Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Not OK to feel. Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010.

“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” –Carl W. Buechner

Do you remember two months ago when I wrote about a co-worker who was angry at me? Well, I learned today that she is still mad.

The nature of the problem doesn’t really matter; it’s my emotional reaction to it. And my reaction is fear, shame, and depression. This individual actually believes I’m being provocative, when actually the reverse is true. I’ve been walking on eggshells because I don’t want this person angry with me. Or anyone, for that matter.

One of my very earliest memories is of my parents telling me it was OK to be mad. I think I was about 4 or 5. I can only guess that in order for such a comment to come up, they must have seen me refusing to vent emotions in a healthy way.

Still, despite that memory, I believe I grew up in a household where it wasn’t OK to show emotions – particularly anger. Whenever I got angry at my mom or my dad, I was afraid to express it – out of fear that they would be angry back, or that my anger would somehow result in their death. (I’m 46 and I still have that “magical” belief that my anger, particularly in the case of my mom, will cause her to die.)

My first “real” job at a newspaper was on a staff where everyone yelled at each other like members of a big Italian family. At the time, I thought the environment was stressful, but looking back, I actually think it was healthy for me. I started to develop a thicker skin, and I had several opportunities to be angry without experiencing dire consequences.

Now I’m in a much quieter environment, working directly with only a couple of people. There is no way I can “speak my mind.” A single comment I made has taken on a life of its own and my teammate is holding a grudge. Several years of holding my tongue has been for naught.

It doesn’t seem OK to feel angry here. It doesn’t seem OK to feel angry at home, either. I think the only place I can feel angry is inside my car, if it’s parked. And that’s where I went over my lunch hour to cry. I don’t know what else to do.

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