Things seem to be going well. We are making progress, showing up, staying sober, and doing our healing work. But then we hit a wall. Something happens. We get angry, defensive, passive-aggressive, or mean, seemingly out of nowhere. Feelings of defeat or confusion kick in, as we wrestle with these parts of our personality that come out of nowhere and run interference with what we want for ourselves.
Why does this happen? While making tangible and external changes is difficult, what can be even harder is making internal changes. It takes tremendous reflection and a substantial degree of humility and commitment, to improve the difficult sides of ourselves. But how can we do it? How can we address the challenging sides of our personalities?
Do you find yourself being aggressive, hurtful, or hot-tempered? Recognize that you may have developed these responses early on in childhood as a way to cope with circumstances in your life. These characteristics and personality traits developed to keep you safe, and to protect your heart, and vulnerable parts of your spirit.
The learned responses carried you through it, and that hard shell served as a protection. Start by affirming these parts of yourself. Thank them, and tell them they have done their job, and that it is safe to soften now. Remind yourself that it is not you, but a response. The key step is awareness.
Where do our defenses go up? Look at your childhood, and any traumatic events, heartbreak, abuse, neglect, or disappointment. Where do you think those things played a role in you developing those defenses? Search your heart. What vulnerable, scared, or lonely parts of you wish they could have been seen or heard? How much of your personality stems from these wounded parts of yourself?
When you notice yourself moving into the challenging traits, pause and ask yourself:
Are these the words I want to be saying? Is this aggression what I want to be communicating?
How can I change my words to match what I feel inside?
If you notice yourself pushing people away out of pain, reflect and ask yourself: Why am I doing this? What do I want instead? Are my actions doing the opposite of what I want for myself? If I’m pushing people away because I have been lonely for so long, how can I put a stop to it, even if it’s vulnerable and scary?
If you find yourself being aggressive or hurtful to someone who doesn’t deserve it, ask yourself:
Am I being fair to this person? Could it be that I am projecting my anger from another situation onto this person? It is important to remember who we truly are with, acknowledge, own, and apologize for our behavior. Strive to lower your defenses and soften your heart.
One way to work through this tendency is to own it. Grief therapy and anger management are incredible tools to uncover behaviors, patterns, or defense mechanisms that are getting in the way or causing us to self-sabotage. We can learn to let our anger, rage, and resentment go. Remind and affirm yourself that you are safe now. You don’t need to be on guard or carry such exhausting and heavy armor anymore. It is okay to rest and show the other sides of yourself.
Another strategy is to pause or share that you are struggling. Be silent, take deep breaths, or a minute to gather your thoughts, and wait until you calm down. You can also say: “I’m having a hard time knowing what to do, I need a minute to figure out how I feel,” or “I’m trying new ways to manage my temper and get in touch with my emotions,” or “My feelings are getting hurt, and I’m trying to find new ways to cope with frustration and pain,” and finally, “I don’t know positive ways to respond to things, but I know the way I have responded in the past isn’t working. I’m just going to take deep breaths until I know what to do.”
We can also share how vulnerable and scary it is to be kind or to let people in. We can say,
“I’m not used to having people care about me, so my first reaction is to be mean or hostile,” or
“People have really hurt me in my past, so it’s hard for me to trust. I push people away because I’m used to being hurt.” Telling the truth about our difficulty with trust and love is so healing.
For many of us, receiving praise, compliments, or love can be uncomfortable or painful, especially if we have experienced heartbreak and disappointment in the past. Some ways to share our discomfort are to honestly say, “I hear what you are saying, but it is too hard to say thank you. I don’t know how to receive a compliment without sarcasm,” or “I don’t know how to receive love without mocking it or self-sabotaging.”
Some longer-term solutions are to focus on the parts of your personality that you enjoy and are proud of. Do you love how funny you are? Or do you appreciate how well you can hold space for others? Do you love how big-hearted and warm you can be? Try leaning into and sharing those parts of your personality. This isn’t about becoming a different person, or that parts of your personality are wrong, it’s about recognizing that parts of our personality aren’t serving us anymore, so we can release them.
Are you wanting to release rage? Are you ready to express how you truly feel, but substance use and challenging sides of your personality are getting in the way? Are you ready for healing, and recovery? Are you wanting to put your armor down?
We are here to help. Contact us at Ashley Addiction Treatment, a residential treatment facility with committed staff who will walk the path of recovery by your side and will provide comprehensive and therapeutic support every step of the way. You will feel safe to explore your personality and become aware of the challenging parts that need healing. Work will be done to understand their history and purpose, so that they can be released. You will find the courage to acknowledge your true feelings and take action for a peaceful future. For more information, or to take the next steps, contact us at 800-799-4673.