Its been a while since I last posted anything. I have spent the last few months reading, and avoiding writing anything while I have worked through some things. That's all something for a different post though, possibly one where I lie down on a couch.
My main subject is dealing with anger and overwhelming feelings. I have been through some workshops on mindfulness, and coping with feelings, and they all seem to work on:
However I am struggling getting to the point where this can work.
As an example of what I mean:
I was eating with my wife and two of my children at a local food chain. It was early in the day and quiet (I only ever go to eat at places when they are not busy). The food was nice, and I managed to stay calm throughout, even when the kids started to behave as kids do. It was nice, and I went to pay the bill. When I paid, I thought it was slightly to much at the time, but I am useless at confrontation, and started furiously doing maths in my head, even as we left. Very quickly it became apparent to my wife that I was having some trouble containing my emotions, and asked what was up. I explained the cost and went through the receipt, to which she was surprised as well, but the food had been nice, and it had been a one off. We had planned to go on into town, do some shopping and enjoy the rest of the day. However, I was so angry, and overwhelmed by everything, I started to shout at people not stopping for zebra crossings, using language I feel terrible about in front of my own children. I shouted at my wife for no reason, and then got stuck inside a debilitating bubble of feelings in my own head that led to 3 hours of silence, covering the walk back to the car, journey home, including a stop to the supermarket, and back at home.
I am aware of how I did not do the right thing in the situation, and am also aware that by breathing slowly, counting to ten, focusing on the now etc. are proven techniques to calming people down and resolving problems. I just cannot prevent the rapid escalation when something happens that I have not planned and is out of my control. I feel terrible for my wife, as often she is left with an extra child (me), and I feel ashamed that I leave her to deal with it all. I prefer to stay at home, or do things I know, or go to the same places at the same times to avoid issues etc. and keep things as I know them.
How do other people deal with that initial wave of emotion? Are there any other techniques that people have tried that work?
Many thanks all,
I'm probably going to say something slightly different to others. We are human and we have emotions, of which anger is one of those emotions. There's nothing wrong with feeling anger. I have never done any sort of treatments about breathing or mindfulness or anything because all treatments start from the point that they know what's best for you. Yes, study it and learn, but don't simply rely on someone telling you something. You're an individual, and unfortunately, we live in a world where we're told that what works for one person will somehow automatically work for another. It may work for you or it may not.
You're the best person at being able to understand yourself. So maybe the starting point needs to be some self reflection, replay the scene through your head, what are the specific triggers from moment to moment, what drives the anger, the continuous thoughts and the need to do something about it, even if it means venting on others around you?
With my anger, I learnt to simply focus it and channel it in a more productive manner. My anger was derived from a lot of bullying and abuse, so whenever I get angry I'm reminded of what was done to me and I make a choice not to lower myself to such a level as those people who bullied and abused me. Of course even I can have the odd outburst. I'm not a confrontational person, I generally tend to stay silent rather than engage in something out of not wanting to escalate a situation, but I have also learnt to effectively compartmentalise (if that's the best way to describe it) as I sideline certain thoughts and feelings until I am better able to process them, analyse them and work through it. I've had a recent incident that made me extremely angry, which I would rather not mention, but I find that I have built a level of resilience to such situations that I didn't respond because the situation said far more about the other person than it did me. I wouldn't necessarily call myself a calm person as I do get angry but I know that it's ok to feel angry, therefore it's almost like I can let the anger and the situation flow over me like water due to the resilience I've built up. It's also the fact that I've probably never been the really expressive sort of person, though there are times when I've been ready to attack someone before I was able to control myself and basically walked away from the situation. My friends at university had played a joke on me, which to me wasn't funny at all and when they were laughing it felt as though they were laughing at me, I just raged for a moment where I was about to do something I know I would have regretted, but I didn't take that action. Maybe I'm a bit more disciplined, but I still think for me it's about choosing not to let those bullies and abusers who scarred me win. If I lose control of my anger, then the root cause of my anger as part of my trauma from bullying and abuse, means that those bullies won. I will never allow them to win. So, you could say that's the source of what drives me to reign in my anger. So, maybe because I have gotten more used to it as well as all the mental processing I do as I replay things, even using my imagination to vent anger as I beat up the imaginary people in my head rather than the real people, I find that things just don't necessarily impact me in quite the same way as they might have done when I was younger.
I have never had any luck with breathing techniques/mindfulness. I have found if I feel overwhelmed or angry I have to take myself away from the situation and people and give myself enough time to calm before returning. If possible I will do something to take my mind off it. I know this can be difficult when you are out and about and have kids etc but I find it is the only way I can deal with the emotion. I think anything to do with emotion is personal to the person who it belongs to.
This. When I get angry I need to escape for a little while, just the same as if I feel upset or am on the verge of being overwhelmed by sensory input. Expressing it helps enormously, so if you can get somewhere you feel safe doing so (a quiet park, in your car, even public loos) then do.Also, one of my usual strategies is to go into a nearby shop that sells something I like and have a look at it for a while. (The ideal scenario is being near a pet shop or garden centre with fish. Staring into a fish tank for 5 minutes makes me feel perfectly fine again, even if I'm on the verge of a meltdown! XD Obviously a very circumstantial strategy but a good one.)Another thing is that I start finding the sensory stuff difficult to process very quickly if in the grip of strong emotion, so as soon as I get cross it's "earplugs in".
I've tried various techniques too, including meditation and mindfulness. Indeed, my autism itself seems adept to allow me space from certain emotions, whereby I don't cling to the emotion as strongly as neurotypical's seemingly do (i.e. like sexual attraction).
However, anger seems to be my exception... my Achille's heel.
Anger floods over me, and consumes me. The problem I've realised is that when I'm angry (furious), I WANT to be, more than anything else in the world. I actively cling to the emotion-state and fuel it. So, it's no wonder I can't get out of it, as underneath it all, I don't actually want to get rid of it!
If I'm angry, it's likely an ego-based reaction - insomuch that I've felt slighted or subject to unfair circumstances, and that I deserve better treatment. It's a 'me-centric' emotion.
I've got a lot more work to do on anger. Like I say, it's the one emotion that I really haven't got to grips with.
The one thing I have slowly (veeeeery slowly) found helpful is allowing myself to feel angry... but at a different time. When I feel myself becoming angry, I now say to myself "Okay, okay... allow this... you can be angry... but just delay it, give it time... have your reaction in an hour or two... and then see how you feel. If you're still fuming, then you probably have good reason to be angry, and you're not just blindly lashing out..." Normally, by the time I've allowed myself to be angry comes about, I'm still usually angry, but to a much less degree. Taking that time to delay the reaction usually disarms a lot of its potency.
And thus we come to the 'Third Rule to Being Autistic' which I've discovered:
I'm kinda similar to you i guess in that I am trying distracting myself (whether it's from a sensory meltdown or anger). Doing something mundane can help me - eg working on a spreadsheet!
Hi Shadow. I have found that as I have become older I understand more, but I also have many more responsibilities which mean I cannot always take myself out of the situation (Like having kids with me etc)
I also try and preempt episodes, and make sure I have taken my anti anxiety meds before going into a situation. More often than not my wife only sees this when we go out with the kids, but often they are the times where I have the least control