Child of Anger
As much as finishing a post on anger is tough when you are being spoiled with a California get-away, I just had to. I was on Wilshire Boulevard and kept hearing Richard Gere in my head.
“Edward: I was very angry with him. It cost me ten thousand dollars in therapy to say that sentence: “I was very angry with him.” I do it very well, don’t I? I’ll say it again: I was very angry with him. “Hello, my name is Mr. Lewis, I am very angry with my father.”
It was a scene from Pretty Woman, in case you aren’t old enough to recognize it. The line is chock to the brim with the basics of counseling. “How do you feel?”
Historically, no one in my family ever knew when I was angry. The adage, “Depression is the child of anger,” was true for me. I take this to mean that some depressive states are from not dealing with anger or from not facing stronger emotions such as, grief, shame, fear, hurt, or disappointment. I wonder if I had manifested anger a little bit, it would have brought some of those buried things to the surface?
Oh my, dear parents, I know how hard it is to deal with an angry child! I remember being angry when I was raising two toddlers. A friend said, “Did you think it would be easy?” Um, yes? But I wasn’t consciously aware of my own deficiency when it came to the stronger emotions of life. Another friend advised me and I never forgot this, she said, “Your job is to absorb their emotions when they are overwhelmed, not add more!” It’s a bit hard to do if we haven’t recognized our own unresolved issues.
Child development experts say that, “one of the major problems in dealing with anger in children is the angry feelings that are often stirred up in us. It has been said that we as parents, teachers, counselors, and administrators need to remind ourselves that we were not always taught how to deal with anger as a fact of life during our own childhood. We were led to believe that to be angry was to be bad, and we were often made to feel guilty for expressing anger. It will be easier to deal with children’s anger if we get rid of this notion. Our goal is not to repress or destroy angry feelings in children–or in ourselves–but rather to accept the feelings and to help channel and direct them to constructive ends.”
So, anger is a fact of life, go figure.
For some reason I have always equated anger with hostility or aggression rather than recognizing it as a normal part of life. And originally didn’t understand it as an outward manifestation of hurt or confusion.
I don’t know why, but as parents, we want our kids to exhibit gentleness and kindness and love. That desire may be a heavy burden for them to bear and trigger us into overreacting when they just need help in managing the feelings of life.
Getting angry, to deal with anger? Not a good idea. Psychology Today says that an aggressive type of anger is mainly a way to, “pass off psychic hurt to others.” That is simply a bad coping method picked up along the way, one we need to challenge before passing it to our children.
On the other hand, some of us cope by wounding ourselves instead of “mak(ing)others pay for our emotional deficits.” (Psychology Today) So we bury the urge to lash out (instead of dealing) and internally suffer in other ways. The same process works for sadness. Bad feelings alert, hide them! But geez, we just can’t tell a kid, “stop feeling bad,” or “stop being angry.” We need to let ourselves and our kids feel it all, and teach them to channel the more difficult emotions in constructive ways.
I’m still Edward sometimes. Still learning to let anger be normal, and find constructive (mainly) ways to channel it. And of course, I get sad sometimes too, but don’t deny it anymore. A good cry is a healing balm for me, so the feelings don’t linger and manifest in uglier ways. Life is full of joy for sure, but IMO it’s a long walk of recovery as well.
“We pour out our miseries , God just hears a melody . Beautiful, the mess we are. The honest cries of breaking hearts . Are better than a Hallelujah.”
Better Than a Hallelujah – Words and music by Chapin Hartford and Sarah Hart