Fear of Other People’s Anger

Codependency and Fear of Conflict

Fear of Anger

Conception and © EatingLove.org/
Illustrated by Eugene Korolev

… is basically the

Fear of Anger Itself

—-
Whether it be other people’s or yours. It doesn’t matter where it comes from.

The anxiety around it leads us to believe that if we get angry or if someone else gets angry then:

Violence may ensue (threat)

– Some catastrophic consequence will result. People will take hostile actions toward us that will shake and destabilize our world (sue us, fire us, make trouble etc.,) leading to overwhelming stress which will affect our ability to cope.

– People will hate us (the world will pull away) and we will be ostracized or shunned for life. In other words, lonely and abandoned.

All horrible outcomes, which is why we shut our own anger down. Anger or confrontation is too risky.

If the Boy could Talk he’d say…

The world is mad. Everyone just throws around their anger like it’s no big deal, threatening to get angry if they don’t get their way, like little children. Risking a big fight that could lead to who knows what.

“And I have to always try to be the peacemaker. I have to yield, to shut down and do what the other person wants so that we don’t start anything. Why do I, and people like me, always have to be the guardians of the peace?

“Making sure everything goes smoothly and nobody gets mad. Always trying to avoid a catastrophe, or at the very least a friendship that could be forever ruined simply because the other person is unreasonable.

“They want to be my friend, neighbor or acquaintance only if I do whatever they want. If they get their way. The moment there is a disagreement they are willing to get mad, call everything off, be unreasonable and hate me forever.

“And it seems they can hold that anger inside forever too. Every time they see me they are angry and it never seems to dissipate. They don’t want to talk or work things through. It’s their way or nothing.

Angry Father Fear as a Child

Angry Father and Connection

Connection

“Don’t they want friendship too? Authentic friendship and companionship where people can express themselves, work issues out and try to respect and understand the other? I guess not. But won’t they be lonely living like they are? I don’t understand them.

“That’s my worry. That I can’t be me. If so I’ll have to assert myself and stand up for myself and the relationship will be over. It means I’m trapped hiding who I am. Which means I’ll be forever lonely. I don’t think I can stand it. Why don’t they care about that?

“I also feel resentment towards them too. I hold it inside, deep. I rarely am aware of it never mind let myself feel it. But it’s there. It comes out as stomach pains, reflux, migraines, jaw pain, trouble sleeping and body tension to name a few ways.

“I hate them for doing this to me. For giving me a choice between the 3 possible catastrophes above – which is no way to live – or to be a slave. A codependent pleaser which is really just a facade.

“I am the nice person that everyone loves. Who doesn’t love a slave? Someone who never says no to them, who is an emotional receptacle to them and is easy to sway and push around? It’s a great deal for others.

“But really it isn’t. Sure it’s nice to have a servant and have your way all the time but it comes at the expense of a real relationship. Something that everyone needs. To connect and relate with another human being is what we all need?

“Why do they give that all up so easily for the low hanging fruit? A better question is why do I? Well, I already said it’s because anger leads to no good. To disaster. That’s why I hate everyone, especially THEM. Those that use their anger to push people around and get what they want, threatening to unleash hell all the time.

How it Started

“It’s been like that my whole life, starting from my first moments. Grown-ups with such control over me. Sometimes they’d be outwardly angry by yelling and being hostile in tone and gesture. I’d shake inside, at the mere sound of them coming, anxiety already a well worn groove in my psyche.

“Sometimes they’d pull away, leaving me feeling like I’d be abandoned if I didn’t behave how they wanted me to. More anxiety. Actually it felt more like my survival was at stake, as they were the ones who gave me food and shelter.

“As I grew I became an expert at ‘the game.’ The game was to survive which meant I shut my own anger off – my wants and desires … in other words, me – and learned to please and serve others.

“This helped regulate the intolerable anxiety and made me feel safe … and loved (sort of.)

“Safe because I knew how to keep my masters’ anger at bay, or at least to a minimum and loved because of the approval I’d get whenever I was that way. Codependent.

“The expressions of love weren’t really directed towards me. They weren’t even expressions of love, they were words of approval to the person I was pretending to be. It felt good though and was better than nothing.

“For most of my life I thought that that’s what love was. People smiling and approving and telling me in their own way that I was a good person. As long as someone else thought that then I was good and I adopted the belief that all validation comes from the outside.

“So now, as a grown up I have 2 problems. One is that I am still afraid of anger and either avoid situations that will make me angry or result in other people getting angry. I’m still following those early adopted strategies to calm my own anxiety and manipulate the world as best I can. To feel safe that is.

“And two, I am chasing other people’s validation. A process that never ends. Once I get it, it feels good momentarily but then I feel empty. Like eating candy. Pleasurable but then you end up regretting it and actually feel worse afterwards. It doesn’t fill the void.

