Archives for posts with tag: how do I do mindful anger?

I start feeling complacent, every now and then, after things seem easy for a while, after very little drama over a longer time, after a few days or weeks or even – no kidding – months without a significant reminder of the chaos and damage. Things “in here” are generally fairly tidied up these days, in the sense that I am more resilient, more balanced, less prone to storms and outbursts, less easily rocked from a place of calm. Day-to-day, things are… just days. Moments. Experiences of a life well-lived.

Not what I expected to see.

Tuesday night I came home while daylight lingered. Needing a moment of emotional rest and calm after a somewhat difficult day in the office, I went to the patio door. My cushion was waiting for me, left right there from the morning. I opened the blinds expecting my tidy patio and potted garden, and beyond that, lawn, meadow, marsh… and between the patio and the view, my bird feeders on their pole. Which is mostly sort of what I saw, only… the pole was bent low, laid flat to the ground, which… is not at all the expected functioning position of poles, generally, nor this one specifically, ever, at all. It’s not a bit peculiar that I was taken by surprise, or angry – but I was unprepared for the shit storm of emotions that hit me almost instantly. Rage. Real fury. Resentment. As the anger built to an unmanageable level, the frustration, the learned helplessness, the disappointment, all capitalized on the suddenly volatile moment to pile on. Breaking shit is not an option. Lashing out physically is not an option. I took a photograph of the wrecked pole, mostly because I didn’t really know what else to do. Then I cried. I cried and cried like a child who realizes they’ve misplaced their very most favorite toy. I cried like a grieving lover. It was all quite excessive and somehow inappropriate to the moment. I didn’t care about that, and wouldn’t recognize it for some time, much later in the evening.

All of the tears that I haven’t cried over all of the shitty things going on in the world lately finally found their way out of my eye holes. I wept. I let myself have the moment. I indulged the momentary falsehood that it was truly only about a pole. Tears I can handle. I’ve cried a river of them. I’ve wiped them dry with a million miles of tissues. Tears fall. Tears dry. Moments pass.

The rage was harder to handle. Anger terrifies me, even my own.  Even to allow it for a moment, felt like it teetered on the edge of criminal to feel it at all. Anger is such a human emotion. We teach ourselves so little about it. Isn’t that strange? I was unprepared, in spite of putting in so much practice and work, generally, on emotion, and emotional intelligence. Experiencing rage still feels terrifying, and part of what is frightening about it (for me), is how powerful it feels. In that moment, I really wanted to lash out, I really wanted to take action – action has power. I wanted to destroy everything within reach, to “make a mark” on the world, to punish whoever had wronged me, to assign blame, and force “rightness” on my circumstances. I live a life in which I have surrounded myself with precious things, delicate breakables, art, porcelain, glass – and because these things are precious to me, I have learned to stop when I am raging. Just stop. No action. Self-inflicted, self-enforced inaction. Inaction that gives me a moment to recognize that beneath the rage is… the hurt. The sadness. The disappointment. The loss. The tears. I can cope fairly easily with tears. I have so little sense of having tools to deal with rage… but I know this about me; I will not break my beautiful precious trinkets of material life. They hold my memories. The preciousness of breakable things stalls my rage. It has been tool, system, and practice enough to be adequate for a long time…

It’s time to learn and grow. Is life’s next lesson about anger? Is it time? I admit to having avoided it so far, by creating circumstances in which it can rarely surface – some seriously masterful avoidance. I live in my own place, alone, so my relationships rarely cause me anger; there is no opportunity. I live fairly simply in a space carefully managed to limit “incidental anger” from stubbed toes, or wacked shins. I limit my exposure to sensationalized media reporting. I end social relationships with people who seem inclined to provoke me deliberately. I avoid being out in the world if my PTSD is flaring up. I refrain from becoming emotionally invested in the workplace to the point that passion could erupt over points of disagreement. When anger, or issues to do with it, come up in therapy, I carefully back away and don’t bring it up next time. Avoidance, however, is a short-term coping skill, not a long-term growth strategy.

I’ve set this one aside twice now, when I got to the chapter on anger. I haven’t been ready.

I guess it’s time to take another step down an unlit path. It’s been an extraordinary journey, these last 4 years or so. There’s more to learn. More opportunity to grow. More work to be done to become the woman I most want to be. I dislike the experience of being surrounded by precious irreplaceable breakable objects, trembling with barely restrained rage, until fury finally finds its release as tears because no action is “safe”. There’s probably a better way. 🙂 It’s time to face the woman in the mirror, anger and all, and give her a hand with this one.

The commute is usually standing room only. Plenty of seats on the morning of a Day Without Women.

Apropos of anger, yesterday was “Day Without a Woman” on International Woman’s Day. A lot of women stepped away from their roles in the workplace, at home, just generally. Allies and supporters and feminists of all sorts, too. It was a powerful demonstration, probably more meaningful to those of us demonstrating, than those who obstruct us, or who fail to recognize the fundamental humanity of women. Still powerful. That’s an anger thing, I guess, that feeling of power. How can I best harness the power of my anger – without truly understanding it? I don’t think I can. So. It is, perhaps, long overdue to deal with the rage.

