Saturday, February 23, 2008

Confessions of an Angry Man

By Sung Yul Oh

I've been angry since birth, but now i'm learning to cope with it

Fuck, I am angry. I have been angry since I was torn from the womb and slapped on the ass by the doctor. It feels like I was angry from birth. Maybe, my parents fought a lot when I was cuddling in my mom’s womb. Maybe, my older brother and sister were causing too much aggravation for my mother. Maybe my mom’s body couldn’t handle the stress of me since her body was a little older. I am not sure why I was born angry or why I am still am. I have been trying to walk down the road of time to understand this little part of myself because it affects so many parts of my current life.

My earliest recollection of feeling anger was when I was four years old. I remember my dad, a limited English speaker, would take me on his daily errands. We stopped by this one store and on the counter they had these freebies. I think it was a note pad with a matching magnet and pen set. Well, my dad was finishing up some business and we were about to walk out. While we were heading out, I figured I could grab one of those free note pads and use it for coloring. As we got in the car, I showed my dad my cool new gift. His face turned into a grief stricken monster. He asked me where I got the note pad and that I need to return it as soon as possible. Before I could get a word in, I was forced to march in the store and apologize to the clerk for taking something that was free. I was so angry. Shit, I love my dad, but he just didn’t know. I guess this was probably the first time I realized that my dad wasn’t father God on earth. I just didn’t understand, and what made it harder was that I wasn’t able to communicate in my Sesame Street English that it was free. He had no concept of free.

After this incident and many other little ones while I was growing up, I began internalizing my anger. At the time, this coping mechanism seemed to make the most sense to my na├»ve mind. I distinctly remember when I was in second grade I told myself that I wish I was a robot without any feelings. It figured it would make life a lot easier. Everything was right or wrong, no gray matter. Also, without showing any emotions or reactions, I wouldn’t have to deal with my parents. Since I wasn’t able to effectively communicate with them, I thought this was the perfect solution. It made sense because talking back to my parents was a sin punishable by a fierce whipping. What seemed like a good solution only made me angrier. With no outlet to release and express my pent up emotions, I became a bigger ball of fury.

My fury would send biting outburst upon my friends and family. If their presence or actions annoyed me, I would ignore them, or even better yell at them. I would be short and curt and usually have a huge scowl on my face. I was angry and no one better get in my way. This would often lead to big fight and even more anger until I wasn’t talking with my friends or family. Instead, my relationships were very transactional oriented. For example, my mother would ask me what I wanted for dinner and I would respond by saying food. This was probably the longest conversation we would have all day. I just wasn’t spending enough time on building relationships. I was living on an island with myself.

Luckily, because of some caring friends and family, they made me realize that I need to control my anger. I didn’t enroll in Anger Management 101 or talk psychobabble with a certified loon, but instead decide to work on it on my own. Now instead of a fierce outburst, I listen. I listen to my mind and heart, but more importantly listen to the other person. It isn’t a matter of being right anymore, but more about being liked and understood. As a good friend coined, “Liked not right!” It doesn’t matter if you are right all the time and no one likes you, but instead balance the two.

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