I’ve been exploring anger lately. It’s an emotion that I’ve tried very hard to avoid most of my life. My adoptive mom exploded in anger when I was a kid at any given time. It got worse as I became an adolescent, as I became quite rebellious. To this day, I don’t know why she carried so much anger. I often wonder if she had an undiagnosed mental disorder or illness, like depression. She and my adoptive father drank a lot. Of course, many from their era drank socially. My father joined the Air Force at the age of 18 and was a pilot in World War II. He flew a B-24. My parents loved their martinis and cigarettes.
I feared my mom because of her anger. I seem to gravitate toward people with similar personalities to that of my mom, quite unconsciously. Through therapy, I’ve learned that it’s common to attract what we’re most familiar with, even if it’s not particularly healthy.
Therapists and others identity anger as a secondary emotion. In other words, anger lies beneath another emotion, like sadness, emotional pain, loneliness or disrespect. I think, however, that anger can also exist as a primary emotion. When someone cuts me off on the freeway, and I have to slam on my brakes, I’m pissed. I think that you can genuinely feel angry toward someone else without the presence of a secondary emotion.
I’m learning to own my anger and that I feel angry a lot more often than I realize, or allow myself to acknowledge. Anger tells me that I need to explore the root – that’s the part I don’t like because it means I have to do something to resolve it. Like confront. Throughout my life, I’ve let others take their anger out on me without doing anything about it. It typically just sinks deep to the bottom of my heart. I can recall times when my mom terrified me with her anger. She once ripped the cord of my telephone in my bedroom out of the wall when I was talking to a friend (we didn’t have cell phones back then) and threw it across the room. On another occasion, she pushed me onto my bed and proceeded to shake me by my shirt. I was a teen when both incidents occurred. Other times, she just yelled and screamed and that was enough to send my heart tripping. She demeaned my father by calling him names like dumbass and asshole. I yelled back, but I also felt so fearful, and that was never resolved. I became a people pleaser. I put on a smile, learned to be kind and passive. It did not serve me in the least bit, except to avoid conflict. I learned to live in fear like it was a normal, daily experience.
There are a couple of podcasts that I’ve listened to recently that explore anger. One is Adoptees On by adoptee, Haley Radke, where Pamela Cordano, MFT, talks about some of the reasons why adoptees legitimately feel angry. I highly recommend listening in to this episode, especially if you’re an adoptee. She also discusses different types of anger and gives some practical exercises to work on. The other is The Creative Superheroes Podcast by Andrea Scher. Guest, Juna Mustad, a Life Coach, Intuitive, and Group Facilitator, discusses relationships and the Drama Triangle, which very much resonated with me. She also wrote a book called, The Good Girl’s Guide to Anger, where she talks about healthy relationships, confrontation, and dealing with anger.
Something made me really angry last weekend. The piece above came from that anger. I still do not manage my angry feelings well. Deep at my core, I’m still a people pleaser and hate conflict. I have grown and am growing, but still have much more growing to do and fears to overcome…It’s crippling to not deal with anger. I’m so grateful that art gives expression to those difficult emotions.