Inviting In Anger as a Trusted Friend
Anger can feel like a powerful and overwhelming emotion. For those of us who are trying break the cycle of anger left from our own childhoods, we discover there are few models for expressing emotions such as anger in ways that do not hurt others.
If you grew up in a household, as I did, where anger resulted in pain or punishment, you may have learned to fear anger.
I learned to fear anger in adults and I learned to fear it in myself.
I spent decades trying to suppress my anger.
It never went away. It would show up again and again.
I would fight it but eventually it would come out in ways that mirrored what I experienced as a child. Even if that didn’t include hitting on my part.
When we are trying to parent from a place of trust and respect, reacting with anger to a child feels like a violation of our values and principles.
We know first-hand from our childhood experiences the impact of an adult’s anger being directed at a child.
When we are triggered by a something a child says or does, the feelings of anger coming up inside of us are scary. We react in anger. And then end up in a cycle of punishing ourselves for our transgressions, feeling guilty, and struggling with how to get out of the ditch we seem to keep falling in.
I have found in my consultations with parents, that those of us who struggle with anger often experienced punishment and anger directed toward us in childhood, perhaps even into adulthood. Many of us were spanked or hit in anger. Anger resulted in physical pain. When anger was expressed around us, we were not safe.
I feel particularly connected to those parents who struggle with anger because anger and rage have often been my companions in life.
They were unwanted, sometimes hated companions.
What I have learned in my journey is that when I fear something, I need to do the opposite of what I learned as a child.
When I was a child I tried to hide from the anger. Sometimes I fought it. As an adult, this strategy didn’t work.
Rather than moving away from it or fighting it, my best strategy, that which is most empowering and healing, is to move toward it and invite it into my presence as trusted friend.
It sounds ridiculous to invite in anger or rage as a trusted friend.
The truth is we have much to learn from our anger.
When we embrace it and connect to it, understand it and accept it, it has much to teach us.
The anger I feel at times is a part of me and my experience.
Anger tells me things about myself.
When I reject it, try to kill it, or control it, anger fights back because all it wants is acceptance.
It is simple and yet so challenging. When I accept the anger I feel, I am accepting myself.
In that acceptance, I rewrite my story of anger.
No longer is it harmful and hurtful, unless I choose to act on it in ways that hurts others.
I can reinvent how anger and rage serve my learning and wholeness.
I can create a way of integrating anger and rage so that the children in my life don’t have to fear those feelings in me or within themselves as I did.
When the feelings of anger come out in ways that hurt others, I can be accountable to those others. I can make amends in ways that are meaningful for them.
The gentleness I seek to use with the children in my life can be directed toward myself in ways I did not always experience as a child.
And in turn, I return that gentleness to children.
Just as I may have been caught up in a cycle of hating rage and anger, as I learn to love and accept those feeling, I learn to love and accept myself, and learn to love and accept the children in my life.