If you ask my friends and family to describe me, angry is not one of the first words they use. It’s usually the opposite! I’m sweet, caring and warm. But anger was always something I struggled with from a young age up through my late-twenties. It was a huge area of pain, grief and shame for me that I was determined to confront and understand.
Now I am choosing to take care of my anger.
Today, traffic was truly chaotic and challenging. Needless to say, I broke down in tears once I got home. But not before I was a bit reactive on the way home. Someone almost crashed into me trying to merge into the lane (confusion), someone else flipped me off and I returned it back (unnecessary). I finally get home and then parking is chaotic and inconsistent. All that... only to walk into my house with my entire family standing right there staring at me smiling playing with our dog. I was so angry that I was angry, because I was really having such a great day, and just wanted to get home safely to enjoy that moment. But despite knowing I had a right to feel angry, I managed to greet my family peacefully enough to not transfer my energy. Then I went straight to my room and vented a bit to my husband. It was such an overwhelming day.
Then the guilt set in about my reactions to people on the road today, because it was angry and aggressive, and I just don’t like spending energy on things that won’t matter tomorrow. I almost started to go into the anger but then just felt it in me to let myself cry. So I surrendered and forgave myself and the strangers, and chose to move on and do better tomorrow.
But it took me a long time to get here, and it was really hard and painful. But it has been rewarding and liberating. Being raised in a family of survivalists made that moment of vulnerability that I chose so much richer in beauty, because I really did improve in my care for my anger than ever before. It used to be more dramatic for me. I was born, have always been, and will always be, a sensitive person. My natal chart shows my moon is in the sign of Cancer, in its home of feelings and moods. Call it however you want, blame it on my moon sign, my upbringing, or just my personality: I am sensitive. I need to be handled with care in those tender moments. I need to be allowed to cry and feel. Otherwise it turns into anger and I can become cold.
There are moments when I want to cry but anger always rises first so that I can defend myself. (And to top it off, I am extremely aware of other people’s feelings too, which is so complicated and messy in itself.) Unfortunately, my parents didn’t understand that and just didn’t know what to do with me. For a long time, they taught me to “stop crying” and “get over it.” I felt rejected for simply FEELING. And when the repression didn’t work, I got my ass handed to me with physical and verbal punishment. So I repressed all expressions of negative emotions and isolated myself, leading to deep rooted self-hate and explosions. I hated myself and my sensitivity because it led to physical and verbal punishment and abuse. I was constantly rejected. I was “too much” for everyone. It was a constant hot-cold switch activation whenever I was confronted with really heavy emotions, whether they were mine or not. I felt so overwhelmed because for decades I didn’t think it was okay to cry. I was never taught healthy emotional expression, and I had to learn that all on my own.
The brain connection of those emotions led to a DEEP tension in my chest from the
buildup of emotions begging to come out, with even deeper defenses shoving them
I come from a household that believed in the school-of-thought that physical punishment was effective, because that was what they were taught. They were probably dealing with worse than what they did to us, all while experiencing literal wars. My father lost his entire home at 15, and was left no other option but to enter the army in Central America. My mother was independent, living on her own, and working at the age of 12. We were beaten into submission generation after generation in different intensities. I understand now that it was just a terrible cycle of abuse that forced everyone into a shocking and fearful state of survival and defense. We would hurt ourselves and others in different ways because of the painful pathways of our mind. The sweetest, purest and most clearheaded aspect of ourselves was shoved into the darkest depths of our mind, hidden away and shamed for its mere existence.
That manifested in really different ways for everyone. We are all so similar and also so unique, just in how we each deal with it. The words or silence that came out of my mouth could cut wounds soul-deep. But I was tired of going there so I chose to stop. I was constantly defending myself. How could such a sweet and kind person become so aggressive or closed off at times? I didn’t even know my own power. My defenses were grandiose and often unnecessary.
