“Few situations –no matter how greatly they appear to demand it – can be bettered by us going berserk.”
Codependent No More, Melody Beattie
Most of us have been taught that there are negative and positive emotions. Anger, sadness, grief and frustration are bad. Happiness, love, joy, and bemusement are good. Because of this, we are often less skilled in coping with the negative emotions. We are taught to suppress them, deny them, ignore them and fight against them.
I think we do this at our peril. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons for anger, and if you are not allowed to express it in a healthy way, it can fester and build up and find its way to the surface in the form of violence or at the very least, inappropriate outbursts.
Growing up, I was plagued with migraines, and they would often be triggered by tears. My migraines would last for days and be accompanied by copious amounts of vomit and excruciating pain. Thus the family creed became: Don’t Upset Barb, She’ll Get a Migraine.
Because of that, it took decades for me to learn that it was okay to cry sometimes. It was acceptable to be upset. It wasn’t the end of the world, and it didn’t have to get blown up to epic proportions. I could be one with my tears, embrace my tears, and move on.
Someone I love has a problem with anger. When he gets angry, usually for political reasons, his fury comes out like a nuclear blast that tends to flatten everyone in his vicinity. I’m not sure why he never learned to direct his anger at the source, but it’s definitely a problem that impacts every aspect of his life, including his health and his relationships, and it breaks my heart to bear witness to it.
And then there is the fact that the vast majority of men on this planet are taught that they shouldn’t cry. Is it any wonder why they are much more prone to violence? I honestly don’t think it’s nature as much as it is nurture, or in this case, the lack thereof.
It is important, in fact imperative, to teach our children that it’s okay to feel what you feel, and express those feelings in healthy ways as they occur. If you want adults who are assertive rather than aggressive, you need to teach children how to communicate what they are feeling. Not to do so can have societal, even global implications.
(Marvin Martian has long been my favorite cartoon character, because he allows kids to have conversations about anger. I think that’s important.)