Perception is the only reality we know. Even cold hard facts are interpreted by our personal experiences and beliefs. There is so much information in the world constantly being taken in by our senses that it can be overwhelming to try and consciously experience all of them as they happen. We rely on these senses to decide if something is good or bad, enjoyable or hated, safe or dangerous. I had an amusing conversation with my boyfriend about perception. I explained our differences by using the example if I was alone at night and passed a darkened alley, I would be cautious and afraid. I would make a concerted effort to walk as far away from the opening as possible. Whereas, if I were waiting in line for a roller coaster I would be afraid but excited in anticipation of the thrill. Now my BF is a black belt in martial arts. He is over 6 feet tall so people don’t mess with him. He is also very afraid of heights, so his response to my example was, “But you could die on a roller coaster!” It would never occur to him there was ever any danger in a dark alley. Our perceptions of danger are very different.
While that particular difference does not negatively effect our relationship, there has been another critical issue. Since the beginning of our relationship he has always had difficulty controlling his anger. This is something he is aware of and we have tried to work together throughout the years on lessening if not fixing this problem. He is not physically abusive nor does he get in fights with others. What he does is rage. He yells, and screams and for lack of a better term, loses his mind. We’ve devised a coping system of walking away at the first signs of this “attack.” After some time passes we are able to come together and appropriately discuss what the real issues are etc. What’s happened as a result of experiencing his anger over the years is my perception of when the anger is starting is much more acute. I can almost sense it before it fully manifests. The problem is he can’t. So yesterday when I tried to make him aware of what I was sensing instead of him also recognizing it, it backfired. I tried to stay calm, I reminded him of what we agreed to, but the angered version of him sees nothing beyond the rage. Anyone that has read or seen the Incredible Hulk may have a better understanding of what this looks like.
There are no identifiable triggers to his anger. It boils down to his current level of perception. When he perceives he has been talked down to, or wronged, it doesn’t matter what the reality of the situation is. His perception is his reality and the rage follows. The problem is those same words that were so offensive one day, could be nothing more than words the next. This is where it gets tangled and difficult to deal with.
I love him, his is a genuinely caring and loving person, but I’m getting worn down. At this point, 5 years into this relationship, he has some choices to make. He either needs to get professional counseling, meds or move on. I can have all the love and understanding in the world. We can do and say all the right things to try and navigate his anger but it’s not enough. He points out the improvements that have been made, and while I appreciate and acknowledge them there is still too much happening that is extremely negative.
What I will not do is take responsibility for his anger. While I may adjust my responses and tone to try and help him through it he is responsible for his actions and no one else. Of course relationships take compromise and understanding but I will not change my core beliefs and values. While my depression causes low self-confidence I don’t have low self-worth. This is his journey and while I would love to be a part of it and am more than willing to help, it breaks my heart to think he may have to continue on his own. We will see…