The Gift of Anger

life's tests

Anger is the house of sadness.   It is impossible to separate the two emotions; when sadness is not healthily expressed it  festers into anger.  Within these emotions live the countless opportunities we did not take.  The hurts we did not forgive, the let-downs and betrayals, the times we did not hold ourselves accountable and all the cowardly choices we made that did not help us grow into our power.  Behind every outrage is a lot of hurt and this toxic state of being harbours resentment and fear, not to mention a miserable existence.

We all know that holding on to anger is unhealthy; it can outwardly manifest as numerous unwanted symptoms like illness, mental fog, depression, and it always has us at the edge of a vulnerable precipice. But here is the good news, anger is an incredibly healthy part of our emotional wellbeing.  When we learn to use anger as a tool for growth, we can begin to live responsibly and with less reactivity.

Life will continually mirror the things we need to heal, so we might as well avoid the repeated discomforts and face our wounded parts as they come up. Think of a time when you got angry and ask yourself if the reaction was appropriate for the given situation.  If you jumped the gun or went straight to seeing red, you were most likely dealing with a residue of unresolved emotions.   Each time this happens, we are not able to see things clearly because we are revisiting that unfinished business. We lose our objectivity and ability to problem solve.  People and situations repeatedly trigger us in the present providing an opportunity to heal something in the past.

I recently got in the car and exploded with frustration and anger when I found it on empty. My husband tends to drive it until it’s past the red and it drives me absolutely nuts.  My mind was racing.  I mean, can you imagine?  I could have been stranded!  And what if I didn’t have my phone with me? Who knows what else could have happened?  My inner dialogue kept ranting away and I was definitely not seeing things clearly.  You see, many years ago, he asked me to take his car knowing that it had been on empty for a long time.  The car puttered and died leaving me stranded on a busy street.  I was only 19, alone and I didn’t own a cell phone.  The experience was extremely embarrassing and horrible.  I’m sure that if it had happened to him, he would have known what to do and it would have become his funny story to tell.  I, on the other hand, did not find it funny at all.  It left me feeling like I couldn’t trust him.  I took the empty gas tank as a sign that he really didn’t care about me.  Though this makes me highly anxious I’m pretty sure that for him it’s all long forgotten. Now, twenty years later, I know better and I see that he does care about my safety and wellbeing.  Plus,  I always carry my phone, I have CAA and I would know what to do.  It was time to let this go.

We all have our difference, I like to fill the car up and feel prepared, he likes to see how low the needle can go.   Maybe some of us can live with a little more risk, while for others feeling safe is a priority. In truth, it really doesn’t matter.  If we are arguing over whose methods and habits are better, no one wins.  Regardless of who’s right or wrong, who’s entitled to be upset or who should be making greater efforts, anger always presents itself when we need to heal an unmet part of ourselves.

The next time you see red, take a moment to ask yourself some important questions “Am I overreacting?  What do I need in order to feel supported, loved, understood?  How is this different now?  Can I change my perception so that I am no longer walking on a minefield every it happens? ”   Then do what you need to in order to validate your anger and replace it with forgiveness.  Later, when it blows over and your nostrils are no longer flaring, you may feel surprisingly grateful that it happened because the alternative to feeling scorned for two decades is being able to own the story and maybe even laugh.