Anger, hurt, and (unintentional?) bullying

About four years ago, when my therapist first suggested Borderline Personality Disorder as a description of the emotional volatility I’ve experienced throughout my life, he also said something that has stuck with me ever since. I had been describing how angry I was, talking about what I thought the causes were, what it felt like, and what I thought about it.  After listening for a while, he simply said “it sounds like you are describing being hurt, more than anger” (or something like that).  As I thought about it, it became clear that he was right.  I had been angry, but the anger was the hanger-on, the after effect of a tremendous amount of hurt I was feeling.  It was the result of hurt not being addressed.

Being the nerd I am, I also immediately thought of this:

“Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering,” Yoda says to a young Anakin Skywalker who was simply asked if he was afraid (to which he became defensive…foreshadowing much?). There are reasons why both Anakin and Luke Skywalker are significant characters for me, personally.  I understand them both natively, and find them to be interesting characters (especially in comparison to each-other), despite the often bad dialog of George Lucas.

And while Yoda’s prophesy was true for Anakin (as well as for me, in some contexts), sometimes in my case it simply starts with my being hurt, which leads to anger, resentment, and hate (which does, in fact, lead to suffering).  That is, there are times when people in my life act as a walking emotional trigger for me, and it causes a spiral of behavior which almost never ends well.

I’ve had a few people in my life whom, for various reasons, have hurt me both repeatedly and singularly.  I don’t think that they (most of them) did it on purpose or without reason, I simply think that our flaws make us hurt each other, whether due to fear or some other emotional conflict which creates tension and stress.  I’ve been bullied, when younger and also quite recently, by people who I understand to be insecure and largely unaware of the effects of their actions and their own emotional nuances.  Managing my reactions to such behavior, and the hurt which results from it, is especially difficult for me (being a borderline), and that stress tends to come out against the people I love.

That is, the hurt I receive all too often turns into the hurt I redirect to others.  It’s one of the hardest things for me to manage, but I am (increasingly) aware of it these days.  The side effect is that those people, whom I hurt, become angry with me.

The biggest fear that I have is my emotional fragility and volatility chasing people I love away.  I’m afraid of that because it has happened, because I never want it to happen, and because when it does happen all I can do it occasionally be left alone with the suffering that is the remembering of how I did it and not being able to change it.  When I lose someone because of my emotional instability, I then will reflect and dwell on how it happened and why. Later, when the hows and whys starts to become clear, all I can do is feel awful for having behaved so.  I didn’t intend to do it, I would have stopped if I understood, and I would do almost anything to take it back.  Guilt and loss are my suffering, because I was hurt and afraid, and I didn’t deal with those feelings well enough when they were happening.

I could try and rationalize the blame to other people.  ‘I was being hurt over here, by this person, and I have a disorder so I can’t help being mean sometimes when I’m suffering from that hurt,’ I could try to say.  But that would be not taking responsibility for my feelings.  Yes, people hurt me.  Yes, dealing with it every day in a hostile environment is hard, but that is not an excuse to redirect that hurt to someone else.  There are other options, ones I will work on for the future.

But most importantly, I cannot allow what is primarily hurt (or fear) to become anger.  I need to learn to express that I’m being hurt or are afraid, and ask for help rather than allow it to fester into resentment, anger, and suffering.  It’s hard to manage and respond to such sources of pain, especially when the person doing it feels like a bully to me, but that is a problem I once learned years ago and have apparently forgotten.  It’s been a long time since I was hurt consistently by another person in that way, and I forgot that bullies are afraid too.  I forgot that bullies create bullying behavior.

I will do my best to not make the same mistake again.

The clarity of being away from a stressful, unhealthy, and ultimately unsafe (for me) environment has been both enlightening and revealing.  What is being revealed is that much of the last year has been emotionally traumatic for me, and that trauma resulted in behavior (of mine) which led to the ending of a relationship which was immensely important to me. As a result of this clarity, I’m starting to understand what I should be learning from all of this transition and pain I’ve been going through in the last couple of weeks.

I need to avoid environments and people who treat me poorly or who trigger my emotional instability.  And when I can’t avoid it, I need to confront it directly.  Bullies don’t always intend to bully, but that’s what they do so I need to avoid them when I can and stand up to them when I can’t.  And that might mean that relationships with people close to such triggers might be unwise for me to pursue because perpetual, ongoing stress is bad for me.

That makes me profoundly sad right now, mostly because it’s not a problem I can solve.  So, I keep moving forward.