Your abusive behavior causes your depression, not the other way around.
Anger comes with a burst of adrenaline that temporarily increases confidence and vitality. It’s a chemical high.
But afterwards, there is a slump.
So whenever you use anger to energize yourself, you borrow from your future store of energy.
And you cannot keep borrowing forever. Eventually, the debt must be paid. The debt is paid with that numb, lifeless feeling that becomes so familiar.
You can still get that hit of anger by replaying events, over and over again, in your head. And every time you remember the bad things people have done to you, the insults, the humiliations, you get angry. The anger makes you feel alive. Temporarily.
Then the slump comes again. You need a stronger dose.
You find that you get an even stronger dose of adrenaline by talking with friends about the terrible things people have done to you. Your friends egg you on. They encourage you. It feels good.
You’re the victim in your own story. You’re the Hollywood underdog, fighting back against the bad guys. That adrenaline surge of anger feels good, doesn’t it?
But then. You’re alone, eventually. And the familiar numbness returns.
You need more anger.
And you’ve learned that people blindly support you when you’re the victim. You’ve learned that it feels good to think that life is a movie and that you’re the main character.
You’ve gone online and “learned” about “narcissism” and “borderline”, or whatever personality disorder diagnosis you stumbled across. And now it’s not enough to talk about what people did.
Now you need to diagnose and label them. They aren’t just people who did bad things any more. Now they are bad people.
So you ascribe devious intentions to compassionate actions. As long as you talk about intentions, which are invisible, you can tell whatever fabricated story you want about anyone.
Now, you replay conversations in your head, taking phrases way out of context. You are angry every time you remember what someone said, because that hit of anger is what you needed in the first place. And your anger poisons every memory.
And you know what?
The first person you ever labeled a narcissist? Maybe they really were a narcissist.
But then it became a habit.
You started labeling everyone, and focusing on their motivations and intentions, instead of actions and results.
This allowed you to blow other people’s behavior out of proportion while you ignored your own emotional abuse. You ignored your cold shoulders, your stonewalling, your loud sighs, your condescending tone, your intimidating anger, your character assassinating gossip, your attempts to isolate the person, your threats to harm yourself, your constant provocations, your alcohol abuse, your crossing of physical boundaries, your bullying, criticism and contempt.
Instead, needing more and more of that anger-induced adrenaline, you focused on the most minor slights. Real or imagined. It was always someone or something else’s fault.
And eventually, you started defining affronts to your ego as “harm”.
You read some self-help and learned that you “deserve love”. But what you mean by love is that other people give you want you want.
Or your culture told you that you “deserve respect”. But respect to you means that other people submit.
You believe you are entitled to the blind support your friends gave you when you first told them, angrily, about the bad things people had done to you.
You believe you are entitled due to your victim status–no wait, you’re woke. Your “survivor” status.
But every time you replay the insults in your head, every time you gossip so that your friends only hear your version of the movie, every time you lash out with threats, physical violence or even sexual assault…
Every time you use anger to get that burst of power…
The darkness eventually returns.
Because anger doesn’t make you powerful.
It only makes you feel powerful, temporarily.
And when the anger fades, that familiar numbness returns. Even worse than last time.
You are not abusive because you’re depressed.
You’re depressed because you’re abusive.
Is there a way out?
Remember why anger exists. Remember its positive function.
I get angry so that I can defend the tribe against sabretooth tigers. I get angry so that I can transform into the Mandalorian and defend Baby Yoda.
I get angry so that I can protect.
But it’s 2020 and no one needs protection from sabretooth tigers any more. The Baby Yodas that surround me don’t need me to battle death troopers.
They need protection from a sick culture that tells them that they are special and important–and deserve to be treated as such–but does not teach them how to love or be loved.
They need me to set an example that there are ways to deal with insults, disappointments and failures that don’t involve screaming matches, lawsuits, physical threats and hysterical Facebook posts.
They need me to protect them by not participating in a culture of entitlement and anger. They need me to not act like a victim.
Anger makes me feel powerful. But connecting with other human beings and protecting them makes me powerful, regardless of how I feel. So does pursuing my own goals and living up to my own values.
So every time I feel the need to use anger for an adrenaline burst, I take it as a signal. And instead of wallowing in the anger, I connect with someone. I send a text. I respond to them on social media. It doesn’t matter if they reply. I’m doing this for me, not them.
Or I get to work on something I care about. Or, particularly in a social setting, I remind myself that the more I am tempted to use anger, the more important it is to set an example instead.
I have interrupted my anger addiction thousands of times. That’s what it takes. Addictions are hard to undo. Old habits must be replaced by new ones.
If you are addicted to anger, here’s my promise to you.
Interrupt that anger five-thousand times by connecting, protecting, working hard or setting an example. It doesn’t matter when in the surge of anger you interrupt it. Interrupt it the moment you are conscious that you have a choice. The more you build the habit, the easier it will be, the faster you can interrupt. Do it five-thousand times. Your depression will disappear, and you will be powerful instead of feeling powerful.