Monday, January 14, 2019

How to Make Being Angry Work For You

I am mostly a laid back person, but when I blow, baby, do I blow. However, this year I am (once again) resolving to be a gentler, more peaceful version of me. To concentrate on the good, not spend so much time lamenting over the irritating. I want to resolve and move on rather than stew.

Of course I know that wisdom says you should hit the pause button and wait before responding,  count to 10 (or 100) and all of that. That all sounds well and good, but I often am too caught up in my righteous anger at the time to remember that.

When I do remember to count, I really just use that time to come up with something to say that will really make it clear that I am angry and add a helping of guilt to it.

Rational me knows it is better to calm down so we can discuss the problem and mutually look for a solution, rather than spend that time informing the transgressor of all of their character flaws that led to this situation.

Angry me does't even think about solving problems. Solving problems is hard. Talking about what is wrong with someone else is easy, and doing this ensures that I don't have to change anything, you do (because it's our fault. DANGER: This is victim thinking).  Not to mention people usually defend (fight) or flee when being attacked. They don't participate in problem solving.

If you want to be happy, truly happy, you have to get over feeling justified in being angry. You have to stop believing in the illusion that showing how angry you are with the someone will force them to change, or will punish them for their perceived crime.

It may do some of that, but it will also fundamentally change your relationship with them. We tend to move away from things that make you uncomfortable or bring you pain, so if you keep being the source of discomfort, then that person will move away from you. Plus, it won't make any similar future occurrences conclude any differently. Lose Lose for angry me.

as Aristotle once said:

So, rational me has come up with this plan of a 24 hour hold on responding to something I am angry about. I need something a bit more drastic than counting. I need a rule to keep me in line, not a suggestion, or 'it would be nice if', but a simple rule.

Why 24 hours? A lot can happen in 24 hours. Something is bound to make me laugh or cheer me up, perspective will be gained. Also, then I know I am not responding angrily because I am hangry or irritated with something else.

Most importantly, it also gives me time to think.

I'm not saying being angry isn't okay, and there are times when it is deserved. Any feeling is okay. You can feel however you want to feel. BUT.....You can't (or shouldn't) always act how you want to act (that serves no one).

For you to be in charge of your emotions, you need to name them. In order to name them properly, I need to get past the blanket "angry" label.

Some people (old angry me for instance) label every strong emotion anger. Instead of sad, they become angry. Instead of admitting to themselves that their feelings are hurt, they are frustrated, or feel left out, they get angry.

For me anger is a tool I am used to and comfortable with. I can wield it and its sister guilt very well. The problem with that is that the same tool is always being used for every job when another one will work better. Anger is a hammer, and you can't build a house with just a hammer.  So when I feel angry, that is a clue that there is something else going on that I need to take a look at, and I feel like I need 24 hours to do it.

My first test came this weekend. I get the children up every morning and get them ready for school, which is fine. That makes sense because I am the one with flexible time in the AM.

However, on weekends, each of our kids has an activity pretty early and in two separate places. I take one, and the hubs takes the other. This Saturday, no one (as in my husband) woke up the kid with the earliest activity. The kid he was taking to that activity.  It fell on me to be the one responsible for this. It was assumed, i.e. taken for granted that I would do this. The only person my husband got up and ready was himself.

I was all ready to unleash my my sarcastic comments when he finally came downstairs to take the kid to his lesson, but before I did so I was going to wait to see if he would even acknowledge that I took care of the situation.

And........he didn't. No thanks. Nothing. Not even a hint of "maybe I could have/should have done that, and boy was I angry, but I remembered the 24 hour rule, and it seemed like a really good time to use it.

It took about 10 or so minutes of cleaning up the kitchen before I could calm down enough to ask myself, "What am I really upset about here?" I'm not upset, I'm resentful.

Keep going...What about that makes me resentful? Don't I deserve a day off from my "job" every once in a while too.

Well, hello, now we are getting somewhere. I resent being treated like an employee and not a partner. I resent not having someone look out for me and take care of me every once in a wile.

You may feel guilty here, and think you don't have a right to feel resentful for/because [insert whatever reason]. Once again, you can feel however you feel, properly name it so you can choose the proper tool to deal with it.

I need the right tool to effect future outcomes, so the even better question is "what would I like to have happen?"

I would like to be able to depend on him to notice what needs to be done and not always ass-u-me that I will do it like it's my job. I would like to be asked, like a partner. Like a partner that you notice does a lot around here to keep things running. Like a person who may also want to sleep in.

See, that still sounds angry, and I can't make anyone do anything, so I waited a few more hours and thought on it some more.

Rational 8 hour after the incident (notice I couldn't wait 24 hours) me knows that my husband loves me, and wouldn't do something intentionally to make me feel like I don't matter, so that helps me to be able to calm down enough to talk specifically about the situation (and not his personal failings in the situation), and offer a possible solution. Like, "Hey, could we be a little more clear on who is doing what on Saturday morning because I was looking forward to sleeping in a few minutes longer."

See, totally rational and not angry.

In full disclosure, the conversation didn't go exactly as planned, and I got angry again, but because I put so much thought into what I wanted to achieve, I was able to hold off snapping, take a deep breath and explain how his behavior made me feel in addition to wanting to sleep, so how could we change this together? And, I got a solution and an apology (and I didn't gloat until I was alone).

It's been a week so far. I have had a couple of opportunities to practice. I've missed the pause button a few times, which is fine. I'll keep working on it building the new habit because I have also hit it a few times with success, and success feels better than anger.

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