Young girls are taught to “be good.” Good girls are kind, patient and pretty. They’re not aggressive or bossy, and they don’t get angry.
Whether that was told to us directly or it was modeled by our mothers, teachers or culture, we know in our bones that “anger is unbecoming of a lady.”
In my family, we didn’t talk freely about what was bothering us, or show our anger. Besides the occasional pursed-lip head-shaking, mild door slam or shoes getting thrown down the hall, I would say our family didn’t have conflict.
I grew up afraid of this repressed anger, mine and others.
When I then married a man from a family of yellers who felt comfortable expressing his rage, I blew up the relationship to escape it.
To avoid unpleasant feelings, I learned to push them deep inside and ignore them. I distracted myself by working hard, seeking validation, and achieving.
Unfortunately, anger doesn’t go away when it’s ignored. It festers and turns inward into perfectionism or self loathing. It morphs into depression.
It’s like putting the lid on a pot of boiling water and expecting it to stay shut tight.
What I’ve since discovered is that anger is a powerful messenger that brings wisdom I can’t access any other way.
> My shoulders tense & my jaw clenches tighter.
> My brow furrows, face flushes.
> I’m distracted, frustrated
> I can’t sleep…
I read these as signals to listen for my unmet need or crossed boundary.
Exploring the physical discomfort, the tight knot in my chest, I ask:
What are you trying to show me? What do you need right now?
Is there an honest conversation I need to have, or a truth I need to speak?
…Am I drained from over-giving?
…Yearning for more rest or play?
…Seeking appreciation or connection?
Am I ready to let go of a relationship that is no longer working for me?
Where can I firm up my boundaries with others?
And, the most important question that my anger reminds me to ask is:
What is the most loving thing I can do for myself right now?
Attuning with compassion allows the part of me that’s hurting to be heard.
Sometimes, that’s all it takes.
Thank you, Anger, for alerting me to my needs and boundaries. You remind me to slow down and come home to myself.
You are welcome to visit any time.