Lets talk about us as angry humans. Did you know that in parts of ancient Greece, it was preferable to commit suicide than to publicly display anger?
Just think about that for a second, an emotion deemed so completely wrong that the general consensus was it was better to end it all than express how you felt.
Thats a pretty horrifying glimpse into history, but the ancient Greeks were certainly not the only ones to have strong views on anger and how it should or shouldn’t be seen.
Even now, we don’t like to see people get angry, why? Because we’ve all been told its a bad thing. Quite often my clients are struggling to articulate difficult feelings. They very rarely mention anger, even though its there simmering away, begging to be let out. Thats especially true for female clients, as for women, the history books and social conditioning have taught us that women displaying anger is to be avoided at all costs for fear we get labelled as “crazy”. Which quite frankly is bloody ridiculous.
We’ve all heard those derogatory remarks made by men “alright love calm down, is it your time of the month or something?”.
Its an unfair and untrue admonishment and only serves to limit us and keep us small.
My son is 2, and at the moment, tantrums are becoming a bit more commonplace. The other day we ran out of blueberries, which in his eyes was the end of the world. He lashed out and hit me on the arm.
Rather than berate him, I held him close, and told him that I wasn’t going to allow him to do that, that I understood he was frustrated and that his emotions are valid, but that hitting is not okay. It took a while but eventually his back stopped arching, he stopped resisting and sank into my arms for a cuddle. After that he carried on playing and the blueberry saga was forgotten about.
You see, the thing with anger is, its nearly always driven by FEAR. Read that again, the anger you feel is nearly always driven by fear.
As a parent of a toddler I read about this a lot, and even if a little one has a smile on their face when they land a blow on your arm, they are actually afraid. Something in their world (access to blueberries) has been threatened and the only way they know how to react is to lash out.
Their emotions are raw, unedited, messy.
We were all like that once too, but over time, social conditioning told us all to stop crying, stop making a fuss, toughen up etc.
But that doesn’t mean that when we get angry the driver isn’t fear for the most part.
I describe anger as an “blanket” word to my clients, because it covers up the more hard to articulate emotions underneath.
My own go to exercise when rage comes knocking is to take a few deep breaths and ask myself this…
“what is underneath the anger, and why has it triggered me now?”
Things like, fear, frustration, anxiety, loss, disappointment, embarrassment, humiliation, doubt, they can all manifest themselves in angry behaviour. We feel threatened in some way or another.
The more we can unpick this, the more we will discover about our true feelings.
I get it okay, in a world where we so often feel judged its easier to say “I’m angry” knowing full well that people will more than likely leave you alone, rather than saying “actually I’m really frightened about the health of my husband, or my kid who is being bullied, or I just found a lump and I am sh*tting myself’.
The only way to really understand how we are feeling is to take the time to look at those feelings under a microscope to make sense of them, because otherwise they will keep coming at you in waves, that get bigger and bigger.
But by choosing to get curious, those waves will subside, you’ll feel more in control, and you’ll know so much more about yourself and your own pressure points too.
We seem to live under the impression that men are more angry than women. But thats not the case, they just display it differently. Men will shout, they will draw attention, bang doors etc.
Women (generally) display it differently. We give people the silent treatment, and hold onto ill feelings for years perhaps decades rather than verbalise them.
But the thing is, we aren’t in ancient Greece, or in Victorian England. Its 2019, and you are allowed to feel all of your feelings, no matter how socially unacceptable they may be deemed. Just like you did when you were a toddler.
Anger is as valid as joy, it is a human emotion that has a place in all of our lives and to try and deny that in itself is dangerous.
So consider this me giving you your permission slip to start opening up when it comes to anger, to not hold it in and let it become toxic. Believe me that just leads to more and more unresolved feelings, more and more resentment. Who the F wants that? Not me, and I am pretty sure, not you either.
Unless of course holding onto those feelings gives you something…but thats a post for another day.