Layers of self are infinite. When we are born, we come out as a complicated entity with around 30 trillion cells. That’s a lot of complexity. As we grow, we become more complex as we consume about 34 GB of information per day, according to a 2009 study. Our thoughts become more sophisticated, and so do our problems.
I have been hyper introspective for the past few years. As I pore over myself, I’ve noticed many layers that I never saw before. I’ve picked apart why I do certain things and have unsurprisingly come to a greater understanding.
I have moved past several longstanding issues I’ve dealt with as a result of my self-exploration. I learned at a young age that expressing anger as a form of control was normal. It took me decades to unlearn this, that I was using it in the first place, and to realize it’s counterproductive.
I have used fear and anger to influence my daughter, and I’m not proud of that. I finally had an epiphany and changed my ways, and I’m happy that I now use love and understanding instead. It’s highly effective, and I’m seeing her grow and learn, and my influence with her is at an all-time high.
Before my introspection exposed new layers, I started writing down my hang-ups. Here is one of them.
I get angry about things I can’t control.
It’s not an uncommon hang-up by any means. However, it’s one I still carry with me to this day. It’s one that was born from a childhood filled with anger, chaos, and fear.
When I was young, my parents fought regularly. It would usually start with my step-dad coming home from a night of drinking on a weekday. My sister and I would be sleeping, and he would listen to music loudly. My mother would ask him to turn it down, and more often than not, this would trigger a fight. Instead of hearing loud music, we would wake to loud yelling and screaming.
Eventually, fights would escalate into violence, and my step-dad would beat my mother. Sometimes she would try to call for help, but he would rip the phone cord out of the wall and smash it.
I remember more than one broken car windshield incident. I remember more than phones smashing against the wall. I remember my mother loudly crying in the bedroom as my step-dad pinned her down to control her. I remember feeling devastatingly helpless. I remember feeling deathly afraid that my mother would be killed by violence.
I remember running away from a violent step-dad with my mother as he shot at us with a shotgun. It was a terrifying experience and the most powerless I’ve ever felt.
I remember growing big enough and strong enough to fight back. One evening my step-dad was threatening violence against my mother, as he often did, and I had enough. I told him to leave her alone, and predictably he said, “So, you think you’re a man now, huh?”. I focused on defending my mother and told him he would never hit her again and that I would stop him. My statement was a challenge to him, so he tried to dominate me. Instead, I threw him, and he collided with our fish tank. He laid there covered in glass, water, fish, and other debris. It was the first time in my life I felt in control. It was the moment that I had been waiting for all my life, and it didn’t feel as good as I thought it would.
All those experiences added new layers to my complex existence. As I peel back the layers, I’m finding reasons for my behaviors. I’m facing myself head-on and increased peace is the outcome.
Have you ever felt pain, that when alleviated, reveals a new source of pain? I deal with pain regularly thanks to years of poor judgment and neglecting my health. As I progress on my journey of self-discovery, I have removed large boulders of pain only to find new pain sources.
Much like my body, my mental health suffered thanks to neglect. I used to indulge in bouts of intense anger that would leave me and others burned. As I grew, I learned that anger was not the way. It took me many years to fully realize that.
My first epiphany about anger came after I had caused damage to myself and my home. I decided to clean the cabinet in my bathroom. It looked something like this, with two mirror doors.
I took the cabinet off my wall so I could easily clean it inside and out. When finished, I started putting it back on the wall only to find that it was easier said than done. It was heavy, and I could not get it to set on the hook after about ten minutes of struggle. Finally, my anger took over, and I punched the mirror. Blood poured from my hand, and I sat down in front of the cabinet feeling defeated.
I came back to my task later after my anger had subsided. As I was putting the cabinet back on the wall, I noticed that I could easily see when I had the hook in the right place, and that was that. After that day, I never lost my temper like that again. It was a teaching moment that I’ll never forget.
My pain hides behind layers. As my strength grows through my physical and mental self-care, there will be more layers. Sometimes it feels like too much to bear, but then I realize I can overcome this. I know that I must overcome the pain. I know that my friends, family, and the world are better with me in it.
I left smoking behind thirteen years ago. Then I quit drinking a little over a year ago. Most recently, I stopped ignoring my pain altogether. All those giant steps are adding up to finding myself and loving myself. It has allowed me to be who I am, and it has unchained my spirit.
It won’t be long now. I have devoted myself to chipping away at my layers of pain. I wonder who will emerge beneath the scars.