As a side effect of relationship issues and counseling to try to resolve them, I started talking with my family. Not that we had a vow of silence when I was a kid, but we never really talked about Stuff – you know – feelings mostly, but anything Difficult didn’t get much air time. Stiff upper lip and get on with it. Still doesn’t come naturally, to talk about Things, but the possibility is there.
When my relationship ended, my father recommended Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends, a book that, along with going to a support group, helped him through his divorce process. Funny, as I’m writing this, I don’t remember if he suggested going to a group as well. I’m realizing now it didn’t occur to me at the time to go, perhaps a hang-up on the technicality that, since we hadn’t been married, I wasn’t actually getting divorced, or maybe it seemed the individual therapy I was doing filled that niche.
Anyway, coming up on 8 years later, I still haven’t made it through the book. Tried at least twice, the second time getting hung up on the anger chapter.
I say I never saw my parents fight. Or heard them. Part of the story of the good divorce. The subtext I’m finally becoming aware of and questioning was that they were doing us a favor. True, kids shouldn’t see physical violence or destructive spiteful yelling matches, but anger happens. And by never seeing it, it became something I wasn’t supposed to feel, and then when I did I had no idea what to do with it. Topped off with guilt that I was having this feeling I wasn’t supposed to.
We also missed the example that two adults can be angry and disagree and still love each other. That it’s not the end of the world or the end of the relationship, that anger can be expressed productively.
That anger is not a scary boogeyman. OK, strike that. Anger IS a scary boogeyman, but he doesn’t get to win.
I’m still not completely comfortable with that though, no doubt why I got hung up on the anger chapter in Rebuilding. Yes, anger at my ex, much of it never expressed to him, but then really anger at myself, for going along, letting myself be unhappy, so many things. And scared that I still haven’t figured out what to do with anger.
Note: this post has been rattling around in my head for a while, and it seemed like time to push it out after getting a recent issue of Linda Graham‘s Weekly Quotes newsletter that was titled A Positive View of Negative Emotions. Several of the quotes were about anger.
Anger is a signpost showing us where change is needed.
– Diana Rico
Healthy anger requires us to define ourselves and to be the best expert on what values, priorities and desires are not negotiable under relationship pressures. It requires us to change our part in the relationship patterns from which our anger springs…..Healthy anger requires self-focus, so we can observe and change our part in the patterns that keep us stuck, rather than dissipating our energy trying to change another person who doesn’t want to change.
– Harriet Lerner
Anger is not bad. Anger can be a very positive thing, the thing that moves us beyond the acceptance of evil.
– Joan Chittister
The world needs anger. The world often continues to allow evil because it isn’t angry enough.
– Bede Jarrett
It is wise to direct your anger towards problems – not people; to focus your energies on answers – not excuses.
– William Arthur Ward
and THEN! what comes through my feed but Understanding and befriending anger. WTF Universe. OK, trying to tell me something…
ANGER: The Honorable Sentry
GIFTS: Honor ~ Conviction ~ Self-awareness ~ Healthy self-esteem ~ Proper boundaries ~ Healthy detachment ~ Protection of yourself and others
ACTION REQUIRED: Anger arises to address challenges to your standpoint, your position, your interpersonal boundaries, or your self-image. Your task is to restore your sense of self and your interpersonal boundaries without violating the boundaries of others. Your anger will also step in when others are being challenged or devalued, and your task is to address the offense and restore the boundaries of all parties. This is the sacred practice for anger, which I very intentionally call The Honorable Sentry.
THE INTERNAL QUESTIONS: What must be protected? What must be restored?
woooooboyhowdy. yes. all that. wow. so much to learn on this journey. so much to learn.