Memories aren't always reliable, so maybe I'm exaggerating, but I remember being angry and not really knowing why for most of my childhood. I think my fourth grade teacher once called me "sour grapes" and I have photographic evidence that, when my group of friends in middle school decided to dress up as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, there was no question among us that I would go as Grumpy.
As a young adult I got tired of this reputation and tried to swing to the other extreme of letting go of all anger and empathizing with those who I felt had hurt me. Unfortunately, I didn't quite make it to letting go of the anger and instead only managed to turn it inward for a while.
Now, at the ripe old age of 31, I'm finally trying to find the balance; the place between assertive, constructive anger and turning the other cheek so many times that I am flipped inside out.
I've talked about this a lot in my own therapy, and I am still confused. That dude hollered at me from his truck- I have a right to raise both middle fingers, yell, and then stew about it for the rest of the day, right? My co-worker crossed my boundaries again- I get to assertively tell him to leave and then tell his supervisor, right? This for-profit corporation made decisions that make my job harder and might be unethical- this is when I speak up and tell people why they're wrong over and over again for weeks, right? I'm totally being the assertive adult I've always wanted to be and I'm not overdoing it at all, right?
In order to complicate things a bit further, I decided to jump back into Social Work School and become a Therapist. Now I have an Empathy Problem. I know too much. I can find a reason behind most of the things I experience that bother me. (No one taught them that that's not okay, he's anxious and wants help, it might actually work out pretty well for our clients, I'm reacting because this triggered something in me and if I take time to process it I will feel fine.)
I am an adult, and I still feel very confused sometimes about when and how to be angry and assertive in a way that is productive and healthy and prevents me from becoming a doormat or an ogre.
How do YOU decide?