Anger for People Who Never Get Mad

mad-girlI don’t know about you, but I hate getting mad.

Four years ago I lost my daughter to a sudden cardiac arrest. Along with my grief rode a sidecar of toxic, bitter anger. I found myself becoming furious at small, irrational things. Again and again I felt caught in the quick of these dark failings.

But … was my anger really a dark failing? Or was it actually alright?

Yes, it was. Turns out my anger was the sign of something stirring in the dark, narrow passageways of my grief. It was the ghost just down the way, beckoning for me to come hither.

Even Elizabeth Kubler-Ross said I was supposed to get mad.

Still,  I hung back fearfully at first. I found myself twisting my anger into silent, furious knots instead. Finally I could avoid it no longer. That’s when I found out it was not only okay to get mad … it was necessary.

Just like a cool breeze on a hot day, when I finally allowed myself to feel my anger, it refreshed and restored me. It literally healed me, and became just as critical to my well-being as clean water, rest and the great outdoors. So I moved on in far greater peace once I began to own ALL of my feelings — even the less attractive ones.

If you were like me, you were raised to believe that anger is bad and that good girls don’t get mad. And certainly not at their controlling addict mothers. In my family or origin, I could never get mad at Mother under penalty of serious punishment. So I pretended ‘mad’ didn’t exist, stuck my fingers in my ears and avoided such things for the next 50 years.

This is how we grow up: numb and afraid to own or even know our anger – until it comes exploding out of us in untoward ways.

Of course, one must handle the sword of anger responsibly. But this can be learned. It simply takes practice. First you have to  take some time by yourself to just breathe. And feel. Organically, your anger will rise up and then pass through you. Only then are you ready to see the truth of the matter, and possibly have a conversation about what’s bugging you.

So I’ve come to trust my anger.

Now I realize that it can be a balm to the soul. It is the release of the pressure valve, and the surrender of the false veil that has us parked in ‘Everything’s fine!’ all the time. So yes … it feels good to get mad sometimes.

When I’ve allowed it, my anger has told me again and again when things were out of balance – when I was off kilter. When danger lurked. All those years ago, when Mom was raising hell while I was trying to do my homework or possibly sleep, my anger was nothing more than warning flashers that my space was being invaded.

So I now regard my anger as a well calibrated  internal warning system that tells me where to set boundaries, avoid danger and generally protect myself. In fact, it’s become a critical information source.

May you learn to enjoy your anger when it bubbles up … and honor it for the innate and powerful wisdom that it is.

As they say in the liquor ads, ‘Enjoy responsibly.’

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2 replies
  1. Nikki
    Nikki says:

    Oh Suzanne
    First of all- let me say- I am so Very sorry for your loss… Kisses to your heart😘💚💜from you eternal sister…
    Secondly- totally understand, and agree- Very well written/expressed…. Am happy for you too 😊 Recently I’ve done this slso- felt Really good 😊😊
    Sending love, and Big hugs, Nikki. 💞❌⭕️❌❗️❣

  2. Edie Weinstein
    Edie Weinstein says:

    Such a juxtaposition of emotions in this beautiful writing. Grief is multi-faceted. Wondering if Teal’s death gave you permission to feel them all in ‘safer’ ways than what was possible (for survival) in your childhood. Bless you for opening the door to your own healing and then usher others in to experience theirs. What I learned about anger is the ‘good girls don’t….’ since it was never modeled for me by my parents who I rarely saw express it. They were ‘nice people’ who took care of everyone else.My mom echoed the classic line from Bambi, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say nuthin’ at alll.” Works for Disney characters, but not for this woman who learned to submerge her anger under a smile. The only times I allowed myself to feel it and express it was in defense of other people. I am a social worker who has an indignent, “How dare you hurt that person?” mindset when I hear stories told by clients and now reading yours about your childhood. In my marriage, my husband had no problem expressing it and it was what he grew up with. Since his death, nearly19 years ago, I have come to see clearly, that anger can be a tool or a weapon. I call myself ‘conflict avoidant’ and still, when the emotion surfaces, I let it out, safely and don’t use it against myself or others.

    By the way, we met several years ago at a conference in Philadelphia.

    Wishing you ongoing healing.

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