There are two seminal moments in every person’s life that have the power of placing them on a completely different path. The first moment involves the first time you come face to face with anger and the second is the moment someone tries to shame you for being angry.
The first time my mother’s dark side attack me had left me scarred for many years. I never wanted to experience it ever again, but unfortunately I would and it always reopened that first wound of the first time she unleashed her anger.
While I hated fighting, I would sometimes find myself in fights as a child. To then be reprimanded by my parents and teachers for what I felt were injustices against me was a message that it was not okay to fight but it was also not okay to be angry.
People liked me when I was calm and friendly; people were scared when they saw my own dark side. And so, because I don’t want to be ostracized and I want friends, I tried my best to hide my resentment.
I liked my mom best when she was nice to me, and so I tried my best to ensure that she stayed calm.
As a child, this attitude towards anger served me. It wasn’t always perfect and it didn’t always work, but it worked more often than not. That was good enough for me.
But when I became an adult, it wasn’t working nearly as much.
In relationships with the most volatile of friends and romances, I thought I could coerce them into kindness but once they exploded, they obliterated our bond. It would then have to be rebuilt but eventually it would be blown to smithereens again and again.
To top it all off, I refused to let them see my anger. I would take myself away from the situation, vent to myself or to someone else and then come back under the guise that I was calm.
At the time, I did not realize that anger was a gift. It’s not something to hide or an emotion that emotionally frail people spew at the slightest provocation. It is an emotion that is just as necessary as sadness, joy, cluelessness, boredom or appreciation.
Emotions are messages about what is occurring and anger is no different. Anger illustrates that something is intensely uncomfortable, that a boundary is being crossed or that a value is being violated.
If you care about yourself, it’s obvious why anger is imperative. It keeps you safe, it prevents people from taking advantage of you and highlights what you care about by highlighting what you do not want.
The problem with anger is that sometimes people will unleash an intense resentment and no one understands why. The reason we may do this is because of a prior wound that went unaddressed and unhealed.
We’re triggered because someone did something that is reminiscent of some past pain we suffered, and we’ll be damned if we’re going to experience that again!
Unfortunately, the people who are burnt by someone’s furor don’t know about the earlier wound. All they know is that they just got the tongue-lashing of a lifetime and now feel really crummy. Children are especially susceptible to this and can’t make heads or tails of what’s going on.
This is where the fear of conflict comes up. You do not want to fight fire with fire because you don’t want to fight the fire at all.
Soft breezes and cool water is more than enough but life isn’t always going to be like this. Sometimes you will have to stand up for what you believe in, and that has nothing to do with fighting fire with fire. It’s about standing up to fire knowing that it can’t burn you.
Remember, when someone is angry with you it is just a message that something you did was deeply upsetting. Armed with that knowledge, calmly defuse the bomb by talking about what’s bugging them. If they explode in the face of your calm, walk away. There’s nothing you can do. They have to address their wound, else no conversation can be had.
In the instances where you are the one who is mad, if someone has hit a deep wound, you too may fly off the handle. Again, no one can help you until you look at the wound. After taking some time to yourself, you can then express your anger but it won’t be a stick of dynamite, it will just be a conversation.
But in the case where there is no deep wound but boundaries are being crossed, just remember that anger is okay. Anger has something to say and it needs to be said, and it will be said because your boundaries, values and desires matter just as much as anyone else’s.
I wouldn’t have had to suffer nearly as much if I put my foot down on what I wasn’t willing to tolerate. I knew what I wanted for myself and if someone could not treat me in the way I wanted to be treated, there was no point in continuing the relationship.
I understand that there are some relationships that you cannot merely cut out of your life. Things can be complicated when they involve other people or business. But do not sacrifice your own wellbeing. Leave when you can, or put the steps in place in order to leave when you can.
Anger can save you from looking like an idiot. Anger can steer you in the direction you want to go rather than where people are pushing you to go. Anger can become a bomb but it is a bomb you will have to defuse at some point and it will allow you to heal from past traumas.
Will you let yourself feel it? Will you let the messenger in?