The Gift of Anger in Awareness
Perhaps my greatest struggle as a parent has been to teach myself a different way of being angry. I want to be able simply to feel angry without either repressing it — which in the past has resulted in episodes of depression — or expressing it — which typically takes the form of yelling. I grew up in a family of yellers, so there should be no surprise either that I grew up to be one myself, or that change is not coming easily. However, with a two-year-old Critter in my care, the need for me to change is urgent.
Our little ones need us to be able to handle our anger for two reasons. First, anger can be scary. We are the greatest source of security to our children, and so it is frightening to them to see us out of control. Second, anger is inevitable. Though I have often wished and fantasized otherwise, we are going to get angry. Our children are going to get angry. And, in fact, in the face of frustration, injustice, or loss, it is normal and healthy to get angry. And so showing our children that we can be even bigger than our anger is one of the most powerful gifts we can give to our children.
A few simple practices based in self-awareness have helped me to anticipate and cope with my anger. I offer them in the hopes that some of them will resonate with you.
Awareness of my mood
In those moments of weakness when I’ve yelled at the Critter, it has had little to do with his behavior and everything to do with my mood. Like everyone else, I’m responsible for far too much: in addition to caring for the Critter, there’s my relationship with my husband, my various freelancing jobs, my personal writing projects, and our home, among other things. I am far more often exhausted and stressed out than not. When my exhaustion and stress take the form of desperation or exaggerated self-pity — How am I ever going to get this all done? Why do I always have to be in charge of everything around here? — I take notice, because I know that in such moods, I am easily angered. These are the times to take it easy: get outside, go for a run, order pizza for dinner.
Awareness of the situation
Naptime, brushing the Critter’s teeth, getting ready for preschool or an outing: these are situations in which my stress can spiral out of control, especially if I’m under a time constraint or, even worse, already running late. If I’m in a cranky mood, I go into these situations reminding myself that I am likely to get angry, and I tell myself not to listen to myself.
Awareness in anger
I tell myself not to listen to myself, because in anger, my thoughts are completely untrustworthy. They tend to be self-serving — and, unfortunately, so, so seductive! Thus I strive to turn my attention away from my (untrue) thoughts about how I am the only one who ever does anything about the mess around here and anyway why am I always the one stuck at home alone with the kid (in my anger, the Critter often becomes “the kid” whom I am “stuck” with) … and instead I place my awareness in my body and on my breath. If necessary, I count my breaths to maintain my focus on them. In their steadiness, I find my own steadiness and can even experience my anger less personally, as a wild energy that I can ride like a skilled swimmer in the open sea. Eventually, the energy dissolves. Like everything else in the world, anger is impermanent.
Awareness of responsibility
If I do yell at the Critter, I alone am responsible. He didn’t “make” me angry; nobody can. And so I apologize; for example, “Mommy is sorry. Mommy shouldn’t yell. And [the Critter] shouldn’t [do whatever he was doing]. Both of us need to do better.”
Also, if I find myself apologizing too often, it’s a sign that something else needs to be taken care of. Usually, it means that I’ve taken on too many obligations. I re-examine all the agreements I’ve made with myself, my clients, my husband, and etc., and I renegotiate one or more of them, or I let something go.
Awareness of imperfection
I love Where the Wild Things Are for all the usual reasons, including its poetry, expansive illustrations, and great sympathy for Max and his difficulties. But I also love it for its portrayal of the relationship between Max and his off-stage mother, who is (as you may or may not have noticed) the first to yell. Despite that, and despite her subjecting him to the time-out that he deals with so imaginatively, Max knows that she loves him “best of all.” If I need to be a perfect mama in order to be a beloved mama, I should just give up now, because perfect is never going to happen.
Awareness in stillness
These practices of awareness are, for me, grounded in a regular meditation practice. For example, I am able to find my breath in anger because I have a lot of practice following it in meditation. Even if you don’t have a contemplative practice, such as meditation or prayer, try to give yourself a few moments of stillness every day. Some time not to think, not to plan, not to worry, but simply to be and to breathe — how could it not help?
What strategies have you used to cope with your anger?
In what ways have you intentionally brought awareness to your negative emotions as a parent?
How have such healthy methods of handling anger and other negative emotions affected your relationship with your child?
Photo credit: hyperorbit
I am proud to host a guest post today from Rachael. Rachael is mama to the two-year-old Critter, the wife of an artist, a poet, and a work-at-home freelance editor and writer. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and blogs at The Variegated Life.
21 Responses to:
"The Gift of Anger in Awareness"
My Book Is Now Available!
For My Children: A Mother's Journal of Memories, Wishes and Wisdom
Click the cover to order now!
- When Sharing Sleep Is Tiring
- Parenting From the Inside Out
- Five Ideas to Keep Babies and Toddlers Safe from Choking
- Vote Now for Your Favorite Photos in NPN’s Flickr Contest: What Does Natural Parenting Really Look Like?
- May 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting Call for Submissions: Emergency Preparedness
Forced Weaning Due to Pregnancy
101 Things To Do Instead of Yelling or Spanking
The Effects of Circumcision on Newborn Boys
Kardashian’s Call to Cover Up
- Mother’s Day Gift Set Giveaway from moksa organics and Zoe Organics
- Natural Parents Network Holiday Gift Guide
- Giveaway: 12×16 Custom Portrait from Destany Fenton Fine Art – $220 ARV CLOSED
- Giveaway: Story Starters Game from Mama May I – $25 ARV CLOSED
- Giveaway: $35 Gift Certificate to Earthslings – $35 ARV CLOSED
- Giveaway: $30 Gift Certificate from Dominna – $30 ARV CLOSED
- Giveaway: $20 Gift Certificate to Two Pink Hearts – $20 ARV CLOSED
- Giveaway: 3 Pairs of Earrings from Job Description Mommy – $45 ARV CLOSED
- Revisionary Parenting
- Giveaway: Qwirkle Game from SeriousShops.com – $25 ARV CLOSED