I have often been taught that anger is dangerous.
And it was – often because I kept it pent up. And then I’d explode.
Another reason anger could be dangerous for me was because the people who were violating me – the cause of the anger – were gaslighting me and trying to make me think that I was the problem. They’d act like I was crazy to be as angry as I was. And, of course, by the time I blew up, they actually had a point.
Which not only fueled the anger even more, it also made me feel deeply ashamed.
And anger IS dangerous… if we don’t respond to it in a healthy way.
The thing I’ve learned about anger is that it often comes from an unmet need.
In my case, I needed my dignity respected. As a child, and even as an adult, I needed my needs taken into consideration.
Having grown up in a family riddled with addiction, in many relationships those needs were not being met.
And as a child, I was powerless to do much about that, but as an adult, I am not.
I AM powerless over whether any one person meets those needs.
But I’m NOT powerless over whether or not I seek out relationships that meet those needs, and how long I stay in any relationship, be it friendly or romantic, where those needs aren’t being met.
Nevertheless, this can be tricky for many of us.
One reason this can be tricky is, at least for me, my default reaction to my needs not getting met is to feel unworthy. Less than. Not good enough.
And when that happens, it’s the pain of those feelings that drives my anger, not the pain of the unmet need.
The difference is important; the pain over these feelings is NOT the same as the pain of not getting my needs met.
The pain of feeling unworthy keeps me stuck. More specifically, it keeps me stuck trying to change people, places, and situations I am actually powerless to change. And that is one helluva recipe for hopelessness.
On the other hand, the (unadulterated) pain of not getting my needs met – as long as I allow myself to feel it and move through it – is much more likely to compel me to take action to change the things I can.
It’s also more likely to compel me to look at my part. Did I have unrealistic expectations of someone or something? I’m more likely to see that if I’m not stuck in old narratives.
So, for me, to move through anger in a healthy way requires me to feel the essential pain of the situation, rather than the pain of the wounding stories the situation may have triggered.
Now, getting out of those old narratives so we don’t keep interpreting things that hurt or anger us in ways that keep us stuck is a different story. I’m going to share one way to do that in my next post.
Until then, I’d like to hear from you. Are there places where you recognize that old narratives are keeping you stuck in old wounding stories? Or, on the flip side, where have you been able to re-frame those stories so you can more effectively address unmet needs?
Share your experience, strength, and hope in the comments. I read every one.