The breaking point for me came when I realized the self-hate was so deep that suicidal thoughts plagued me every time I was face-to-face with emotions that were deeply unpleasant. I felt like I couldn’t handle it. But I am grateful I never succeeded in cutting my life short, despite the weakness I felt being alive.
The sweetest, purest and most clearheaded aspect of myself was whispering to come out to find strength again and change the outcome this time. I was tired of feeling so low and out.
So I let myself cry deeply and became a safe place for myself. I embraced my emotional nature and decided to nurture it, instead of shaming it.
And it was the most healing thing I ever felt. Finally! But these tears were different. There was no more shame. Tears with no shame. Just surrender. But it was a battle. There is a bit of residual energy sometimes, but it’s usually because the growth and challenges are deeper. Change takes time. That DEEP tension in my chest from the buildup of emotions begging to come out was always met with hesitation and defense. I had to protect myself from being hurt every time I needed to cry. Now, at 27 years of age, I am allowing that pain to flow and go, so the tears can cleanse me and release that tension. Even though it’s bittersweet to know that it took me 27 years to feel my feelings safely within myself, I am so happy I am here now. It’s much easier now, too! My internal world is so rich and resilient. All I ever needed was a moment of recognition from myself. I have my human moments, but I broke the cycle of abuse. The last thing I want to do is abuse anyone into submission when unpleasant feelings visit us or teach them to do the same to themselves. I refuse to set someone else back because of my unchecked emotions.
We are all human. We all go through mood swings. We all have moments. But I had to learn to be accountable at all times without shame! Your emotions are yours to feel. There should be no shame attached to that because you have every right to your feelings. However, your emotional responses are still your responsibility, especially if you inherited and adopted them. Growth is about knowing when to do the work.
We all have imperfect moments. But I had to save myself by loving and embracing myself through choice. What saves you is your belief of yourself. When you take responsibility for YOUR end of your emotional responses, you open the door for growth in a way that is deeply personal. It transformed the relationship I have with myself and others. So I’m working at it every single day and meeting myself with compassion and tenderness. I look at things with hope and faith, so I can change the narrative for myself and the next generation.
Part of the work I had to do in understanding and handling my anger came with educating myself on what exactly anger meant to me. So I chose to read Anger by Thich Nhat Hanh, and I learned so much.
What stood out to me the most was this excerpt:
You have to be like a mother listening for the cries of her baby. If a mother. . . hears her baby crying, she puts down whatever she is doing, and goes to comfort her baby. The first thing she does is pick up the baby and embrace him tenderly. When the mother embraces her baby, her energy . . . soothes him. This is exactly what you have to learn to do when anger begins to surface. You have to abandon everything that you are doing, because your most important task is to go back to yourself and take care of your baby, your anger. Nothing is more urgent than taking good care of your baby. . . [Just like a mother’s touch, the touch of a] hand [offers] a lot of freshness, love, and compassion . . . The hand of your mother is your own hand. Her hand is still alive in yours, if you know how to breathe in and out, to be mindful . . . You will have the same energy of love and tenderness for yourself. The mother holds her baby with mindfulness, fully concentrated on him . . . [allowing for relief] but also to find out what is wrong with him . . . As practitioners, we have to be anger specialists. We have to attend to our anger; we have to practice until we understand the roots of our anger and how it works.
Caring For Your Baby, Anger
Anger, Wisdom for Cooling the Flames by Thich Nhat Hanh
It might sound silly or dramatic, but it’s not. It’s IMPERATIVE in handling our anger the best way possible. I was met with brick walls, but had to break them down and trust myself in order to get where I am. I used to have crazy road rage moments but I had to be responsible and make better choices for myself. I needed better tools! My anger would not control my life anymore.
Joy is on the other side. It’s hard to love when you’ve been taught to hate. But it is never too late to teach yourself what they didn’t teach you. It is your birthright to have a better life. Allow yourself to learn different skills to care for yourself. 2021, the shaming is done!
Uplifting everyone in spirit and prayer on your journey to love and care of yourself (and your baby, anger).
Love always, Daniposa