The upside of anger

OK, I’ll admit it, I haven’t seen the movie, The Upside of Anger, but I have experienced the benefits of anger for myself.  I know it sounds strange, but hear me out.

As a young child I was terrified of anger.  I was pretty much convinced that anger was the exact opposite of love and I did whatever I could to avoid the wrath of my parents.  My theory about anger was proven right when I saw my parents who were often angry at each other eventually stop loving each other and divorce.  So I resolved never to induce anger in others and also never to express it.  You see, I’m all about the love and since anger was the opposite of love it had to go.

Everything seemed to go smoothly as I grew up, I focused on the positive, shoved my anger down and put on a happy face.  And people seemed to like it.  I was pleasant to be around, made friends easily, and got lots and lots of positive feedback.

Fast-forward twenty years…  At twenty-five years old I was still doing my best to ignore my anger but I began to notice that it had begun to seep out in “passive aggressive” ways.  I didn’t mean to snap at my roommate or huff away and give my friend the silent treatment, yet I found myself doing these things.  I even noticed myself doing petty things like taking the larger piece of cake and offering the smaller one to someone I was irritated with.

Eventually my super close friends called me out on it.  “Shelly, what’s the deal?” they asked.  “You must be frustrated and angry sometimes and yet you never complain or seem irritated.  What’s up with that?”

I realized that my friends really loved me and wanted to know EVERYTHING about my internal experience.  So, after lots of frightened tears and even more loving reassurance I began to trust that they would still be able to love me, even if I shared my anger with them.

At first my anger came out in bursts and explosions of pent up emotion and I worried that I was damaging my relationships.  But my friends were patient and understanding with me and over time I learned to express my upset when it happened.  I even learned how to direct my anger outward or into an inanimate object rather than AT anyone

Now I celebrate my anger!  I see my anger as my protector and my motivator.  When I feel angry, I know that it’s time to find a healthy way to express it and after screaming in the car or hitting a pillow I can take a look at what changes I want to initiate.  Sometimes when I’m feeling angry I remember the Hindu goddess Kali.  She’s the goddess of creation, preservation, and destruction.  She is both fierce and loving.  She destroys and then creates anew.  So, her anger has a purpose and so does yours.

This week, look at your frustration and anger in a new light.  Ask yourself what changes your anger is helping you to initiate.  I’d love to hear all about your own journey with anger.  Please share it here!  Big hugs and love, Shelly

9 comments
ConnieLujan
ConnieLujan

Thanks  @Shelly . . . your experiences with anger remind me of the years I was passive aggressive with my anger. It can be so hurtful to loved ones, especially to the young who haven't learned any means of defending themselves. I wish more adults knew how to play the peace activity in the Montessori schools . . . we would have fewer wars in the homes, schools, and in the world.

Amanda Brunato
Amanda Brunato

Hmmm...very provocative. I hadn't thought of my huffing as being passive aggressive before. But I do know that I do it because I'm upset or frustrated and don't know how else to express myself, particularly with my children. Sometimes I tell my older daughter (nearly 4) that I'm angry and need to take a little space. Then I worry that she'll feel abandoned.

I also sometimes inform her that what she's doing is upsetting me in hopes that she'll change her behavior. (as I write this, I'm noticing "extrinsic motivator"). But usually she won't then I feel even more upset. Then I wonder...should there be a consequence?

I feel unclear about how to express my anger. And even more unclear when it comes to expressing it with my children. Ah, what little teachers they are. There's a lesson I hadn't even wanted just waiting for me ;-)

Matt
Matt

It's my first time and I certainly commend you for a wonderful job done overcoming your anger as most people struggle. We're all not perfect and sometimes these unwanted feelings and can easily come out of us beyond our control unless we take the time to study ourselves and the situation.

If I would commit myself to such an unfavorable feeling, I would certainly destroy myself little by little so I just keep myself calm and try to think of positive ways to alleviate it. After all, it's going to be me who'll lose in the end not the person I hate.

Shelly
Shelly

Thank you all so much for your thoughtful comments. It's funny, after I sent out my blog this week I felt afraid that people would think I was promoting unhealthy expressions of anger. But I can see by your responses that my intent came across. It's not that I advocate spewing anger all over our loved ones, but that I see the positive force under the anger. In your case Andrea, you're needing efficiency and you want to be on time. Erika, you're beginning to own your anger and stand up for yourself rather than allowing your husband's intensity to rule the day. I loved what you said about teaching your kids that it's important to take responsibility for our feelings and actions and that being true to ourselves is important. And Max, I'm excited for you on your journey through anger, I hope your slow burn won't be too tightly controlled, sometimes a wild fire is just the thing ;) Oh, and Christine, I hear you about feeling shame about expressing anger. When I notice myself feeling shame I usually take a look at how I would have rather responded. And now I've developed lots of great healthy ways to express my anger which I feel great about. Sending big hugs to you all!
.-= Shelly´s last blog ..The upside of anger =-.

Max
Max

Hmmm....this article was forwarded to me from my wife, after a discussion just yesterday about passion, feeling, and anger. My wife has a good dose of what we call "righteous rage" and many times looks at me askew when I don't seem as worked up as she is. I am now exploring the "upside of anger" for the first time in my life. As a man, I find anger quite useful as a tool for change. It will be interesting to see how the next few months pan out. Of course, this anger has much more to do with my work & my own personal evolution. It's going to be an interesting trip to see how this controlled fire burns through my life.

Andrea
Andrea

Aaaah, anger. I've never experience anger as compulsive as I do since I'm a parent. What I learned and what I'm focused on now is my level of expectation I have towards my kids (almost 4 and 2). The morning routine is sometimes hard and the time seems to fly. Being late makes me tense and when something out of the norm happens I'm getting angry. E.g. when I'm in this tense state I'm getting very angry while I'm watching my older son climb into the car in slow motion. He is doing it every day...and it upsets me every time we're in a hurry. The fact is: he is how he is. The best thing I can do is to lower my expectations, accept him as he is, take a deep breath and ideally plan in more time.

Aaaah, that felt good to share.

Cheers,.....Andrea

Chirstine Leahy
Chirstine Leahy

Shelly,
Thanks for your poignant article. My parents didn't express anger and frustration in a healthy way and I was raised partially in foster care. I was afraid of anger and also felt it meant the opposite of love.

Now, I am a single adoptive parent to two boys (4.5, 2) and I know how very much I love them and yet anger is part of the picture. I still feel shame when I express anger too harshly or is a p/a way. It was very helpful to read your positive spin on anger.

Take care,

Christine

Erika Willaert
Erika Willaert

Wow, did this article come at a serendipitous moment. I am currently in the midst of a messy separation and the root of the problem is anger. I could no longer live in fear of my husband's wrath, much as I had lived with the illusion of my parents' potential anger (read disappointment) with me as a child. For the first time, I am taking ownership of my anger toward him, instead of being ashamed and apologizing for it. I have come to realise that the example I was setting for my children was enabling them to continue this cycle of "might makes right", that we must endure and tolerate disrespectful treatment. I want to teach them that nobody has the power and control to make you feel anything but what you feel, and that when we recognize our strength on ourselves to take responsibility for our feelings and actions, we are being true to ourselves and feeding our spirits.

AwakeShelly
AwakeShelly moderator

 @ConnieLujan, Yes, I can relate to having passive aggressive tendencies. But at least we're aware of them! I love your vision of a world with more peace. Hooray for peace!

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