As anyone who has ever been pregnant can attest, you’re really not going to get the best sleep of your life those last two months before the baby comes. What you may, in fact, get instead is heartburn, a weird separated joint in your lower back and a host of other issues that lead you to do anything but count sheep at night. Not that I would be experiencing any of those maladies now…of course not. Motherhood is all rainbows and lavender-scented unicorns.
So, one day last week when I was literally customer number one at Bojangles while the rest of my family slept peacefully in their beds, I heard this song on the radio as I chomped my biscuit:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_goEernujW8 (I included the one with lyrics just so you can see why I’m making a deal out of this.)
I happen to think that this is the most depressing song on the face of the earth other than “America” by Simon and Garfunkle. Honestly, the songs that get me are always the ones that sound sort of simple and maybe even a bit upbeat on the outside of it. But then, as you get further in, you realize that a keen sense of resignation and loss can be embedded anywhere…in songs that don’t sound serious until you listen well, and especially in people who appear on the outside of things strong and together.
Many of the clients who come to me for anger management are here because they are very high-functioning people. At work they may be known as trail blazers and decision makers. They have managed to form partnerships, have children and in general manage their affairs in a way that most of us would envy. Except, it’s not that simple is it? I usually hear something along the lines of, “Doc, I feel like people don’t really respect me, you know? I just think I have to fight so hard to be heard. Why can’t people realize that I’m not angry all the time; I just often feel so pushed?” Or, sometimes they will say that they actually DO feel angry all the time. In any case, these feelings of volatility and an inability to get grounded seriously interfere in their happiness. Those emotions are even more confusing when their professional spheres encourage a different kind of direct aggression than their personal relationships can bear. What is successful in one context sinks you in another. As Aimee dolefully says in the song, “And it’s not going to stop ’til you wise up.”
So what can you do to wise up in your relationships without feeling like you’re chickening out on expressing the strength of your feelings?
1) Realize that Anger is Information: I hate to break this to you, but everyone gets righteously ticked. Getting angry is not a weakness and it doesn’t mean your saturday morning yoga class hasn’t improved the opening of your heart chakra. Rather, it means that you are a human who has felt threatened or slighted in some way and you would like to do something about it. The tricky part is owning that the feelings are yours and that you are then obliged to communicate them coherently. What do you need to communicate to the people around you that they will not be able to hear if you deliver it via the manipulations of rigid silence or screaming? How much more traction does clear communication about your feelings (even the scary ones) lend your position than shouting?
2) Realize that Other People Have Half the Information You Need to Make a Choice: Too often people ignore the power of asking a series of really great questions to your partner in argument. This is vitally important if the person you tend to be angry at most often is an intimate partner or a child. As they say, information is power. And, the more of it you have at your disposal the better you can hone your intervention. Extreme anger in which you don’t consult with the other person carefully leaves you more out of control than you were before. And, when you feel both slighted and rudderless it’s difficult to do anything but rage blindly. Before you become accusatory it might be helpful to know things from the person who angered you like:
*How were you hoping I would respond to this?
*What was your impression of what just happened between us?
* What is your worst fear about this disagreement? Your best hopes about how we can resolve it?
3) Have an Internal Standard of Behavior: My grandmother was unflaggingly polite in public. Even under the most dire of circumstances, no matter how badly she had been insulted, she kept her wits about her. When I pointed out to her that so-and-so had really deserved to be shown some colorful language, she would give me a quizzical look and say, “But sugar, why would I let that person dictate how I behave? They can’t even manage their own behavior.” I think this is an important truth. If you are associating with people who repeatedly put you in a position to step outside your values and raise your emotional volume to cope, the other person isn’t the one who needs to adjust. You are. Decide consciously who will be a constructive force in your life and who is attempting to dictate your behavior for you.
Do you need help figuring out how to fan the flames of passion and creativity rather than the flames of anger? Why don’t you come on in so that we can talk about it.
Your Partner in Healing,
Are you looking for individual, couples or group therapy in Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a consultation to learn how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit me on the web at www.lotustherapycenter.com or:
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