Getting stuck in Anger

Photo by Sushil Nash on Unsplash

I sat in the car with my baby girl, now 14, on Christmas day. We were going to my sister’s for dinner. We all have the same COVID-19, having been exposed at my gramma’s funeral just two weeks ago. So…what’s the risk? We were happy to have that time to look forward to. As we drove, she became more and more stressed. Her anger over her absent father, unrealized expectations; her overwhelm about schoolwork, her missing of friends. We talked about all of that, but there was more. She was angry about having to deal with anxiety. Why does she have this hard thing and no one else her age does? Why does everything have to be so hard? Why can’t she be like everyone else?

As I listened, I felt sadness at her disappointment, but so grateful that I was the one sitting there. I, too, deal with chronic and acute anxiety. It all began at age 12 for me. For her, it was nearly the same age and stage of life. Mine was brought on by physical and psycho-emotional trauma. Hers was purely psycho-emotional. I knew where she was. There is no way to forget these feelings and experience. We wish we could forget, but because we cannot, we get to be the teachers of lessons hard-learned. She doesn’t want to have to learn tricks to take care of herself, to feed herself well, to meditate and keep herself in a good headspace. She doesn’t want to have to exercise and get off of her phone. I play that game with myself everyday. I wish I didn’t have to either.

But, I have never had the luxury of having someone else take care of me. If it was to be done, I was to do it. I had to learn how to feed myself, do some basic self-care, yoga and spiritual practices. I had to get into a place in my relationships that I could be the authentic version of myself. Sadly, at her age, she might not be able to do that. The time will come, however. And it is liberating.

I talked to her about how everyone has problems that we cannot see. Everyone has demons they are fighting that are not apparent to us…unless they are. Ours may not be apparent to anyone either. It is up to us to make sure we have what we need. We need to practice asking and answering this key question:

What do I need right now?

And do whatever that is. At times, we may seem irrational when we do what we need to do. We may have to leave situations. We may have to politely return gifts, offerings and reject words of advice and “wisdom”. We have to come into relationship with our intuition and follow through with what we know in our bodies. I told her that the gift we have inside us is well developed even if it is difficult to reconcile with other’s demands on us.

I told her of when my anger was the most predominant feeling. I told her of how when I finally learned the words to describe my feelings of having been neglected and abandoned, things shifted. I could talk about it. That did not help my relationship with her father, but it helped me to be able to name the feeling. He would never take responsibility for any of my feelings. They were mine and it was all my perception and interpretation to him. I was making gross misinterpretations in his opinion. But I knew I had not.

She would never have to do that. She was given words. She was taught the words manipulation and gaslighting by her therapist who helps her make sense of some of the anger she is experiencing. It is complicated, but at least that can be tackled today. Thank God for therapists!

To take the time and energy to develop the skills to take care of ourselves is, to me, Adulting 101. My daughter might be a little young for that class, but she will be ahead of the game when she gets there. The anger she is experiencing right now-if she allows it to give her momentum-will allow for change. She will change her environment however she can and take control of life where she can. She will not be paralyzed by ignorance and fear.

Anger is not a place to stay. It is a place to launch from. She knows that every social movement has been launched in some part by anger; anger because of abuse and trauma; anger because of being treated as less-than human, or simply less than a white male. Anger can be productive if we let it move us into a space that gives us more control.

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