In the Emotional Wellness section of our Professional Programs at Rhodes College, we study emotions – all of them. Sometimes students say “I don’t want to dredge up all those awful feelings. There is no point”.
There is a point and I have a real life example to illustrate that point.
Many years ago I spent several years of my life working in men’s prisons. I worked with Federal Offenders – these were people who were serving longer sentences for serious crimes. I ran life skills program with these men for many years. One afternoon, a well dressed, well spoken gentleman showed up in my classroom. He looked more like a University Professor than a hardened convict.I spoke with him after the class and he told me this story:
He said he was an accountant and for 25 years he had been married to the same woman and had held the same job. He said that he had learned as a child to not express any feelings and especially not to express anger. He went on to tell me that he had a good marriage for many years. In the later years, though his wife had begun to nag him. He had been conditioned to quietly accept whatever people said and he had a large fear of conflict. He told me that one night he was sitting down to dinner with his wife. He said his wife had asked him to “pass the pickles”. He said he had a clear recollection of what he did next. He picked up the jar of pickles, went around to her side of the table and beat her to death with the jar of pickles. As he did this, he experienced what can be described as “white hot” rage.
The proverbial dam had broken and the years of repressed rage had tumbled out with devastating consequences.
He is now serving a life sentence in prison, amid armed robbers, and drug dealers. He would have what we might call an “over-controlled” personality type. These people, don’t express their feeling as they occur, but when a significant enough event occurs, or when they have had enough, lose complete control. Anger styles are something we identify at our College.
I will talk about the different ways people mange their anger in a future blog. You will have a chance to see what style you have been operating under.