At this point, the anger is academic, it is a quiet calm morning and it’s time to consider the here, the now, and the day ahead of me. It’s time to begin again. 🙂

Somehow, the night was not so stifling hot that it prevented sleep; I slept well and deeply. I’m sure the steps taken during the unexpectedly busy work day to drink enough water, manage calories, take medication on time and stretch in place regularly were building blocks for feeling well-rested this morning. Some practices seem pretty obvious, and the outcome predictably successful.

Toward the end of the day, I found myself feeling cross, discontent, and moving in the direction of simmering anger, for no obvious reason. Practices regarding strong emotions, like anger, are sometimes harder for me to master. If there’s nothing to be angry about, why would I poke at that sleeping bear? Shouldn’t I squelch that and move on? Certainly that’s one heavily reinforced approach, culturally, especially if you happen to be female. Anger seems to be pretty potent – and off-putting. People do not want to exist alongside anger, most particularly if directed their way. What if I am legitimately angry about something that could easily provoke any rational person to anger – what then? Feed it, it grows, but hide it and it festers… I don’t understand anger.

Sweet relief and contentment often seem just beyond some complicated moment.

Sweet relief and contentment often seem just beyond some complicated emotional puzzle.

As the evening played out, it was quickly apparent that I was not angry ‘about’ anything obvious. I was hot. I had a headache. I have a couple lingering itchy spider bites. I wasn’t in pain so didn’t take pain meds that have been pretty routine for some time now (probably the source of the headache). It was a busy work day with a coworker out sick. The anger I was feeling was not the sort of focused if-then-because anger that I feel when someone treats me badly, or takes an action with predictably poor consequences. Was it even actually ‘anger’? Well, it sure could have been; I walked home through that emotional fog of irritation and fed it with my thoughts. Anger was almost inevitable, but there was nothing in my actual experience of the moment causing it – I was creating it from my thoughts, using my physical experience as a sort of spring-form pan in which to contain and justify it. 😦 Unpleasant.

Practicing new practices let's me try things until I find what works for me.

Practicing new practices let’s me try things until I find what works for me.

Practices for managing and defusing anger are numerous. I don’t generally understand them well, either. I mean…if my anger is real, why should I have to squash it and not be heard? If my anger is illusory, why is it so difficult to just let it go? Venting works for some people, and it feels very gratifying…but having a disinhibiting brain injury can easily put me on the path of obsessing over anger, becoming mired in it, or making something small a much bigger deal. Last night felt like a win. I got home, and decided I would most certainly deal with my anger gently and courteously – don’t I deserve to be treated well by myself, above all? First, though, I committed to taking care of practical matters that I know support longer term wellness on multiple levels, and benefit from not being delayed. I had a cool shower, drank plenty of water, had a bite of dinner that met my nutritional needs, did the dishes, did what I could to cool the apartment down after the 93 degree day, meditated, did some yoga… and found that I was simply no longer feeling anything I could call ‘anger’. I had ‘let it go’ without actively seeking to do so and realized that something that often makes ‘letting it go’ hard for me is the sense that I am being dismissed and not heard. Well…I didn’t do that, last night. I heard me. I considered my needs, and simply determined that the anger would be dealt with appropriately, along with other needs, in order of priority – and I didn’t make it the highest priority. When I finally got to it, it was more a matter of ‘I don’t really care for this experience. I could do some things differently.’

It's a journey without a map, some of it paved, all of it built on choices.

It’s a journey without a map, some of it paved, all of it built on choices.

One very nice thing about living alone right now is that there is no confusion whatsoever about ‘angry at…’. I think I am figuring out that ‘remote anger’ – for example, being angry in a visceral way over a story I read in the news – is entirely useless stress that may hold the power to motivate me to action, but the toll it takes on my experience, and my physical wellness is not at all worth it.  Anger at what is farther from my immediate experience feels safer than being angry at someone dear to me, or at some circumstance close to home. I guess that’s obvious. Handling anger in way that allows me to express myself comfortably without launching emotional weapons of mass distraction is something I would like to be very skilled at. I think before I will become skilled at handling anger, and making appropriate limited use of its power, I will need to learn to mute the pointless fruitless anger of my mind in motion – the anger that is pretty much just entirely imagined, built off the chaos and damage, fed with thoughts and assumptions and petty hurts or changing moods. I don’t think doing so by denying myself my own support and understanding is effective; it hasn’t worked for me so far. Last night worked out well, though. When I sat down and gave what I thought was bugging me a moment of thought, it turned out I wasn’t actually ‘angry’ at all. Frustrated, sure. Uncomfortable in the heat, yep. Fighting off a headache was also a factor. Anger? Not really a thing. If I had been living in a more social domestic setting, though, I may not have been able to get through to the part where I worked that out without causing a lot of stress or drama reacting to my internal experience (other people work through their emotions more quickly than I sometimes seem able to, particularly strong negative emotions). Clearly – still practicing. Still a student. There is still work to be done, and a journey ahead of me. It’s a fine time to live alone, untroubled by the casual hurts caused to others by my lack of emotional skill. lol

