Tantrums and Time Out—For Adults!

So, the last few weeks have been interesting, to say the least. Between trying to get off my butt and finally get into school, going on vacation, and trying to keep my head above the waters of debt, I’ve been pretty busy. (Also, I’ve been up to my neck obsessed with a certain anime, but we won’t talk about that. We prefer to forget that.)

Then came the inevitable meeting with my counselor. Most shoved under the magnifying glass this week was my temper. See, I’ve caused a few problems with my roommates. I can be quite nasty. Even when I’m not trying to be, it just spills over. They’re scared of me, at those times.

Of course, I’d never hurt them. I would never come after them with a pair of scissors, for instance. No, I learned long ago not to physically take my anger out on others. I just get shouty and throw things and storm off. That’s good control, right?

Ha.

Controlling my temper is a problem. I’m the first one to admit it. If I were in Pixar’s Inside Out, my primary emotion would be anger. Whenever I’m sad or afraid or feeling some other negative emotion, anger, like a knight in shining hatred, takes the helm. It’s been my defense mechanism for so long that I don’t know how to deal without it. What do you do? Let it out, no matter how safe you think your outlet might be, and you scare people. Turn it inwards, and you’ll only end up hurting yourself. It’s an unending dilemma.

Along with that comes the problem of fear. Using fear against others is one of my greatest weapons, only encouraged by five years working at a haunted house. It’s an addictive thing. Because, when people are scared of you, when you see their eyes widen and they back away, you no longer feel afraid. You are the one with the power, and suddenly every insult they’ve ever thrown at you, every time they’ve laughed, doesn’t matter anymore. There’s only the power, and who has it.

This, and more, I discussed with my counselor. Who brought up a few interesting points.

First, I need to think about what I want out of relationships with those I’m closest to. Do I want them to fear me? Do I want to lord that power over them? Well, if so, I’ll just be repeating the abusive cycle. This is why so many abuse victims turn into abusers, themselves. They can’t let go of those coping mechanisms that don’t apply outside of where they were abused. For instance, my mother backed off when I got angry. That’s how I was taught to make her stop. But now, living about two hundred miles away from her with my three roommates, I don’t need to respond that way anymore. Trying to unlearn the message you inhaled from childhood isn’t easy.

Second, my counselor explained the concept of time out. When children do something, good parents send them into time out. Why, he asked me. I answered, because the parents need a break. And then I realized—the purpose of this was to give the parents a chance to diffuse their own tempers. To keep them from doing something they’d regret.

So, that’s my other new project. To take time out, and think about my goals. How I want my relationships with the people in question, like my roommates, to go. I can choose to make them fear me—to make them back off. I can also choose to chill, open up, and explain the problem to them, and attempt to make things better via communication.

Well, it’s a daunting task. Actually talking to people about feelings in the past has ended in bad news for me. But my roommates are not my parents. They are not my sister, even though she’s gotten so much better. They’re good people, and I need to give them a chance.