For me, anger and guilt have always wound around each other like a vine to a tree. Being raised in a household where we were not allowed to express anger (which was thus interpreted by me as we were not supposed to feel anger), it’s always been an emotion I’ve tamped down, felt shame about and let out in passive ways, never direct. Expressing anger was not polite and would make others uncomfortable. So much more palatable to be uncomfortable ourselves rather than give that feeling to someone else.
Over time, my buried anger became resentment. It silenced me. Disempowered me. Held me as a victim. Sometimes I was numb, other times bitter. At all times, I felt guilty for feeling it, helpless to express it appropriately, and jealous of those who could “have it out” with someone and move on. This was foreign to me.
These days, I welcome anger. I recognize it when it comes knocking and I invite it in. I sit with it and let it wash over me. I get curious about it and wonder what information it has for me. What is it trying to tell me? What might I be needing? What boundary might need to be established or held? How can I nurture myself? I think through how I can best express my anger and with whom. I write. A lot. I even play with feelings of revenge or unjust retaliation, knowing these will never be carried out or acted on, but being fine with the immaturity and satisfaction that comes from those scenarios.
Today I know that anger is healthy. It is not a negative emotion. And it comes whether we want it to or not. As my therapist says, we are dealing with “life on life’s terms,” and things are not always fair, kind, considerate, or easy. Anger is not to be avoided. It’s not rude or impolite. It’s not taboo. But neither is it violent or nasty or unjust. It just is. And I’m getting much more comfortable with that now.
Photo: Halkata, Sliven, Bulgaria. 4.19.22 by LA
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