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Anger Management

The black-chinned hummingbirds have returned to southwestern New Mexico. When then sun hits them just right their chins light up with a fluorescent purple that, when caught in the stillness of a high-def photograph, is quite phenomenal.

I wonder if these hummingbirds are quite aware of how they impress others, or if they remain ignorant for the duration of their lives. My left brain suggests they’re ignorant, but my right brain and heart say different.

We are thought thinking. We are the reflections of our thoughts through the lens of ourselves. How we perceive absolutely everything in our environment depends greatly on the clarity of our personal lens.

Was that car on the road, that neighbor, the ill look targeted at me or was I simply a bystander to someone else’s bullshit?

My experience is that one’s trauma brain affects this perception greatly. Trauma kids tend to take too much on themselves and become overly compliant with their environment, enmeshing with it instead of knowing themselves as part of it.

A couple summers ago my dog and I were threatened with pepper spray by an old man on a Lake Michigan beach. The old man approached my dog and I, and instigated a confrontation before I broke it off and moved on. On our way back to our car he went out of his way to try and provoke the dog so that he would have justification to defend himself with pepper spray again. All of this in an empty parking lot, on an empty beach after a storm had rolled through the night before.

My trauma brain wanted to take this on as if I did something wrong. My somatic reaction was to trigger into freeze and then flight, and later to beat myself up for not going straight into flight and leveling the asshole. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

[the hummingbirds are fighting, it is fun to watch. they keep trying to feed from the lanterns on our friend’s porch and end up disappointed until they find one of many feeders that my kid used our precious honey to make simple syrup for them.]

My more rational self can see that this dude is a wounded human, expressing his wounds onto his external reality. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Dicks and assholes. Boomers with guns. Force and threats of violence to enforce the status quo.

I also recognize that I’m drawing these patterns into my life. I get into tangles with my dog on the regular. First the pepper spray, then the fire pit incident where my dog took a shit on the same beach a year later and I didn’t have a bag. A local confronted me and I asked him who was going to clean up the redneck’s trash in the fire pit that my dog had shit next to. My perception being that shit is shit, whether it comes out of a dog’s asshole or the remnants of a party cooler. The man failed to see my point and both my employer and the sheriff were called about a man in his 20’s with an aggressive German Shepard. My dog is a cool 40 pounds, and, outside of pointy ears, no way resembles a shepherd. My kelpie is two years old, so it’s not like these incidents are spread out over a decade or something.

Clearly this dude thought himself the redneck magician mafia, giving him the power to create an alternative universe where observable fact is fiction and he has the power to manipulate reality in self-service to his agenda. Asshole. His wife is too, we had another incident where she was screaming at me out her car window with her husband. I confronted her on that one and told her, in a pleasant way, to get fucked.

The next incident was at Skooliepalooza. My kid and I were doing off leash training in a crowd at this no-rules gathering in the desert. A big ol’ Great Pyrenees that had not interest in my dog walked past before his human followed a couple, few steps back. The owner immediately starts yelling at me, “Get your dog on a leash! My dog’s killed 13 coyotes this winter.” Then, he takes the leash tail and whips my dog. I called him out in the crowd with my innate wordiness and he could have given a fuck less. At least I said something. I wished I had the pepper spray sitting on our bus, but, given the crowd, that wouldn’t have ended very well.

Since the money for therapy or assertiveness training has yet to arrive, I pirated Anger Management and watched it solo. The nice guy. The people pleaser. The one who is the cup to everyone else’s water. The one who never gets what they want because they’re too busy being walked over.

Whatever reality these dog fuckers are projecting or creating, I have my own issues to deal with… if I want to get off this pattern and get these encounters out of my life. What do I need to learn?

So, I watch the movie and I’m just like, “Yeah, that’s me” over and over and over again. The themes all stand out like they’re on fire. Subverting one’s self for others becomes operation normal.

In the movie Adam Sandler is scapegoated over and over again for crimes he did not, or didn’t intentionally commit. He’s a limp bizkit, but he doesn’t know it yet. It takes an anger therapist moving in with him and ‘fucking up’ every aspect of his life before he finally gets mad enough to express his anger.

No amount of meditation, hypnosis, inner child or internal work can make a shift on the inside until one is equally ready to transition that shift from an internal space into the external world as self-expression.

Unfortunately for those of us who were indoctrinated by highly controlling, unpredictable and domineering environments and people as Little Ones, our trauma brains keep us stuck in these bullshit loops and patterns of staying small, eating our anger, and then allowing it to fester into rage and resentment and grudges. Those repressed feelings then cement into a belief system, usually as a child in statements like:

“I can’t win.”
”I can’t do anything right.”
”They’re bigger than me, they’re more powerful.”
”They’ll just hurt me more if I speak up.”

Even if our thinking minds understand that anger is a response to unfairness that needs redress, our Little One’s are so conditioned to these responses that we defer before we even get to the point of considering an appropriate response. Our Little One’s stay small and we go into a somatic fight/flight/freeze/fawn response.

So, once one’s observed these patterns for long enough there are choices. One can fall into the oblivion of self-judgment and ill feeling. One can decide to take the reigns and do something about it. Like in Anger Managment, maybe that looks like being pushed beyond one’s limits and exploding. Maybe that looks like getting better tools, then pairing them with an emotional response instead of reaction.

The darkness can lead to ruminating and the ruminating, in my experience, leads to resistance to change. That’s when things blow up. Yet, if one can learn to diffuse the bomb though self-education or assertiveness training or learning martial arts there is a pathway to healthy, restorative change.

I have yet to find and embrace mine, so the dog fuckers keep finding me. I keep working through these struggles in journeys and meditations and newfound self-compassion, yet I haven’t set any action steps, however small, as metrics of achieved progress. I have no plan. And in the vacuum of a plan there is only more of the same.

Where are those loops in your life, your trauma?
Where do you find them in the story that you keep telling yourself about yourself?
How willing and open are you to a reality shift that can get you the life you want and, likely, desperately need?

How can we as individuals and collective begin to take the power back from the lies of victim consciousness and become what we know ourselves to be in our dreams and fantasies?

What’s that first step, even if that first step sounds like a Dave Buznik hitting on a woman, scared af and nearly stuttering as he spits out, “I’m sorry I was so rude before… but… it’s difficult for me… to… express myself… when I am on the verge of… exploding in my pants.”

about author


A dad, a kid, a kelpie and two cat brothers rubbertramping around the country doing our best to live authentic lives while awakening to our birthright. 

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