It is dog season right now.
What I mean by that is the females are in heat, and the males are fighting. It happens mostly between August and September, I guess. Because the kids eat at school, and throw their excess food on the ground, the dogs gather at our school. I don’t think the dogs are explicitly hungry. It is just in their heads as a gathering place, because many of them have spent time there at some point in their lives looking for food. So I teach class and from time to time, there is a dog fight or the they begin to mate outside the class for all of my curious students to see, and I need to locate a stick or some rocks and encourage them to take their date or their quarrel to a less throw-y location.
There was quite a serious dog fight in front of one of my Class 4 rooms earlier in the week and it was quite loud and disruptive, and I went out with a broom to get rid of them. They paid absolutely no attention to the broom, but the teacher in the other Class 4 room came out with a better stick and they listened to her.
Anyway, I came in and one of the kids who probably has an attachment disorder and possesses two of the most beautiful dark brown eyes on the planet was doing something he shouldn’t. I can’t remember what. It wasn’t serious. It was something that he always does. Wiggling too much during meditation or something. I spoke to him very sharply.
I realized very suddenly I am angry because of the dogs. I got a kind of aggressive/adrenaline rush trying to beat a snarling, biting pack of dogs into fleeing, and I came back with anger still in my body. I was not actually, truly, cognitively angry at anyone. The dogs were doing what they do. The kid was doing what he does, and what he stops doing when I gently remind him. But hitting dogs is an aggressive act, and the emotion in my body was anger, and it stayed there after I came back inside. It leaked. It leaked out onto that kid, and I was much less kind to him than I usually am, because of that leakage.
I have also been thinking about C, and the times when she really does mean to hurt me, when she becomes Punishing Parent and it’s not tired, fussy, angry, but I am going to break all my toys angry. I have been trying to imagine how she feels inside when she is like that, because it doesn’t happen to me very often and I don’t remember it. It might not happen to me, because I am suppressing it, but anyway she is going through something I don’t quite understand.
Between the dogs and thinking about C’s punishing parent and my “shame showers” (an absolutely perfect phrase), I realized anger makes us want to punish. Our desire to punish gets reined in as we learn to think about other people’s feelings and we also start to be able to understand consequences, but that’s its instinctive path.
This evening, it went a bit of a step farther in my mind, to this other place of feeling that my mom really didn’t mean to hurt me. I mean, it wasn’t personal in a way. She got overwhelmed by anger, she acted out, I was there to be acted out upon. It could have been someone else. It happened to be me, and it’s possible it happened to be a person with my particular temperament or my particular physical characteristics, or whatever. It might be she would have acted out on someone else if I had been different. It’s possible, she had a “type.”
However, even if she was discerning about her target in that way, it still wasn’t about me. It was about her feeling overwhelmed by anger with someone available to take it out on, and about the natural course of anger to be towards punishment. She meant to hurt someone, but she didn’t really mean to hurt me. I was just there.
It feels a lot better. It was never me. I wasn’t bad. I was just there. Just like that boy with the beautiful eyes was just there after the dog fight, I was there when my mother was triggered and dysregulated. It could have been someone else. It wasn’t me.