My New Frenemy: Anger

The past few weeks have been a lower version of my status quo, which means everything has been within my normal operations and feelings, but on the lower end of the spectrum. Physically, my energy has been low, my focus poor, my pain and chronic symptoms relatively high, and my sleep horrendous. Emotionally, I’m teetering on the treacherous brink of deep depression, fighting the daily battle of striving to keep my mood and mindset positive and hopeful, but I’m getting through my days with somewhat impressive composure and pleasantness despite how I actually feel. Despite being in my early 30’s already, a new feeling I’m becoming acquainted with—and not necessarily in a joyous or serendipitous way—is anger.

By and large, for my entire life, I’ve identified very little with the emotion of anger, meaning I either haven’t felt it, confused it with another emotion, or otherwise didn’t recognize it and it morphed into another emotion (like sadness, depression, hurt, or possibly frustration (the last of which is at least tangentially-related to anger, but the others are more disparate)). Of course, over thirty years of life, even the privileged, wonderful one that I’ve been blessed with, it’s not only normal—but healthy—to experience plenty of anger; I was just failing to properly acknowledge it and thus, experience it, process it, understand it, and dissipate it. Instead, lots of internalized depression and hurt has amassed and my skills in navigating the important, true emotion for what it is are nonexistent.

I’ve had some pockets of exposure to anger in its naked authenticity (not masquerading as sadness, low self-worth, etc.) in the past couple of years, but these have been more like brief introductory encounters, much like shaking hands at a big party where I’ve met many other “people” (or feelings) as well, so that by the end of the night, as I lie in bed reeling from the party, I can remember anger’s face or name, but perhaps not both, nor do I remember much in the way of her characteristics. The buzz of the party, the myriad of guests I met, and the overwhelming bounty of stimuli compete for a lasting impression.

Even the extreme unjustness and personal violation inflicted upon me (unprovoked nonetheless) of my attack failed to incite anger at the time. Sure, I felt broken to my very core, but in the deepest hurt and depressive way possible, not in any sort of infuriation or rage, even though these latter emotions were clearly justifiable and likely would have served me well psychologically to some degree rather than internalizing the emotional pain and blaming myself or feeling like I deserved it and so comparatively worthless as a human to have “deserved” such despicable acts. I experienced fleeting periods of frustration during “recovery,” in that I’d temporarily acknowledged that what happened to me was unfair and undeserved, but these pockets of time never lasted; sadness and broken self-worth always did a cannonball off the high dive and blew those early seeds of anger far out of the water. It became yet another tepid pool of feeling hurt and upset.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve become more intimately connected with anger. Going back to the party analogy, we’ve met, shaken hands, and had a lengthy conversation along the perimeter of the room. I now have learned a little about her job, step kids (irritability and rage), and temperament. While I see her “value,” I wouldn’t say we jive well. I am very uncomfortable with her and have yet to really understand how to sit with the emotion and both work through it and compartmentalize it so I can still get through my normal responsibilities without getting sidelined with the overwhelming distraction of facing this new, difficult feeling. Those two needs are rather antagonistic and unfortunately, I have not mastered either yet. I suppose I need to dole out a hefty dose of patience and self-compassion during this anger familiarity process; after all, it is essentially a brand new experience for me and I’ve never bragged about an ability to be lithe and pliable to change.

Ultimately, I do believe there is some utility to this feeling and that its new presence in my life, while undesirable in many ways, represents some amount of healthy psychological progress toward healing and emotional intelligence. For now, honestly, I’m hating it. I seem to have no viable or effective way to dissipate it, and it makes me feel out of control (which I hate), distracted, and exhausted. It would probably be wise to seek some advice for dealing with it from people with more experience with it than myself, which is likely to be most adults! I know feeling anger is totally “normal,” and there should be no shame in having it, but I want to convert what feels like a battle against it to a more responsible way to sit with it. Not only will that be more productive for me, but it should alleviate some of the stress and discomfort I’ve been feeling because of the foreignness (and inherent displeasure) of the emotion.

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