What must it be like — I often wonder — to sweep by in one of your moods and lash out in every direction with very little forethought in the moment?
What must it be like to go on autopilot and say a bunch of things you don’t really mean? Things that wound the people you love.
Terrible, I imagine. Like you’re out of control. Because you are out of control in those moments.
Sometimes later I’ll try to tell you what happened when you were like that, because I’ve mistakenly taken it to heart. I’ve thought it was something said in earnest. That’s because in the house I grew up in, it wasn’t safe to just say mean things. Ever. You would get hurt. Constructive criticism wasn’t terribly well received in that house either, which has left me with an additional set of problems (ones that I’m still working on even after a successful course of assertiveness therapy and decades of hard work).
But I did learn emotional self-control, I learned to bite my tongue when I was fired up — so I wouldn’t be physically punished for stepping out of line.
Your parents were kinder to you, I think. More tolerant. They punished you when you stepped out of line, I know — but the parameters were different. The thresholds for punishment were higher and the punishments themselves were less harsh.
I grew up in a tight bubble of fear. I felt often like there was a storm raging all around me (parental moods). It was never feasible to become a storm myself.
As an adult, this means I don’t say cruel things I don’t mean out of anger. Not that I’ve never insulted someone. I have. But if I say something insulting, I mean it. And I rarely say cruel things — about anyone, never to you. We’re different that way. Your mouth starts to move and whatever is thrumming in your amygdala flies out — in a word salad of anger and displaced frustration.
It can happen in an instant. You rail and insult and rave.
But then when you regain your senses, you can barely remember what you even said. If I ask you about the insults, you’ll laugh at them. Say they’re absurd. That you don’t mean that. It’s just something you said.
And I’ll nod and try to figure out a way to forget they were said. I repair any damage the storm left, shaking my head all the while, hoping the next one doesn’t hit for a while.