When Rage and a Desire to WIN AT ANY COST Can Actually Be Good Things

It seems a lot of my friends out there in blog-land are having bad times lately.  Actually, a couple of my real-life friends (yes, I have those, too – ;D) are having bad times, too.  Maybe it’s the moon.  Or maybe something I can’t remember the moon is in the 7th house and Jupiter’s aligned with Mars.  (Anyone?  PLEASE tell me someone got that.  Otherwise I will feel like SUCH a TOOL.  WITH NO LIFE, EVEN.)

And I’ve noticed that my real-life friends tend to come to me with bad times.  And I’ve noticed that the way I respond to them is pretty similar to the comments I leave on my bad-time-having blog friends’s posts.

It basically boils down to:
“Get UP!  You can DO this!  You can FIGHT BACK.  Gut it out!  Even if all you can do is wait it out, you can do it.  You can survive through whatever this is.  Even if you do it in bed with the covers pulled over your head!  YOU CAN DO THIS.”

I talk to myself that way, too.  And I’ve always been like that.  I’ve always been determined to survive, to make it through.  (I should point out here that I’ve had the relative luxury of “surviving” INTERNAL stuff, not EXTERNAL.  It’s not like I’ve ever had to live in my car or go without food involuntarily, you know?)  Even when I’ve been too broken to give myself that speech, some part of me knew that if I curled up in a ball, and just waited it out, it would eventually get better, simply by the passage of time.  Even when I was contemplating suicide I had a daily conversation with myself –
In the morning: I’ll just get through today.  I can always kill myself tonight.
In the evening: I got through today and it didn’t rate a death sentence.  I’ll see how I feel in the morning.
Lather, rinse, repeat.  A 12-hour cycle of survival, because 12 hours at a time was all I could handle.

I got through that.  I got through the worst binge of my life and the days that followed it (which were almost as bad as that night).  And behind all the getting through, no matter what it was, was the idea that I didn’t want to LOSE the fight.  It wasn’t about feeling better or taking care of my health, or any of those things.  I really felt like there was some outside force, like life itself was some malicious, pressing thing, bearing down on me like an opponent, and I WAS NOT WILLING TO LOSE.  Not referring to losing the fight for life necessarily, but rather more of a “Fuck you, Life.  You won’t beat me.  I will be stronger, and meaner, and more determined than you, and I WILL LIVE IN SPITE OF YOU AND WHAT YOU THROW AT ME.”  More like that. 

In some ways I was born that way.  But in other ways, it was something I learned growing up.

I started college early.  I was 14, and wanted desperately to fit in, as I had been the biggest nerd in elementary school.  I spent the first half of the year blending into the background and the last half paying close attention to the “popular” girls in the dance department.   I learned how to talk like them, dress like them, laugh at the same things.  I learned who had the power and who were the hangers-on.  I was very cold and calculated about it.  And I came back to school the next year a different person.  I was accepted into that group, and spent the next two years in it.

Because I was so much younger, the leader of the group took me under her wing.  We were genuine friends (my friends had always been several years older than me anyway), but she was definitely protective of me in certain ways.  I say this because although I ran with a group that had a lot of sketchy experiences, I never had them myself. 

But I watched while my girlfriends got hit.  I listened while they talked about what I later came to understand was date rape.  I listened while they spoke of it as something normal, something to be expected.  I watched a friend finally date a guy who was nice, who treated her well.  I later heard that he was managing a store one night and was shot in a robbery. 

When I transferred to a university, I found friends who were more of the same.  One of my friends, asked by a teacher if it was “really that bad at home,” could do nothing but laugh.  When her boyfriend hit her hard enough to send her to the floor, she rose from a crouched position with a slightly crazed look on her face and whispered venomously, “Is that as hard as you can hit?”

I watched all those things and thought, “Not me.  Never.  I will kill someone who treats me like that.  I will kill him.”  And at the time,  I meant it.  (It’s probably a good thing I didn’t date anyone like that, because I’m not sure I WOULDN’T have killed him, or at least tried.)  During that time, I developed a vibe that has been downgraded over the years from “scary” to “sort of intimidating.”  I’ve never been assaulted.  I’ve never been in a situation that got out of hand, though I’ve been in plenty where all the alarms were sounding, and I had to do some serious work to stay safe (if by “serious work” you mean “fight like hell,” which I do – on second thought, there are those who would argue THAT situation WAS out of hand).

I’ve been lucky.  But I’ve also been scary.  I’ve never been in a situation I couldn’t get control of, one way or another.  But I also walk around with a “thou-shalt-not-fuck-with-me” look on my face (apparently).  And the thing is, I really feel that way.  God help the person who attacks me, because even if I don’t win, I will do everything in my power to hurt that person.

