I’m sorry…but ‘something’ just took me over!

Ok, so there’s this person in my life called John and he has been a very angry man for a long time.  He’s very sweet and kind and courteous but he has had problems with controlling his temper.  We’ve been working on this now for a few years and he has made great progress.  Bit by bit he has realised the damage that is done from his anger and relatively recently he has accepted that no one else wants to witness his temper tantrums let alone be on the receiving end of them.  He has even started apologising after them which I never thought I’d see.

As he has become happier in his life, with less stress and problems, he has less inclination to be angry in the first place, but John still has a problem and I have just stood by watching as he went crazy in a rage he couldn’t stop. And I have to say it wasn’t very nice.

The problem: Hole number 5 ‘the bad hole’

We went to play some pitch and put golf, and neither of us are really that good.  We used to go out golfing quite regularly just for a laugh, but then John decided he was going to get lessons and really try to improve his game.  So, off we went to this new course he had found and had gone to a few times.  When we got to hole number 5, he said this is ‘the bad hole, I don’t like this hole’.  Apparently, every time he plays this hole he loses all his balls as they go straight into the big grassy hedge from whence no golf ball has every returned. So, I took my shot and I was woeful but my ball, at least, was still on the course.  Next up was John, and yes, as he expected, off his ball went into the grass.   He wasn’t happy but he set up another ball on the tee and, ooooops, off the ball went towards the long grass again, only just then, while in mid air, the wind struck up and blew the ball even further over to the right towards the grassy no man’s land.

The Temper Tantrum…

Ok, so now John was angry; angry with himself, the wind, the ball, the club, everything…he set up another shot and hit.  Only this time the ball went just a few feet away into really long grass.  This is when John went crazy, he got his club and bounced it off the grass in front of me, and ran over to where the ball entered the grass and started kicking around to find it. He couldn’t!  He stomped back and got his club and went over and started swinging it wildly into the grass over and over again while shouting his head off.  I was afraid he would hit the ball out of the grass and I’d get it right between the eyes.  Luckily I didn’t. When he couldn’t find the ball with the club, he again came over and flung the club so hard at the ground I thought it was going to bounce up and hit me.  Apparently, this is the third golf club he has ruined in the last two months…

The Aftermath

I looked on in amazement which quickly turned to disbelief and disgust that a grown man could behave in such a way, in such a public place, and for so little a reason.  I realised that I could not stay and finish our ‘fun’ game of golf and so I said I was leaving. To stay and play on would have been to condone his behaviour and would have let him unconsciously believe it was ok to behave like that in front of me.  He defiantly and angrily said that no, he was playing on, and so I went back to the car to wait on my own.  He followed me a few minutes later still madly angry but beginning to return to a level of sanity.   The conversation that followed was certainly enlightening once he had calmed a little more.  John knew he shouldn’t have behaved that way, but ‘something’ took him over, and he had absolutely no control…or so he told me.  I could see it in him actually, even as he was trying to explain to me what happened. He was primal; his heart was beating fast, he was sweating and prepared for anything as he was trying to use his modern brain to explain to me the primeval feelings he was experiencing.  All of this extreme reaction just because he had hit 3 shots in a way he disliked…

But…what happened here?

I realised that this man, who was doing so well in controlling his anger in so many other areas of his life, was simply not capable of controlling his temper in this particular instance.  He had built himself up and wanted to be successful at golf, but his expectations were that he did not like ‘hole number 5’ and that he would do very badly at it.  When his fears came true he couldn’t handle it, especially when I was there to witness it.  But what actually happened to John?  He was not suffering from stress to any great degree, he was happy enough and had come out for some fun. Before his outburst he was doing quite well and was having a laugh. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong. Did John really have no control over what happened, or did he just go down the path of least resistance?  Did he default to ingrained behaviours that just felt good when he encountered frustration and disappointment?  I think he did.  I think it was just easier for John to let rip rather than something that was out of his control BUT (and notice that that is a big but), once John had allowed himself to get and exhibit such rage, he then HAD actually lost control, he could no longer stop it once he allowed it to start.  He couldn’t put the genie back in the lamp!

The Interpretation  

Many hours later, John felt bad about how he had reacted.  For the first time, I think John actually really disliked the fact he lost control.  As somebody who needs to control so much around him, such as doing well in golf, to realise that he did not have control of himself when he was trying so hard is a worry to him. He suggested that maybe he should take up meditation, which is something I’ve been trying to get him to do for a while now, but there is also something else he can do in the meantime.

What John really should have done is to, not just try to take control of his anger, but to actively manage his life.  If he knew, and he is the only one who could have known, that attempting ‘hole number 5’ would cause such an intense reaction in him, maybe he should have just skipped it.  Think about it, if you have a fear of heights, is the first thing you are going to do to heal yourself of your phobia to climb the outside of a skyscraper?  Do you think you could handle that?

If John starts to identify what situations are likely to set him off, then he should avoid them for now.  He needs to do a lot of work on himself and one of those things is to be able to soothe himself when he starts to feel his anger flaring up, and to do this he needs to practice with the situations that make him angry a lot.  He needs to create new methods and behaviours that become deeply ingrained, so that he does not default to the easy rage he has come to know. He should start small and with the sorts of situations that normally make him angry.  For example, John can’t stand incompetence, in others or indeed himself, as I witnessed on the golf course. John should therefore start to always look out for his reaction when he encounters incompetence.  Instead of getting angry and going on a rant, he could stop and give the other person the benefit of the doubt, show them a little empathy and one by one train himself to not give in to his anger.  If he starts with the existing patterns of anger in his life and finds ways of dealing with them effectively, then he will naturally be able for the more unusual situations he encounters.

John needs to understand that there will be some limitations on him and what he can do until he gets to the root of his problems.  Just like an Acrophobia (person with a phobia of heights) who is facing up to their problem, he needs to manage his own situation in small steps and retrain his reactions and behaviours when he encounters his usual stressors.

In the meantime…I think I’ll go golfing on my own 🙂

Are you like John, or do you know someone like John? Leave me a comment below.

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