an update on the anger experiment

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may remember that about two-and-a-half months ago I wrote about my anger issue. After struggling against my habitual reactive and sometimes explosive anger pattern for quite some time, I decided to see whether I could stop this destructive behaviour in myself. So I embarked on a sixty-six day experiment, sixty-six days being the most widely accepted length of time needed to change a habit. It has been a couple of weeks since I finished the experiment and I am pleased to announce that whilst I am not yet saintly in my calm, my behaviour in response to triggers has improved immensely (just ask my partner!).

The nine week exercise was a gentle affair. I kept a running note of my mood and quietly observed it shift. Noting my moods with minimal judgment allowed me to do the following:

  • Identify the link between my anxiety levels and my outbursts. If my anxiety is choking me, it doesn’t take much to spill over into reactive anger.
  • Reflect on the real cause of my distress. It was rarely what I initially thought it was.
  • Clear away festering stuff that was blocking me emotionally.

I made some interesting breakthroughs in terms of how I see myself, the kind of behaviour I was or wasn’t prepared to tolerate from others (cue quitting my job) and what I really wanted to prioritise in my life. In that time I started taking myself on regular solo bush hikes, I got down and dirty with meditation, fell in love with my oil burner and lavender oil and I decided that I didn’t give a rats a%$e whether I was the “right” kind of employee, student, daughter, lover or friend.

Living up to the expectations of others is a huge burden. In fact, I think successfully meeting the expectations of others can be downright impossible because often others don’t really know what they want from you. If they have their own issues and insecurities, their expectations may shift or be quite irrational. So if we are chasing a moving target, or several moving targets from all the different people we want to please, it doesn’t take long before our own emotional resources are depleted. Then, lump on top of this the expectations we place on ourselves, and the pot really starts to boil over.

The less people I try to please, the happier I become. The happier I become, the more people around me start to relax in my presence. Life starts to flow. And it becomes much easier to identify unwanted weeds and rocks and pull them out, ie. to ditch the commitments (or people!) that are pulling me under.

So there you have it. I thought I had an anger issue. My anger was only a symptom though. A symptom of unease, of anxiety, of exhaustion, of a strong desire to ditch others’ road maps and follow my own compass.

Do you have (or have previously had) any undesirable habits that you think are signs of something that needs attention in your life?