Letters To My Younger Self #2: Anger
March 22, 2019, Delhi. You were really looking forward to that day. After all, you were going to have a reunion with some of your favourite college friends after a really long time. A group which had never assembled together. You were excited for it, yes. But there was something else on your mind as well. You were going to give a shot at a particular tablet. Now, both of us know that sometimes we try some things just for the sake of trying. But this was not it. Far from it.
At the time, you were struggling to still move on from our past relationship. It was close to 2 years now. You’d been trying every possible thing you could imagine but nothing seemed to work. The part that bothered you the most was a lack of understanding about why what happened, happened. You knew that a big part of it was your struggle with controlling your anger. What you couldn’t understand was, why was there so much anger in the first place. And why did it come out in the way that it did. That is when you got to hear stories from people who gained a much-needed clarity, after an acid experience, which they were struggling to achieve from the usual means. Desperate as you were, you clinched on to that sliver of a hope. You thought, “Maybe I should take that pill to Ibiza!”.
And clarity was sought indeed. That night was the first time you physically saw the two different selves within you. It was hard to segregate what was physically real from what was not. The self you usually showcase to other people is the one you were always aware about. But that night, you saw our other self. The self that is often subdued. The self that lies dormant on most days.
That doesn’t have any control over itself. Over its emotions. The one that gets ticked off by every small thing. Which comes out only in front of people who are extremely close to you. Dangerously close. Because that is when you take them for granted and the alter ego starts feeling comfortable to reveal itself. Let’s call it the Shadow Self because this is precisely what you saw that night. A shadow.
We’ve carried these 2 selves with us for all our lives. Since you used to spend a lot of time at home before going to college, the shadow self was actually the more dominant one. You felt safe most of the times as you were at home. You could demand anything and be totally pissed off if your demands were not met, until someone finally gave in. But things changed as college began. You were spending the majority of your time in unfamiliar (and hence, unsafe for the shadow self) territories. It kept getting pushed down. Kept getting buried. Deeper and deeper. Deeper and deeper. So, the rare moments where it got the chance to surface up, it would try to make up for all the screen time it had missed out on by raising its intensity 100-fold. These moments, of course, were those when you were extremely angry. It didn’t have to be a big thing. A very small trigger in a safe-enough surrounding was enough to ignite our shadow self. As much as our usual self tried to prevent it, the shadow self would actively want to hurt the people closest to us. Since they were close to us, we knew the words that could hurt them very deeply. We knew about their insecurities. And the shadow self would want to exploit this knowledge. I still don’t know why. But, you and I know that it wanted to. And on many such moments, it did precisely that. Even until very recently. As soon as the shadow self got its moment of glory, we would regain our consciousness and keep apologising profusely for what we said and did, often being completely puzzled as to why we did so in the first place.
Calling this self the shadow self doesn’t absolve us of any responsibility that we hold towards the consequences of its action. It is still a part of me. It is still a part of you. In some ways, it is you. And it is me. But the key is to remember that it is not the entirety of us. And we didn’t consciously choose to develop the traits of the shadow self. It’s only quite recently that I’ve been able to clearly articulate the nature of its existence. And that is the first step towards understanding where it’s coming from, what are its true needs, what is it trying to achieve and finding healthy ways to meet those needs. We’ve tried ignoring it. Running away from it. None of that has worked. We can’t avoid the face off. Maybe we have something to learn from it as well.
But I want you to know that I’m working on it. And I’m truly sorry for whatever led to the birth of the shadow self within you. I want to provide you the validation and acknowledgement that you might have not found. Your thoughts are valid. Your needs are valid. You don’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. You, by yourself, as you are, are enough. Your existence doesn’t need to be justified. You don’t need to do anything to please anyone. You don’t need to be anyone you don’t want to be. You are trying to improve. I know that. And that is enough!
This post is a part of the my new series, Letters To My Younger Self. Every time I used to make an observation in the past, I had to add several disclaimers to state that others could have a different experience and that, this is just my own. Whenever I wanted to share a few learnings, I found it hard to avoid coming off as if I am prescribing. Knowing how different people are coming from totally different places and can have completely different needs, I find it hard to prescribe anything anymore. The one person I can advice with any sense of authority or share stories with without the need for a disclaimer, though, is my younger self. There is a lot that has remained unsaid between us. Let the healing begin!