As a Life Coach with a business name like My One Happy Life, it’s not often you expect to see the phrase Don’t Forget to Get Angry in my blog posts.
Being angry does have a place in my life, even though it might not happen very often or I may not outwardly express it.
But last week, I decided it was appropriate to invite anger in.
As my Dad continues to recover in assisted living, I notice he has made improvement physically but his short-term memory is still a bit unstable; specifically, he has some spatial disorientation.
I thought perhaps our recent outing through a quaint, familiar part of the city would contribute to his confusion, but as we were out and about, it was my Dad sharing with me which streets were familiar to him and at one point, stated, “Kelso is up here a few blocks.” I had never noticed Kelso Road before, but he claimed he had friends that lived there and sure enough, three blocks later, there was Kelso Road, front and center. He was very clear about these surroundings and quite familiar with this area.
Even so, it seemed for several days last week, my Dad believed he was in many different communities sprinkled about the state. He wasn’t sure how he got to each place, but it was real to him. I’ve read enough about dementia to understand it’s not in my best interest to argue with him about his “reality,” so I went with it.
One morning at 6:30am, my phone rang. It was my Dad letting me know he was awake for the day and he was ‘ready to go home’. It was a bit early, but I didn’t worry too much. I knew I would stop by his place soon for my morning visit. I wondered about the “ready to go home” part, but quickly dismissed it.
At 7:30 am, another call. Dad wanted to make sure I knew which apartment he was in and was quite worried I would “miss him.” When I assured him I knew where he was, he thanked me and said again he would be “ready to go.”
Ready to go? Go where? Was this truly reality for him? What if he wanted to leave? What if he didn’t expect to come back to the facility? How am I supposed to respond to that?
As I hung up the phone, I could feel a huge lump in my throat and the weight of the tears welling in my eyes. My face was hot, and sure enough, the tears began to fall. No one was in the house, so I decided it was time to let it out.
At the top of my lungs, I named the visiting emotion and cursed its existence,
“I am angry. I’m mad! I’M DAMN MAD! This sucks!”
The tears, the crying and the screaming continued for nearly two minutes. I’m certain the cats went deaf (and probably the neighbors as well).
In an instant, I stopped. The silence was amazing because this wave of anger visited and exited as quickly as it emerged. Then, it hit me:
Since the beginning of June, I had traveled over 5200 miles. I witnessed my best friend learn to eat and walk all over again, decided to move him from a warm and tropical climate to the Midwest, found the best care I could for his benefit and then transported him with nothing more than the clothes on his back. Once he got here, we established a new “normal” and I resumed my life as a working professional, a life coach and guide, a student, a wife, a mother and now, a daughter caring for her father.
I had been so busy doing that I forgot to be.
I had experienced sadness, fear and frustration, but did not welcome anger as a visiting emotion. When I did, it visited with great force and power. I welcomed, I experienced, I allowed, then I said goodbye and “Thank you for visiting”. Once it was gone, I felt so much lighter…so much better.
As I recall my experience, I am reminded of the poem “The Guest House” by Rumi:
This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
That morning, anger was unexpected, but it was ready to visit as a guide from beyond, reminding me that I had not yet welcomed it. I treated it honorably and allowed it to stay long enough to carry out its purpose.
Have you ever suppressed an emotion?
Perhaps you have held back tears so as not to express your sadness outwardly. Is it possible you have lied to another (and to yourself) to cover the fear that paralyzes you?
Have you said to a child “Don’t be sad” or “Just stop crying and cheer up.”
Maybe you put up a wall to hide your face; embarrassed and afraid of being recognized, but then deny you ever did such a thing to save the same face you just hid.
Or, it might look like a display of insensitivity because the pain is too great to let your emotions flow freely…after all, you’ve got to have “thick skin” and let it “roll off your back.”
Whatever the case, our emotions are a guest indeed. When we don’t honor them, we deny ourselves the act of being in the present moment, which causes even greater emotional instability or manifestation in the body itself. We must experience discomfort to move forward.
The next time you consider suppressing an emotion, I invite you to feel it instead:
Ground yourself. Take three deep breaths.
Notice what physical sensations are in your body.
Name the emotion. Say it out loud (I am angry, I am afraid)
Allow the emotion to visit, not to move in; realize that the discomfort is temporary; It is not forever.
Continue to breathe deeply and notice the emotion dissipate. Acknowledge the visit and allow the emotion to leave while you silently acknowledge its departure.
Emotions are physical energy in the body; information. .
Honor them all. Observe. Listen. Feel.
…and of course, don’t forget to get angry.
Author: Julie E. Cline
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Seth Woodworth at Flickr