Monday, February 22, 2016

                                           What Do You Do With Your Anger?

     With a presidential candidate running on the fumes of anger, anyone who cannot see or feel the anger, frustration, hatred and bias in the air today has to be deaf and blind. When billions of dollars are behind the anger, it can become a movement. Most of us are not that rich, but everyone experiences these emotions at some time, and often regularly.

     I have often asked this question because I have suffered from anger-stuffing through the years. My theory is that angry people express their feelings in different ways. Some people smoke it, some eat it, some spend it, some scream it, some end their lives over it. No one escapes anger. The difference is how we handle it. 

     I grew up with a father who pouted and a mother who screamed. As a young child, I was sent to my room when I got angry, so I learned that anger was shameful and that when I was angry, I should not only be ashamed of my feelings; I should be ashamed of my behavior and that part of me who felt it. As I didn’t like listening to my mother when she threw pots and pans in the pan drawer from her frustration, I promised myself I would never scream like that. I didn’t realize at the time, however, that she released her anger so it never festered and bothered her once released. The pouter, my father, however, would brood and fume so his anger probably caused his anxiety and stomach issues which he blamed on his sales job.  Anger is learned in our family of origin, and if yours taught you what mine did, your only choice was what was modeled.

     To this day, I pout. I want to scream, but I learned that “good girls” don’t behave that way, so I stuff it. Stuffed anger turns into hostility, resentment and even more shame. The shame spiral can be very destructive, and I’ve learned that when I start feeling angry about something, I have to find a way to get rid of it before it consumes me. For me, that is working out, going for a brisk walk, reading a book, cleaning a drawer—whatever will distract my mind until the rage dissipates,and I can look at the situation objectively. This is no easy task, but it is essential.

     Many people in this country are angry. We get angry because we feel powerless. The powers that be (whoever you may think they are) have let us down, and we fell like we have no voice. Whether that feeling comes from a political source or from a parent or a spouse, the feeling of being powerless creates frustration that turns to raw anger and eventually to rage. 

     The other day, I met a very angry woman. She knows nothing about me nor does she care. She is so angry, she doesn’t realize that it is leaking out of her pointed fingers, her furrowed brow and her careless words. In my humble opinion, her anger was not only inappropriate but sad. When someone you hardly know begins to rant and rave over every topic, it is obvious that that person has felt he or she has no voice. When a person feels like that for a long time, she gets to a point where it penetrates every thought, every topic. It doesn’t matter to her how she’s perceived, who she embarrasses in the conversation or how loud her voice is; her voice is being heard. The silence has been her prison for so long; she just has to let it out.

     As embarrassed as I was for her, I could understand her rage. I could empathize with her feelings of “now it’s my turn.” The problem is that her angry is destroying the good part of her that has gotten buried in whatever has caused her feelings. The way it’s coming out is destructive and counter-productive. She doesn’t realize that getting back at whoever or whatever has caused her rage will not make her feel better, at least, not permanently. She has to learn to take that energy and channel it in a way that gives her peace.  Good luck with that.

     How about you? How do you express your anger? Does it make you feel better or worse once the emotion is verbalized? Who taught you how to deal with this emotion? How do you model it for the people you love?