“So I chase it more and more with the same results until I end up becoming depressed. I don’t know what to do. How do I get validation from within? It feels like getting it from the outside is the only way. How do I stop being afraid of anger, and finally live MY life?

Assertiveness is Approval

Validate Yourself

How to Approve of Yourself

“Most of the time, the answer is to stand up for yourself or be more assertive. That’s like telling people who drink to stop drinking. The answer is correct but how to actually do it? If I could stop being afraid of anger I would.

“If I could be more assertive I would. So I’m not sure what to do. So I read and read, and journal and journal and pick up little hints along the way.

“First is to get in touch with my own anger. To feel it everyday and see what it’s telling me. It’s job is to guide me and communicate what I want whether it be asking my boss for a raise or just saying no to my boundry-violating mother.

“It’s been so long since I got in touch with my anger, frustration and resentment that I no longer even know what I want. I try to figure out my major life goals and ambitions but that’s getting ahead of myself. How can I know that when I don’t even know what I want to say ‘no’ to?

“So that’s where I’ll start. I’ll start to say no more often. I’ll do it at McDonald’s, with the neighbor and in situations where there isn’t a lot on the line. At the end of the day I’ll take out my journal and write down when I was successful and when I wasn’t.

I won’t beat myself up for my failures. I’ll notice them and try to succeed the next day, even if it takes 25 tries. After a few months I’ll look back and see how much I’ve improved, and move on to bigger fish. I’ll say no to my boss’ request for taking on an additional shift or to my in-laws coming to sleep over when it’s not convenient for me.

Moving towards the Pain

“That’s an advanced move, which is why I started small and worked my way up. Each time I say no I feel like I’m going to die. My body seizes up and I feel shaky, like I’m going to fall apart. That’s that familiar anxiety which has been there since I was little.

“I’ll have to accept this discomfort as part of the process to becoming more assertive and living my own life. It gets difficult at times but it also makes me feel alive instead of like I’m hiding away, not really existing.

“This process is a daily one for me as I can start to see how saying no builds me. Makes me stronger inside and makes other people unconsciously treat me differently. They can feel that I am not someone who can be pushed around so easily.

“I also start asking for what I want, and go through the same discomfort and pain as I do when saying ‘no’. I journal about it in the same way and it too becomes part of the process.

“The process to freedom. I hate that it is painful and that I have to do it daily, but at least it doesn’t take very long. Saying no a couple of times and journalling take 5 minutes tops per day.

“I also hate that the process is slow. It will take me at least 5 years to get to the level where I feel stable, confident and in control of myself. But what’s the alternative? I don’t want to go back to the old me, or should I say ‘non-me.’

“It’s time to die. The old me dying into the new. I am afraid I’ll be a monster and that people won’t like me. I’m afraid I’ll explode and do something horrible like hurt someone. So I’ll remind myself that anxiety is powerful and makes me think about things that usually don’t happen.

“I may shout at times and react too strongly. That’s okay though as I am finding my bearings and can always apologize if I go too far. People will pull away at times too. But not everyone.

Emotional Change and Feeling Good

A Confident, New Person

Being someone New

“It’s difficult to be someone new and I will fail a lot. That’s also okay. I’ll stick to the process of saying no and/or asking for what I want (e.g. A discount, for people to wait 5 minutes for me if I’m finishing something up, to leave a party early, to ask for fresher bread at the bakery, to be left alone when at a hotel, to say no to donating money at the grocery store cash etc.,) and to write it down each night before bed.

“That will keep me on track and get me to my destination. A free person, who is taking up space and engaging with people instead of hiding from them. The process will build me slowly and I will enjoy the ride, knowing it will be very bumpy.

“Then, I’ll actually look forward to other people’s anger. I’ll see it as a chance to grow and a chance to connect. It may end up that that person hates me and when they do I feel anxious, uncomfortable and an overwhelming urge to please and fix it.

“But as I am too far into the process I know not to. Or if I do I’ll note it in the evening in my journal and come out swinging the next day. It’s also possible that I develop an even greater bond with them. Seeing that their anger isn’t about me and that they are struggling too.

“The relationship changes as I do and I ‘see’ them as I reveal myself to them as well. That’s what I crave and what we all crave and I am able to get that now. Connection.

I realize too that this new me doesn’t affect just myself. The people all around me, the people I care about will benefit from this transformation, from me being myself also. In other words it’s good for them too. And, most important, it will shape the next generation, my kids, grand kids or people I have influence over.

This is much bigger than just me. I write that concept down where I can see it everyday and it gives me all the motivation I need to push through when it gets tough, which is often.

“After a time I’ll look back and realize that many things that used to bother me don’t anymore and that I am a different, more authentic person with less anxiety and a firmer hold on my life.

“Then it’s on to the next thing as growth never stops which is good. What would I do otherwise?

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