Anger- there is no shortage of it. Even though for my own health and sanity I take care to spend the bulk of my time around people who are positive, mellow, and well-suited to handling stress, this powerful emotion is one that never seems far enough away. All I have to do is take a quick scroll through Facebook or Twitter to see and feel the anger, wrath, or full-blown rage seeping through post after post after post, from the POTUS to the online trolls and everywhere in between. It’s exhausting, and I believe it is killing us.
Now wait a minute Michelle, you might be thinking, you are all about being positive and joyful. What do you even know about Anger? Oh, Honey- me and Anger go waaayyyy back. I used to sugar coat it as “being passionate” or “hot blooded” but the truth of the matter is that I had a problem with unresolved Anger, and no amount of clever euphemism was going to bring it under control until I found the courage to deal with it. My Anger was quite literally killing me in the form of heart problems, addiction, panic attacks and sleep disorders. So yeah, I have learned a thing or two along the way and it has helped me to become an expert in mastering a positive mindset.
Scientists and researchers have suggested that people who are prone to a short temper can also pass this trait along, whether genetically or environmentally or in some combination of the two. It is also widely held that anger and anxiety go hand in hand, as the two emotions feed off each other. Since I was a young girl, I have had to cope with a short fuse. My mom, god rest her soul, was a wonderful woman but DAMN did she have a quick temper. And when she got mad at you, you had better look out because she would definitely smack you with whatever was handy. My dad, god rest his soul too, was also a good man and more even keel than mom… but when he lost his temper, oh boy. I think I found it most terrifying because his normally gentle face and soft voice would change so dramatically in the heat of the moment that I didn’t recognize him. Also, he was pretty tall so it scared the shit out of me as a scrawny little girl to see this giant and hear him yell.
I don’t want to suggest that we kids were getting beaten regularly nor were we systematically abused. Not at all. But I can very easily connect my own path of angry rebellion, my pattern of very bad relationships (a pattern now broken, thankfully), and my own failures as a parent before learning to manage and express my anger responses in healthy ways. It was killing me and destroying my relationships, and until I learned to identify what was at the root of my rage it was a cycle that I felt hopelessly stuck in.
I sought help from a professional therapist years ago who was great at helping me get unstuck. It was scary at first, but so totally worth it. In the decades that followed, I’ve explored various ways to help process all of my hard emotions, including writing, yoga, meditation, prayer, forgiveness, and gratitude; it’s made all the difference. Now, whenever I am angry about something, I try to take the time to explore what is going on inside before letting out a fiery string of profanity*. *Unless it’s hockey season, but hey I’m working on it!
I want to acknowledge that there are very valid situations and circumstances that we come across that can elicit anger. Each one of us has our own triggers or hot buttons that are a shortcut to our anger response, and it is very important to learn what those are for yourself so that you can manage your emotions in a healthy way. It’s important also to recognize that Anger in and of itself is neither a bad thing nor a good thing. Anger is simply a very powerful (and perfectly normal) emotional response to external stressors. It is designed as a biological messenger that signals for our “fight or flight” survival mode to kick in by instantly elevating our heart rate, cortisol levels, and adrenaline. Our wonderful bodies are not meant to operate at that heightened level of intensity for prolonged periods, so it is vitally important to get a handle on the things that piss us off. It is in how we experience and express our anger that, when not handled in a healthy way, brings up real problems and can destroy our relationships and our own health.
I was having lunch recently with a dear friend who suffers from chronic pain throughout the body, has sleep disorders, and teeth/jaw issues. I cannot help but wonder how the years of suppressed anger and bouts of rage have played into creating these conditions. It truly breaks my heart, and I would do anything to take that pain away. It’s what prompted me to write about this here today, in the hope that someone reading this will find the courage to face their own Anger issues. Maybe it will save their life and bring them the peace they so deserve.