Note: I originally wrote this post, but it did not save. I actually controlled my anger… but it was still irritating.
If you experience what I call Aspie Rage, this post is for you. I experience it from time to time, even though I’m a pretty light Aspie. Asperger’s Syndrome has a tendency to lessen our ability to cope with certain types of stimuli – which makes us lose our cool at moments that many people would see as inopportune, strange or completely inappropriate.
The reasons for Aspie Rage can be as numerous as we are. Perhaps someone violated one of your rules. Perhaps someone has insulted you. Maybe someone is just asking a question while you think, and it really angers you. Regardless of how you’re feeling, snapping at people is unacceptable.
Years ago, I read a report in which a researcher had gone up to some birds nests and rearranged them. Then these scientists (who were probably Neurotypicals) actually seemed to be surprised when the birds displayed signs of stress upon returning to their materially altered nests.
If a person came into your home and rearranged your furniture without your consent (or even knowledge), you would have the right to be upset. If someone who lives in your home with you rearranged the furniture, that could be a reasonable cause of perturbment.
But of course, there are also times when we are just thinking of something, and it has us getting more and more riled up… and then someone interjects. The person to whom we thrust our anger has often had nothing to do with our ire… they just got caught in the path of the proverbial tornado.
I know that when people have scammed or taken advantage of me in the past, it has hurt and angered me to the point of thinking some seriously cruel thoughts on what I would enjoy doing to them. I wrote that correctly – even though years have passed since the major scams of my life unfolded, I would STILL like to do some truly awful things to those people. But taking out that anger on the innocent bystanders of my life is just wrong. So I have to move past the crap.
At some level, all anger derives from feeling somehow threatened. As Aspies, some of us are a bit easily offended and threatened. Let’s discuss a few ways we can keep this from boiling over unexpectedly.
1. Focus on good things.
Bad things happen – it’s an unfortunate consequence of life. But even if several bad things have all happened in the past 24 hours, and you’re still reeling from the bad things that occurred last week… there’s probably still a healthy supply of good in your life.
And if all else fails, you’re still alive. You still have the chance to build some good things, even if you have absolutely none. That’s pretty good, isn’t it?
2. Decide how bad the situation is.
I’ve often found that I can put things in perspective by assigning them a numerical category. For instance, I can make a scale of 1-10, and have them represent the bad things in life. A 1 might be that I forgot a non-urgent letter I intended to mail today – a mild annoyance, as I can just mail it tomorrow.
What’s a 10? I’m thinking that a 10 would be drowning in a flaming, oil-filled sea while my flesh burns and a series of scary, gnarly-toothed sea creatures chomps at my limbs and genitals – while people who could help me just hang around on their fancy boat and make smart-ass comments on my final moments in this world. That would be pretty bad, wouldn’t you agree?
Seriously, if something isn’t at least a three or four, it’s probably not worth fussing over too much. Let it go, or it’ll drag you under.
3. Breathe deeply.
A meditation technique I’ve used in the past is to breathe deeply, while focusing on one point of your nostrils. Whenever a thought tries to break through, push it away – you are focusing on your nostrils. The deep breathing will allow your body to calm down, and the focus will let you escape the overload.
While many Aspies already meditate and practice self-hypnosis, I had to learn to do this. I used to get overwhelmed all the time.
If you can, notice when you are getting angry with someone or something. When you can feel the anger rising upward, give it time to dissipate quietly. It may mean you delay a few seconds before responding to a question, but it will also mean that you will respond in a more socially acceptable manner.
5. Accept that change is a part of life.
One problem that many of us struggle with is one that NTs often outgrow at a reasonably early age – we don’t often adapt well to change. If someone changes something in our lives, we flip out, even if we realize that we’re being irrational.
But when you think about it, change is just how life moves onward. If someone rearranged the furniture, it might be because they grew tired of it being that way. If a plan changed, it might’ve just been a poorly laid plan in the first place. We all need to adapt.
6. Accept that you are part of making the rules, but not the only part.
Rules are formed on the basis of consensus. People get together, and through quiet acceptance and mutual pact, the informal rules of life are defined. If a person raises an issue with one of the rules, it may be altered or eliminated. But you do not not have the power to unilaterally change the rules, unless you are in a position of complete authority (such as the owner of a privately held company or a parent).
If you are upset because someone else violated your rules, get over it. You do not rule over them, and you are being unjust by attempting to impose what you desire onto them.
7. Ask about what’s bothering you.
If someone has obviously ripped you off, swindled you, beaten you, or in some other way wronged you, they will most likely disappear before you have a chance to confront them about it. But for the most part, people are simply going about their own agendas, and have no idea that they may have hurt or disturbed you.
If you ask about why they did a particular thing, you may come to understand something you didn’t know before. Do not blame them – their intentions were most likely harmless. Besides, it’s rude to blame people, when they’re doing something that they may very well consider to be completely inane.
If someone is doing something that upsets you, but does not directly affect you (such as walking down the street and being fat), don’t mention it to them. And let it go.
8. I’d like to read some of your ideas and coping strategies. So feel free to post how you handle Aspie Rage in the comments section.