Hello Anger, My Friend
Oh my gosh.... attempt number 12 or so on this one. I'm having so much difficulty navigating this one, so I'll just dive in and pray for grace.
I recently received an email from Ronnie (my ex-husband) and it was harmless enough, yet it triggered some deep emotional anger in me. He told me about his urban farm with his new girlfriend. Believe it or not, I’m not pissed about the new girlfriend. I met her and she seems lovely. I am glad he has found someone. Truly! Honestly!!
I was triggered because he has an urban farm. It’s not a huge thing and yet it set me off. That has been a dream of mine for YEARS now. I am a homemaker, a homesteader. I want a little piece of land where I can raise veggies, fruit, chickens, cats, a dog, bees, 2 goats, and 2 horses. It’s not like we fought about it and he didn’t want these things, but it never seemed like his dream. He would sometimes complain about our high maintainance lifestyle. I think he enjoyed the idea, but didn’t want the extra work as he was so busy. Fair enough. But now you live on a farm and have chickens and veggies and bees and many of the things that I want?!?! Again, not that big of a deal, but isn't it funny how sometimes it's the little things that trigger us.
Add to that, that I have been doing some internal work while reading the book “The Wisdom of the Enneagram”. I have read a ridiculous amount of self-help type books at this point in my life. I usually get a few things out of them, but they aren’t life shattering. Well something about where I am in life and this book are pushing me into some deep self-awareness and healing right now. I will read certain passages and just weep as some of the descriptions and patterns hit home so much with me.
So when this initial anger came up.... a few other volcanos started to erupt.
“I am so mad at you. Who hits a small child so hard it causes welts and bruises?!”
“What in the world! You really couldn’t call your child on her birthday for 14 years?!”
“Do you have any idea what it is like to be the only person on the team whose parents never came to watch her compete?”
"Seriously, the only reason we even have a relationship is because I call you. If I didn't - I wouldn't hear from you for years at a time."
“I can’t believe you have shrines to her all over your house and there is not one picture or anything indicating that you have any other children/grandchilden.”
“You had an affair with her right in the beginning of our relationship and didn’t have the guts to just talk to me and tell me you were unhappy?!”
(Side note: I have tried to write this thing a number of times over the years. Each time it's either so vague that it’s not potent/pertinent OR I am calling out people in my life that I love. I keep wanting to protect people’s actions even if those actions hurt me figuratively and/or literally. I am afraid of offending people or having someone say that this isn’t what happened. But on the deepest level, I have been afraid that people will get angry at me and I will cause a rift in our relationship and lose them in my life. Seeing as I have fear of abandonment issues... this is the last thing I want to happen. But in order to be healthy and to heal, I cannot protect you anymore. I don’t hate you, I will not be angry forever, but I need to let this repressed anger rise so I can heal. If you do not feel I am justified, you are entitled to your truth as well. If I trigger things for you, I will happily hold space for you to work through your healing and movement towards becoming a more whole hearted individual just as you are doing for me.)
Ay, there’s the rub! For almost 35 years of my life, whenever I got angry, I just shoved it down into the depths. I thought that anger was bad and I wasn’t suppose to have it and so I repressed it. And although I have been on the path to correcting that in the past few years... 35 years of repression is going to erupt at some point.. It might show up as a tumor or a stroke or some other physical disease. I'm positive that it has come out at the wrong person at the wrong time. Etc....
It has been a tumultous few days to say the least. But it has given me the opportunity to sit with my anger and to learn more about my relationship with it.
Growing up I had people in my life who had tempers and I saw some really unhealthy examples of anger which lead me to think anger was bad. Just plain ole, straight up bad - I should not have anger. End of story!
I didn’t want to get angry as it might make someone else snap at me with their anger and I might get hurt physically or emotionally.
I also didn’t want to get angry, because I wanted attention and love more than anything on this planet and we all know that no one likes an angry person right?!
Hence repressing anger. Yes, this is simplified, but oh so accurate.
As a people pleaser and helper I would figure out what people wanted, needed, desired and do my best to give them those things so they would like me. But often I didn’t get recognition or attention and people walked on me which would piss me off even more. But of course I repressed this anger too. What a cycle I put myself in all these years!!! (P.S. - I am not blind to the fact that I enabled people to take advantage of me. I know that as I find my worth from within and stop needing their love and attention, I will reshape my relationships with others and therefore reduce my anger.)
Add to that that since I didn’t want to be angry it has always been easier to turn that anger around at myself. Example:
“You had an affair you asshole! ~ Well, he told you about it and you stayed so you are the asshole Christel Joy Johnson.“
“What kind of jerk hits a child. ~ If you hadn’t misbehaved you wouldn’t have made him so mad.”
Etc....Etc....Etc... A lifetime of me turning the anger on myself. And if someone else would get angry at that person... I would defend them. “Oh, but he is a good man.” “Well he was beaten by his father and it’s all he knows.”
Humans are complex. Someone can be a good person and do bad things. I can accept and acknowledge that. But what I need to learn is that it is okay for me to be pissed at them and the "bad" things they do. That I can be mad at a person for an injustice, but that doesn’t mean I have to hate the person. I don’t have to be mad about it for the rest of my life. I can not only be mad, but tell them I am mad and if they walk away - it is better for me that they are not in my life anyway. ANGER IS OKAY!
Holy crap is that hard for me. I mean, I’m in the middle of it right now. I’m owning it. I am letting the anger rise in my meditations and my journaling. I am honoring it. Not to hold grudges, but so that I can let it come up out of hiding, digest it, and not have it under a heavy rock in the corner of my soul.
I’d like to put a plug in for yoga at this point... I use my yoga and my meditations to let the anger rise up. But instead of letting it consume me, I recognize anger’s physical sensations. I feel my chest tighten, my cheeks get hot, my breath get rapid, my armpits starting to sweat, my stomach tying in knots. I acknowledge it. I sit in it (holy crap is it uncomfortable!!!). As I bring awareness to it it starts to dissipate. As I start to turn it on myself and get pissed at myself I immediately become aware now that it is happening. I stop myself from going there. I tell myself it is okay, I have permission to be mad at the person. And again - the anger starts to dissipate. This is so different than me pretending it doesn’t exist or just being super pissed at myself. Yoga has given me the tools I need to deal with anger in a healthy way.
I will always be a helper, a people pleaser, but I am learning how to do that in a healthy way that is beneficial to me. Not to do it from a place of desperation and a need for someone to reflect my self worth.
My goal - “to be the embodiment of a good parent: Someone who sees others as they are, understands them with immense compassion, helps and encourages with infinite patience, and is always willing to lend a hand - while knowing precisely how and why to let go. To help open others hearts because mine is already so open. To show others the way to become more deeply and richly human” (this excerpt is from the book “The Wisdom of the Enneagram”). Most importantly - to not just do this for others, but to do it for myself as well.
So hello Anger. It’s nice to meet you. Come on in and stay awhile. I’d like to get to know you. Can we be friends, have conversations, and learn from each other?! I’d like that. I have a room ready for you. The bed is turned down and the mattress is comfortable. Whenever you need a place to stay, you have a home. Welcome my friend.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
~ Rumi ~