With Mother’s and Father’s days at hand, I reflect on my own parents. For years I have held onto a lot of anger towards my parents. This was in the early fifties. I am 65 years old now and I still cling to my stories that do not serve me, but they do help me stay stuck. Then I came across Francis Weller’s book, The Wild Edge of Sorrow. He has a brief paragraph on blame I want to share.
“Having worked with people for more than thirty years in my practice, it is clear to me that finding a target to blame is effortless. Nothing is asked of us when we simply assign fault to someone else for the suffering we are experiencing. Psychology has colluded in the blame game, pointing an accusing finger at our parents. While many of us suffered mightily because of unconscious parenting, we must remember that our parents were participants in a society that failed to offer them what they needed in order to become solid individuals and good parents. They needed a village around them—and so did we. Of course we were disappointed with our parents. We expected forty pairs of eyes greeting us in the morning, and all we got was one or two pairs looking back at us. We needed the full range of masculine and feminine expressions to surround us and grant us a knowledge of how these potencies move in the world. We needed to have many hands holding us and offering us the attention that one beleaguered human being could not possibly offer consistently. It is to our deep grief that the village did not appear.”
It doesn’t serve me to hold on to anger. It hurts me. It keeps me stuck. As a child growing up in a very dysfunctional alcoholic home, one of my escapes was to go out behind my house into the fields and run like a horse. My hair flying, I was free. That was a good use of my anger. On the other hand, I remember finding poison ivy and rubbing it on my arms and legs. That was a self-destructive use of my anger. It got me what I wanted though and that was attention, but I surely paid for it.
There are many tools to deal with anger, but the most important tool is self-awareness. Being aware of my anger has given me the foresight to understand why I react in certain situations. It’s easy to blame others, but it takes away my ability to be happy because every time I point the finger of blame, what I’m really demonstrating is if someone else changes their behavior, then I can be happy. Happiness is an inside job. It’s cliché but it’s true.
I have learned to manage my anger and many other emotions by discovering what really makes me happy and figuring out what I want. I have no problem listing what I don’t want. Journaling and talking about my anger helped me sift through my true feelings, and I uncovered my fear for asking what I wanted. I had a failed track record on receiving. Then I found Susan Jeffers’ book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway®. This book has given me ways to sift through my emotions, find the underlying blocks and move through them.
Psychotherapy is another tool where anger can be looked at in a safe setting with a caring professional. It has really helped to give anger a voice. I may feel my anger when I’m recounting my feelings. It doesn’t mean I have to drudge up all the stuff that happened and live through it again though, only if I choose to.
When I’m aware of my anger leaking out on unsuspecting people, I stop and remind myself this person is not why I’m angry. I bring my anger to my therapist so I can discuss it in a safe environment.
Journaling as mentioned above has been a lifesaver for me as it acts as an outlet for my emotions. I don’t journal every day. I journal when I’m called to it. A journal is private, only yours, and should be respected as such. Journaling is one of the safest avenues of letting emotions out, and the added benefit is it helps us hear our inside voice, the one that has something to say.
Choice is the operating word in dealing with our anger. We can choose to stay angry, feel tense, judgmental, sad, spiteful and continue to be defined by these feelings, or we can climb the tree of life with all its knobby branches and see the view from the top. Using tools to help the climb is essential. Then when we’re at the top, we can look up and see the majestic sky; look around to see life teeming among the branches around us; look down with a more accepting heart as we view our learning curves. So, build a toolbelt and be compassionate with yourself. We’re all climbing at the same time.