I used to think I was not the angry type. I also used to think that anger was all bad. I only recently found out that I was wrong about the first. Oh, and I was wrong about the second, too.
Back in the day, I never got angry at people much. However, two major forces that entered my life changed this a lot. First, obviously, becoming a parent changed every bit of who I am and who I thought I was, how I think, and it turned the perspective of what’s important in life. The second change is of a different nature, being the COVID-19 pandemic.
Let’s start with the latter. The amount of incompetence in leadership and governance, combined with the complete refusal of people to care about a greater good has become awfully clear over the past couple of years. I’m angry for many reasons to do with human health, but especially so if I envision the bigger picture. If we refuse to act on something so awfully close to our own well-being as a viral disease swarming the planet, how are we ever going to make the changes necessary to create a healthy and sustainable future for humanity and the planet? In all honesty, I think we won’t. I think we are pretty fucked, because leaders and governments – and a good number of the population with them – have decided it should be so. COVID-19, climate warming, biodiversity loss. They’re all symptoms of the same problem. We are the problem. And we won’t be the solution. This makes me angry and sad.
But hey, this blog post is not about pandemics or saving the planet.
It’s about anger, goddammit!
My kids are a different and until recently quite unexpected source of anger. My daughter at ten months is still a cute and largely helpless larva. It’s hard to get angry with a larva. I now know things will get a whole lot worse. My son, almost three, is both the sweetest and most horrible kid I know. He makes me laugh like no one else. He can also make my mood swing like the flip of a switch. God, sometimes I want to punch him in the face. (For the record, I don’t.) The anger my son can unleash in me feels horrible and unreal.
My little boy. How could I get so angry with my wonderful lovely little boy.
I talked about this with my therapist a while ago. I explained to him how angry I felt, and how bad I felt about it, but how the anger would also seep away soon after its revelation.
He laughed at me, with a big grin. It wasn’t a bad laugh. It was a laugh of recognition. A laugh that told me he understood, that he had been there too. It was a reassuring laugh, however weird that may sound.
One thing he said soon after made a lot of sense.
“Your son has been studying you his entire life. He’s a world expert at you. He knows all about you. How to make you laugh, but also especially how to make you blow up. Why are you even surprised?”
I never realized that… But it makes a whole lot of sense. Of course my son knows how to push all the wrong buttons. He knows each and every one of them through years of meticulous study, and probably has some combinations up his sleeve for the years to come.
We talked a bit about anger, and why anger is important. Why it’s important – and in a way sensible – that he triggers me, and not just any random person. It takes a lot of trust in someone to dare to make them angry. You have to be 100 percent sure that the person you’re torturing next will still love you regardless of the outcome. If you look at it from that perspective, it’s actually an honour to be the chosen one.
Anger may help my son explore and discover the concept of boundaries. How far can he go? One warning, two warnings, three, maybe four? Will there be a punch in the face if pushed hard enough?
This conversation made me rethink the concept of anger. I’ve been, as my therapist has described me many times, an internalizer of anger. What I took for ‘not being the angry type’, has actually been ‘not the type to ever let it out’… Considering my family ties and history, or lack thereof in some parts, it’s maybe not surprising that I felt anger and channeled it towards other aspects of my being. This is probably an important reason for my struggles with anxiety, and a whole collection of psychosomatic bullshit that vary from back pains, tendonitis, and headaches, to more recently quite literally shaking with anger.
I guess I need some ways to let it out. I realize that a certain level of anger with the kids is important and reasonable. The surplus should find another way out.
Maybe I should become an angry person shouting at everything (plenty of those here in Germany).
Tell me, how do you deal with anger? Or are you also not the angry type?