And that feeling – that seed of rage and will to WIN still survives in me.  And oddly enough, it’s gotten me through a lot of hard times in my life.  It’s gotten me through really dark nights of the soul, when just packing up and leaving life seemed like the best option.  That part of me, that animalistic ferocity, that inner voice that screams, “Fuck you if you think you can do this to me” – when applied judiciously, it can save your life.  Sometimes literally.

So when I see my friends on the ground, bleeding emotionally, mentally, whatever; when I see them sliding down that rabbit hole that turns in on itself,  until the light at the top is gone; when I myself am sinking, tethered to a weight that seems unbearable, as though it will drag me under and I will finally drown, I get angry.  I dig in my heels, pull back on that rope, swim for the surface as hard as I can (how’s THAT for a mixed metaphor?), and encourage my friends to do the same. 

Because sometimes it’s not really possible to keep moving forward.  But you can always dig in and keep from moving backward.  Slap yourself in the face.  “Get hold of yourself, man!”  Tell Life to fuck off, that you will survive NO MATTER WHAT.

Sometimes it helps to just get angry.


9 responses to “When Rage and a Desire to WIN AT ANY COST Can Actually Be Good Things

  1. “And peace will guide the planets, and lo-ove will steer the stars….”

    (I must be a tool, too.)

    And I agree with you – life sometimes sucks, but I am also of the “rubber ball, I keep bouncing back…” personality (did you get that one?) I find that the older I get, the less patience I have with the drama queens and the whiners. Granted, there are times when drama is required and whining is allowed, but only for a set period of time, then I get impatient.

    I’ve only ever had one serious violent episode with someone… I have no idea what he intended to do to me, but I wasn’t giving him the opportunity to do it. I hit him over the head with a ceramic pie plate. Broke it to smithereens, which really pisses me off to this day ’cause it was a favourite. Definitely set the ground rules and never had a problem since. 🙂

  2. Anger can be exceptionally useful. I am contrary enough to go to great lengths to prove someone wrong if I feel I have been misjudged. I think with life itself it is a different matter. You are fighting yourself, which means you are never the winner, just tired. Although the survival instinct is a funny thing. I can remember a time when I thought my life was going to be taken from me, and the last thing I wanted to do was die. Suicide was not an option. That comes much later, after the threat is gone, because often the memory of a threat is far worse than the moment lived.

    Lola x

  3. i’ve been told i walk around with a similar look to your “thou-shalt-not-fuck-with-me” face. i actually kind of like it.

    and yes, getting angry can be a good thing, as long as one can constructively channel it. i know it’s gotten me through some phases in life.

  4. Like T I agree but only as long as some conditions apply.

    You write about how you respond to situations, but much of what passes for anger out there is not a genuine response to anything. It’s just an excuse for being controlling, often violently controlling. So one of my conditions is that anger is a response to a real identifiable source, not just a habit.

    Lola writes about fighting yourself, and T writes about a constructive channel. That would be my other condition, that anger is directed at an appropriate target. I think people can do themselves a lot of harm by directing their anger inward, or towards whoever happens to be closest.

    But yes, anger is great — let’s have more!

  5. I have that song stuck in my head now, thanks Marste and BL!
    Ummm, yeah. Anger. and violence. You know, one thing that I wished for about a year and a half was that my husband (at the time) would beat me up, but good. Because then I could get angry and self righteous and fight back and leave the bastard. I didn’t know how to deal with emotional abuse though. It was insidious (sp?) and didn’t give me a target for anger, it only made me question every situation and doubt myself. Tricky stuff.

  6. BL, I can’t think of the name of the song, but it’s a George Harrison one, I think. 🙂 Too funny about the plate. I could see where that would effectively lay down the rules! Ha!

    Lola, the bit about fighting yourself is an interesting point. I guess I never felt that way about it. I always felt that deep down, my SOUL was fine. It was normal. So everything else was not really ME. Even if it was a result of brain chemicals or whatever, that wasn’t ME. It was faulty wiring in my BODY, but my SOUL was perfect. Does that make sense? It made it a lot easier to fight back, but I hadn’t recognized that consciously until you wrote about fighting yourself.

    T, yeah, the constructively channeling it bit is key, isn’t it?

    CBTish, I totally agree. I’d even go one step further and say that in some ways I don’t think anger is a “real” emotion. In other words, I think there’s always a driving emotion behind it, usually a more vulnerable one. If we’re betrayed, we get angry, but really what we’re feeling is betrayal expressing itself as anger. Does that sort of make sense? (Of course, then that opens up the whole question of what MY anger, as referred to in the above post is really about. Probably a fear of harm, either from others or myself.)

    Sassy, I TOTALLY understand what you’re saying. Sometimes the mind-fuck is worse than the overt one because it does cause you to second-guess yourself. I know exactly what you mean.

  7. this is the dawning of the age of aquarius.

  8. “the moon is in the 7th house and Jupiter’s aligned with Mars. “
    And peeeeeeeeeace
    will guiiiiide the plaaaaaaaaanets
    And loooooooo-OVE


    Everybody sing!


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