Anger is an emotion that I avoid. I am not sure why this specific emotion causes me distress and panic. It could be that I was raised with an alcoholic father in the house and when he got angry, which was rare, you did not really know what to expect. Or, maybe it could be because I have a Lutheran mother who never showed her anger in a healthy, visible way. My mother would become withdrawn and stop speaking. How I knew, as a child (and still today), that I had upset my mother is that she would stop talking to me or interacting with me in any way. Can you imagine how crazy making this is? I would sometimes not know what I had done so I would have to go through my mind to see what I might have done to cause this angry silence.
In my late 30’s I met a man who had no control over his anger. Where it had been roll modeled to me to withdraw in anger and from anger, it was then roll modeled to me to live anger at all times and apparently for no reason. Belongings would get smashed, I would be threatened, There were threats made regarding my child, Being called names was almost a daily event and many other ways of showing anger were roll modeled to me. I went from a world of angry withdrawal to a world of intense angry expression.
During the time I was living with this man who was roll modeling a new way of expressing anger, a friend invited me to his home to talk. During that talk I was gently made aware that type of anger I was living with was known as domestic violence. I was encouraged and supported to get an attorney to create a safe exit strategy. So, with the last of any savings I had, I did. That time of my life was extremely painful. I had sooo many feelings! I felt pathetic, as a strong woman how did I get myself into such a situation? I felt like a victim, what had I ever done to deserve to be treated so poorly? I felt fear, what would happen to me and my son, what would this man do to us in the future? I felt overwhelming sadness for myself, my child and all of humanity….how could there be people like this on the planet and if there was people like this, how could our world be a safe place for all? I felt so many emotions but one that I did not feel was anger.
To help myself through this very difficult time I hired a therapist as well as joined a DV support group. I began to learn about and discuss anger. As I started to thaw from the emotional freeze I found myself in I began to feel anger. It startled me to feel this ‘dangerous’ emotion. I talked to numerous people about anger. Through a lot of conversation I came to understand that I had a right to be angry in this situation. I also learned that anger, when coming from a place of health, is just a warning sign that a personal boundary has been crossed. I started calling my anger ‘righteous anger’. My righteous anger helped me. I did not yell, scream or throw things in anger but, I did take action.
I am grateful to have had the life experience that taught me healthy ways of looking at and expressing anger. Anger in itself is not a bad emotion. It is just an emotion. Now when anger comes to me, I can stop and determine what boundary it is that is being crossed. I check in to see if my anger is right action anger or if it imagination ego based anger. If it is anger that comes without having all of the facts I title it imagination anger and I set out to discover what the truth is of the situation. If I determine I have right anger I name it righteous anger and I begin to look for the right action to take.
I do not wish my life classroom experience on anybody! I hope that this little piece on anger helps you in some way. It has helped me over the years as I have had to continue to work with people who are still learning healthy ways to express the emotion of anger in their life.