Had an epiphany of sorts.
I’ve known for a long time that anger is a surface emotion covering for sadness. Lately I heard someone elaborate on that concept by explaining that anger is deep grief, deep grieving.
In my more contemplative moments, I’m able to usefully apply that knowledge to my own life. But I only remember just now being aware that anger being hurled towards me is also a sign that the raging person is also deeply grieving.
I tend to focus on the attacking portion of the presenting behavior – because it is literally in my face. It presses all those flight, fight, freeze, and fawn buttons. But it seems once the immediate danger is over, it is also instinctive to want to distance myself far away from the trauma of such an interaction. Not only physically, but inside also.
Which has prevented me from contemplating that the presenting anger might most often not actually be the real issue. It seems like any little thing can set off someone’s anger. And I think we get caught up in focusing on all of those little things that are easier to face. Easier to blame. Than doing the work of diving deep to figure out, name, or deal with the real nuclear core of our anger/grief.
Over the years I’ve used different things to district myself from anger/grief. I’ve distracted myself with things I don’t care to share publicly all the way to the absolutely mundane (hours of Freecell). It can be frustrating. To conquer a layer of grief. A mountain of anger. Only to realize that was only one of many layers of anger/grief/distraction. Only to realize there is more work to do.
We might tap out and say, “Nah, I’ll just deal with this like it is right now. It’s ok. I’ve been doing it this long.” But those things have a way of growing and getting our attention one way or another. With our blessing and cooperation. Or sometimes in the form of a usually untimely crisis.
I say this specifically because as a woman, I now realize I’ve sort of always assumed men were “angrier”. But what if men were the same as women in that they feel grief as deeply as women? Yet tragically without the same public encouragement to express their true emotions? So they are left with the primitive responses to mountains of grief that are stacked and stacked for years inside of them. Not at all to be trite, but that is a perfectly deadly situation.
What if instead of hating the angry person, and God-forbid responding in anger (of which I am guilty), we could have the emotional maturity and self-discipline to step back and ask ourselves first what they could be so sad about? I’m not advocating codependent behavior. Or tolerating or enduring abuse. I’m just saying when violence is not a threat, what if we stood back and took our ego out of the equation? What would we find if we asked ourselves what the other person could be grieving about?
This isn’t just a local problem in our immediate relationships. Our entire nation is angry. Our entire nation is grieving. We are already the zombies they make movies about. Look up when you are walking through the store. Try to make eye contact. We are all tired. We are all hungry for hope. This country has by no means been perfect, but some of us remember better times. That start is enough to cry over. The full list is easily more extensive.
I have some personal habits that I am trying to break. They are distractions from anger/grief. That’s why they are so difficult to break. Realized clearing up the underlying issues is going to be the key to long-term success versus just switching from one bad habit to another. In that, I wondered today if it would actually help to make a list of everything I am sad about. Even considering the thought was enough to switch my mind to thinking of more pleasant things. However, truly I find my way out usually involves going in.
But then I thought, what space might be available in our brains, our hearts, our lives, our relationships, our families if we did the hard work? If we faced it? Dealt with all the junk? And at least put work into motion towards fixing at least even small parts of the problem? Might we then have more presence of mind and energy of heart to see all the good that still remains? To see the potential in one another versus only the threats? Am I a Pollyanna? By no means. But I’ve experienced those moments enough to know they are possible in greater measure than maybe many experience now.
Food for thought is all I really meant. But I don’t want to end without sharing my hope. If I didn’t personally experience God’s strength alone getting me through so many days of life on this planet, I’d think mentioning Him at this point would be a platitude. But my truth is my truth. And my only hope. If not for change on this planet during my life, then the strength to carry on until it’s time for me to cross over to the other side.
In the meantime, I aim for the best. Because every day I still can find beauty. Life. Hope. In a smile. Or a kind word. Or a generous gesture. In laughs. In music. In art. In love – as broken as we are.
We are waiting for change, but we are the change. Right here. Right now. In your circle of influence. You can make someone’s day better today. Even in your broken state. Together we are strong. Divided we fall.
Never give up.