I ended the evening quite pleasantly, in conversation with my traveling partner. I may become a fan of using the phone, again – that’s how awesome it is just  hearing the sound of his voice in the evening, talking over things that matter in a gentle and pleasant way. My birthday is coming. It matters (perhaps too much) that he is thinking of me. The conversation was delightful and productive.  At one point something about our discussion brushed ever so lightly past something that held the potential to rouse anger – and I observed the experience, and the reaction, and didn’t act on it. Instead I stayed on course with the conversation, and made a note for myself to take care of me and take another look at that later. I am learning that my anger is truly my own, independent of whatever might seem to cause it. Directing my reaction at the assumed cause doesn’t actually seem to result in resolution… Strangely, taking that moment to breath and set it aside for later – rather than trying to force myself to ‘let it go’ over my own resentment at being dismissed, or acting on it in the moment – seems to work nicely for me. When our conversation ended, I reflected on that moment when my anger began to rise up, and easily saw that I wasn’t angry at all, I was struggling with unaddressed hurt feelings over something so subjective and internal that it would have been entirely inappropriate to demand satisfaction from some other being. It was an interesting moment of perspective.

I am tending the garden of my heart with greater care.

I am tending the garden of my heart with greater care.

I matter more [to me] than my anger. Taking care of me well often eases what feels like anger ‘about’ something entirely unrelated. I don’t think I have any real ‘answers’ about the anger puzzle…I’m not even sure I have all the pieces. What I do have, though, is the memory of a busy productive day, a lovely quiet evening, and a sweet loving conversation with a human being as dear to me as I am to myself – all entirely unspoiled by anger. 🙂 Win and good.

Yesterday I didn’t write. I woke seconds ahead of the alarm, and a bit disappointed it was morning. I enjoyed quiet, unmeasured stillness, meditating in the holiday glow of the decorated loft and found myself feeling incredible balanced and content as the day began…

Ornaments as metaphors; love is a lighthouse.

Ornaments as metaphors; love is a lighthouse.

…It all went wrong very quickly, in that way that mornings so easily can.  I spent the remainder of the day feeling stuck – and angry. I have challenges with anger, and I carry around a lot of baggage that is related to anger, and the strange double standard I perceive between what is permitted of the anger of men versus the anger of women. Gender bias issues of that sort generally function implicitly, and it has always been an area of my experience in which I have struggled to be heard, to be accepted, or to make progress with my challenges. I run from anger – mine, too – until I explode unable to contain it any longer. It’s unhealthy. Yesterday sucked quite a lot, and probably didn’t have to. I have work to do in the area of anger. I’m sure life will continue to provide curriculum for the needed learning experience. 🙂

I did not expect that when I woke this morning, I would feel insecure and reluctant to experience morning at all. Yesterday apparently managed to be a pretty big deal on that level, and I find myself feeling fretful about it, and I am unsurprised that tears fall, and then stop, only to start up again for no apparent reason. Tinkering with implicit memory has, over time, resulted in me being somewhat more sensitive to, and aware of, how intense experiences create change in ‘the way things feel’. This morning my anxiety is needless, and associated with the hurt-sad-angry moments of mornings that are not this one. How unreasonable!

I don’t generally write when I am angry. I struggle to communicate comfortably at all, and I’m often unsure quite what to say; I want to get words out that have meaning, are reasonable, and communicate well, and gently, what’s on my mind…only…anger. I didn’t write yesterday. I did go to my therapy appointment, and it ended up being by far the most important conversation of this lifetime about anger. I’m hopeful about the content and significance. I’m anxious about it; change can mean turmoil, and anything to do with anger is actually pretty terrifying for me.

This morning I went straight to writing after meditating, as if the deviation in my routine yesterday was the thing that was problematic. It isn’t likely that meditating in the loft yesterday, and not writing at all, was in any way associated with the blow up later…but “it felt wonderful and calm and delightful, and then things went wrong, therefore I can’t have that” is sort of how my brain broke it down to me this morning. I feel my anxiety increase just contemplating enjoying quiet chill time in that colorful holiday space that I love. What a mess. I am so very human, and sometimes the chaos and damage are more obvious than others.

Would I be easier to love if I never spoke?

Would I be easier to love if I never spoke?

This morning is a whole new day. I’ve got a great shot of espresso. It’s a birthday (Happy Birthday, Love!!). The work day ahead looks to be a good one, and I anticipate spending those hours engaged in tasks that excite me intellectually, in an area of work in which I feel very sure of myself and valued. My pain, today, is quite manageable. I woke without a headache. I find myself feeling hopeful and enthusiastic between stray moments of anxiety. I avoid setting expectations of the day as much as possible to limit my stress, and prevent setting myself or my love up for failure, this morning or later.

Today is a good day to take care of me. Today is a good day to love. Today is a good day to understand that anger isn’t an enemy, and that I have an opportunity to learn and grow from it, and make use of it as a tool, and an alert system. Today is a good day to step right over my fears and doubts and love without reservations. Today is a good day to see the best in each person I interact with, and reflect that back to them by being the best person I can be, myself. Today is a good day for consideration and kindness. Today is a good day to change the world.