Once, just after college, I hit my mom. We were in a hotel room in Michigan where I was moving for work, and I didn’t have a place to live. I blamed my parents for misguiding me (real mature, I know).
I was stressed out, not sure if anything would work out, and feeling totally helpless. I had no idea how to deal with all these feelings. I guess I was wound up so tight, I just kind of snapped, and hit her. And immediately after, I started balling. I was so ashamed of what I had done, of how I had dealt (or not dealt) with my feelings.
I didn’t know that at the time. I wasn’t very self aware. And I certainly didn’t know the feeling I was feeling was shame.
Flash forward three years, and I’m having breakfast with Peter. I had been frustrated with things between us for a couple of weeks maybe, when he said something that pushed me over the edge. I got so mad that, in a fit of what kind of felt like exasperation, I brought my fists down, hard, on my side of the table. It shook a little. I’m not sure Peter even noticed. But I got scared. Why was I so angry? Why was I acting out like this? Why did it take my physically hitting something for me to acknowledge my anger? I barely slept that night.
Anger scares me.
I fear that if I let myself feel angry, it will be all-consuming.
I fear anger in the same way I used to fear sadness. I fear that if I let myself feel anger, I will be angry for the rest of my life. I’m so upset writing this, honestly. I feel the sadness in my eyes, the tension in my arms.
I know, I know logically, that anger is like any other feeling. With proper attention and care, it is fleeting. It will pass, but not as long as I keep ignoring it, suppressing it, fearing it.
I know this, but I still sit here, unable to face my anger.
It feels like there is too much. I have suppressed anger for so long, there is no way I can start facing it now and not let it take over.
But I feel it. I feel it in the way my chest tightens. In the way my throat aches, just a little. I feel it in my jaw, in the way I clench my teeth.
I think anger makes me feel guilty. As in, how can I feel angry with someone, when I know their intentions are good? I have to learn to hold understanding and anger at the same time. I have to remember that it’s ok to hold two (or three or many) conflicting feelings at once.
I did that once. A few months ago. I allowed myself to feel anger at friends who I felt had abandoned me, while still understanding that was not their intention. I remember the relief, the excitement, when that “worked.” When I didn’t feel this begrudging towards them for the rest of time, not even for the rest of that day.
I need to remember that my progress is not linear. That it’s great that I had it figured out that one time a few months ago. And that other things have happened since then. Things that have changed the anger picture.
I know I’ll figure this out. I know that just like I faced the sadness, fearing that I would fall back into a depression, I will face this anger, fearing that it will never pass.
This is the work. This is what I have to do to make the life I want. A life filled with joy has to, by definition, also be filled with sadness and anger.
“We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.” ~ Brené Brown
I know that in order to have a life filled with good, I also have to face the bad. I have to accept it. To embrace it. It’s a relief, in a way, but it’s also a struggle.