Control and Anger

April 28, 2014

This is the sixth of my reflections on control and its influence on my life. I have looked at resistance, impatience, my need to be right, my need to plan and overwhelment. Now I found myself asking about control and anger. It seemed a logical connection yet anger is not a big part of my current life. In fact I have not projected my anger on someone else for many years.

My relatively calm, peaceful life rarely creates powerful reactions and although I can see many other repercussions from my unconscious desire to stay in control, anger is not one of them Yet this was not always the case.

At one time during my business career I developed a reputation as a bit of tyrant, quick to fly off the handle, and quite intolerant with the people who worked with me. I still recall an annual review I received when my boss somewhat charitably observed, “you have a reputation for having a low tolerance of stupidity”.

When I explored what this meant, I realized somewhat to my horror that my fellow employees suggested that I would lose my temper when mistakes were made. In those days I had no sense of my personal psychology and certainly absolutely no interest in exploring such things. However I was interested in my career and realized this kind of perception would not serve my future business success.

Somehow without quite knowing how I began to change. I would reign in my tendency to react at others and over the next couple of years I changed my behaviours dramatically although the perception stuck to me like a thistle to a pair of socks.

Recently I attended a reunion with many of the people that I worked with during this period. I took the opportunity to apologize to someone with whom I had been particularly aggressive and critical. Somewhat to my chagrin her response suggested the apology was long overdue. The healing winds of history had certainly not tempered her opinion of my inappropriate behaviour.

With the benefit of hindsight I can now view my behaviours through a psychological lens relative to the power of needing to be in control. Anything less than perfection would reflect on me and on how I was managing the client’s business. My sense of being in control would be diminished, I would begin to act from the place of a child fearful of losing, with anger as the outcome.

Unfortunately as a child I had a powerful role model in my father who modelled this kind of reaction. Despite my deep intention to be nothing like him, unconsciously I slipped into an old family pattern of behaviour.How worrying is that?

I can feel a sense of relief that I managed to change this particular aspect of my control reactions long before I understood the nature of my need to control. Of course it is not always a bad thing; it has contributed to my success at getting things accomplished. However it feels so freeing to begin to understand why I was the way I was and not to be held hostage to the past.