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  • Writer's picturePam @ PH

Anger: It's Not About the Stapler

Someone in my house, who shall remain nameless, messed with my stapler. I innocently asked who did it, and instead of having a lighthearted conversation about it, the perp started gas-lighting me. Apparently, I am very passionate about my stapler because I felt like this:

I want to be kind, compassionate, and patient, but sometimes my old passive-aggressive nature shows up in an aggressive-aggressive fashion. Thanks to my recovery tools, I was able to minimize the damage and side-step an explosion.


KYMSI stands for Keep Your Mouth Shut Indefinitely. When in doubt, I pull out this tool. Philosopher Will Durant said,

"Nothing is often a good thing to do and always a clever thing to say."

I was 100% right about my stapler, and I had proof, but I was also smart enough to quit talking. Being quiet bought me some time to think about my next move. Unfortunately, the aggressive-aggressive part of me was still plotting revenge.

If It's Hysterical, It's Historical

I'd love to say I was instantly restored to sanity, but I my mind raced to build a case against the perp. I even found previously stapled papers to introduce as exhibits A, B, C, and D. Logically, I knew getting upset about a stapler wasn't how I wanted to spend the day, but emotions don't always follow the rules of logic and reason. In a meeting this week, someone shared this nugget,

Triggers can let me know where I need to heal.

Feel My Feelings

Clearly, this triggered something in me. Pre-recovery, I would've beat myself up for being angry about something so trivial, but stuffing my feelings is a form of denial. I was mad, illogically mad. Today, I can ask myself why am I so angry? Is this a control issue for me? Am I threatened because I am powerless over even small changes? Or am I triggered by past incidences of gas-lighting? Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner.

Anger Is Part of the Grieving Process

Elizabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler identified five stages in the grieving process:

  • Denial

  • Anger

  • Bargaining

  • Depression

  • Acceptance

Grief isn't limited to the death of a loved one. We can experience grief related to childhood trauma, abuse, a break-up, loss of job, or divorce. We all grieve in different ways, and we don't always cycle through all of the stages, but I often land in somewhere in the neighborhood of anger.

Renewing of the Mind

Before recovery, I really struggled with unhealthy thinking. Today, recovery slogans and sayings help pull me back onto the path of peace. I found these particularly helpful:

  • Insanity is when my old behaviors seem like a good idea to me.

  • Is being right a false sense of power?

  • I can't think my way into a new way of acting. I have to act my way into a new way of thinking.

  • We don't see things as they are. We see them as we are.

  • I have learned to give in to win.

Unfinished Business

I still feel a little guilty for the part I played in this stapler incident. I didn't have any malice or agenda in asking my question, but clearly HOW I phrased it also triggered my loved one. At the end of the day, we're all human. We all have different hurts, habits, hangups and triggers. I didn't mean for my question to trigger him, but it did. Had I not been so triggered by his reaction, I would have been able to comfort him. Because, really, who wants to have a huge family argument about a stapler?!? Not me. Now if you'll excuse me, I have an amends to make and some journaling to do about past gaslighting trauma.

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