Tag Archives: Emotions

Raising my words

I recently wrote about my journey to embrace anger and let it go. Inspired by the Twenty Five Days of Kindness blog about Kind Words, I’ve decided to do a 25-day (or there-abouts) No Yelling challenge.  That doesn’t mean 25 days of not getting angry but 25 days of not acting out on my anger by yelling at my kids.

I’ve been trying ease back on the yelling for the last few years with struggling success.

I started out with the very broad goal of “I want to stop yelling at my kids” but it was too big. It’s quite honestly been one failed attempt after the other.

But it’s not very realistic is it? Just “poof” I’m not going to yell anymore. And then the guilt of not being able to pull it off just adds fuel to the fire.

I realized that I needed to define the brush strokes. Baby-steps.

So step one was to start delving into the bigger picture with the question of “why do I yell at my kids?” which has been an interesting spiral-y adventure.

I decided that to find the answer I needed to start with being more mindful about it. Yes, my first goal to stop yelling was to yell more mindfully! To notice, “Hey l totally lost my shit just now, what happened?”

Turns out for me it’s almost always a matter of one of two things; feeling ignored or disrespected or feeling embarrassed in front of someone who I feel is judging me.

So my next step was to try to discern what it was about feeling ignored or disrespected or feeling embarrassed or judged that that gets my hackles up.

I know enough about psychology to understand that many of the “bad” things that surface for us as parents are often rooted in our own childhoods. It only took a quick glance back into my own to realize that I spent a great deal of time feeling responsible for someone else’s anger. I came to believe that I wasn’t good enough. And that root feeling is typically the source for my current temper tantrums.

My fear of not being good enough triggers feelings of my kids not being good enough which triggers my anger because me not being good enough resulted in someone else’s anger when I was a kid. Spiral-y.

From there I needed to do a little exercise in forgiveness and understanding. It was an “a-ha” moment for me when I realized that when I yell at my kids it doesn’t really have anything to do with them. It has to do with me. And that likewise when I was a kid this other person’s anger probably had much less to do with me than it did with them.

I needed to explain to my childhood self that it was never about her. The yelling and the anger and the judgment, it belonged to someone else, not me. It was directed at me and I thought it was mine, so I took it. But it never needed to be my burden to bear and ensuring that I don’t pass it along to my children begins with me being able to put it back.

Now that I’m aware of these things I think that I’m ready to hold myself accountable for the letting go part.

I decided several days ago to see if I could get through the rest of the month of December without yelling, which sounds like a much more feasible goal than the “poof I’m not going to yell anymore ever at all” one.

I am going to try to recognize when I raise my voice that I’m holding onto someone else’s fear and that it doesn’t need to be mine and I don’t need to pass it on to my kids.

We’ll see how I do.

click image to go to 25daysofkindness.com

click image to go to 25daysofkindness.com

Embracing anger

“Cooling the Flame II” by Kimby Faires

In my last post I mentioned that we have a tendency to fear “negative” emotions.

I had a bit of a personal revelation around this very thing not long ago. I had always judged anger to be bad, both in myself and in others. I was comfortable with sadness but not with anger.

Anger to me was always scary. I was scared of it in others because I didn’t understand that it had nothing to do with me.

Someone else’s anger may’ve been directed at me, but it wasn’t my fault that they were angry. Not to say that I didn’t do something to make that person mad, I’m sure that I did. But I didn’t understand that I wasn’t responsible for their anger. I was responsible for whatever mistake I made that made them mad but not for their anger. And I didn’t understand that their anger wasn’t really at me. Anger is less of an emotion than it is a reaction; it’s the result of fear. It’s a defense mechanism. It’s internal. It really has very little to do with the other person.

I was also scared of anger in myself because I was afraid that it owned me, that it meant that I wasn’t in control.

I didn’t understand where all of that anger was coming from or how to manage it. I didn’t understand that it was the result of my own fear. My anger is often my fear of failure, my fear of not being heard, of being inconsequential, of being judged by others, and of not being good enough.

I’ve come to realize that it’s not about not being angry, it’s about not being afraid.

As I’ve come to understand all this better, anger no longer scares me. I know now that anger is just an emotion. A reaction. Part of being human. It doesn’t mean that I am bad or that anyone else is bad.

It’s okay to get angry sometimes, but there are certainly less than ideal ways to express ones anger and that’s the hard part. It’s not the emotion itself that causes problems as much as the negative things that are done in the expression of anger. But the more we suppress it the more it builds up and the harder it becomes to control. For me, anger management isn’t about not getting angry. It’s about not acting on my anger.

“That’s my secret Captain, I’m always angry”

I learned that the power is not in the emotion itself but in how we react to it. That’s where we have a choice. This is where I’m still doing a lot of work.

I’m prone to angry outbursts but I am working really hard to not take my anger out on those around me. My process is acknowledging the anger, allowing myself to feel it, understanding what it is and where it’s coming from – that takes the power away from it giving me an opportunity to take a deep breath and then not unleash it on others. It’s definitely still a work in progress.

I’m not perfect, and I’m not trying to be – but I am trying to be better. Not better than anyone else, just better than I was yesterday. Being better no longer means trying to never get mad.  It means looking my anger in the face, embracing it and letting it go.

Have a bad day

I think it’s important to embrace our imperfections. I also think it’s important to embrace a bad day.

There’s a movement about the power of positive thinking and it’s great and I get it, I really do. Not only do I think it’s great, I practice it. I believe in the law of attraction and I believe that we can choose our mood and make our own happiness. I am all about looking for the positive and changing our perspective. Practicing gratitude has gotten me through some really difficult times.

But here’s the thing. While it’s good to look on the bright side of things, it’s also okay to have a bad day. It’s okay to get mad. It’s okay to be grumpy, to feel down and depressed, to lose your temper. It’s okay to be tired, and it’s okay to break down into a broken pile on the floor and cry.

And we shouldn’t kick ourselves for it or feel guilty or self-indulgent.

There’s a certain amount of pressure that trying to maintain a constantly positive attitude creates. Being happy all the time isn’t necessarily some enlightened goal that we should all be striving to reach. It’s not authentic.  Happiness is not the only legitimate emotion; we have a range of emotions for a reason.

Down days are impetuses for change. That’s why they are good. We need to face our feelings, all of them, especially the ones that make us uncomfortable. It’s on these days that we can give ourselves a chance to internalize, to go inside and check for internal damage then come back out and realize that we’re still whole.

Many of us have a tendency to fear negative emotions. Perhaps we’re afraid that they’ll take over. But trying to bury these emotions and pretend that they don’t exist only lends them power. They thrive in the darkness. We feed them fear and they devour it and they grow.

Empowerment comes in recognizing that they’re just emotions. They are normal human reactions. They aren’t bad or good. They don’t need to be judged or assigned values. Let them be.  Bring them to the surface and allow yourself to feel them. They aren’t going to take over. Let them come and then let them go.

Allow yourself to have a bad day. Then get up tomorrow and have a better one.