe I don't have OCD which is proof enough that I obviously do. One issue I brought up with my therapist was how my husband and I argue all the time. I am usually the instigator, but I often feel as though my husband said something to provoke me. Like you, I just want him to acknowledge that he shouldn't have spoken to me in a certain way or just freaking accept some responsibility for a part of our argument. He usually doesn't. He usually blames me and says I'm ruining another night etc. I grew up with parents who fought frequently, threatened to divorce each other, asked me who I wanted to live with when they got a divorce (mom or dad). I was always stressed out growing up, usually depressed, wanting attention, I didn't do that great in school (mostly Bs and some C's) and my parents would usually be angry with me over it. The more I think about my childhood, the more I understand the way I am today. But this doesn't change the fact that I am slowly turning into my parents and behaving in ways just like they did. I have threatened my husband with divorce so many times it would be hard to count. Sometimes I say such nasty things to him that he cries. Usually the next day I will feel remorseful and hate myself for treating him that way, but I cannot stop. It's like I don't know how. Now our kids are getting older and one of them is very in tune to our fighting already. What should I do? How does OCD play into these intense feelings of anger. Like I don't care what I say, just as long as it hurts him. I just want to stop and be even-keeled and set a good example for my kids. But sometimes I am so overwhelmed with the anger that I don't know what to do. I'm sorry for typing all this. I have never really posted on a blog like this before. But I felt like I could relate. Thank you. And help!

    1. Hi Anonymous! I just found your comment when googling for OCD anger. I just had my depression reclassified as OCD, and I'm starting to see it's the anger that is my problem. I'm very familiar with everything you've said, except that I don't have an angry upbringing to relate it to. I'd love to hear if you've made any progress or would just like to relate your experiences to someone else.



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