I am not an angry person…

by | Apr 1, 2023 | Blog | 0 comments

Recently, I have been pondering anger, how I express it and the jackal story I tell myself about it. Marshall Rosenberg taught that anger is a natural emotion that is based on a judgment of someone else or myself. I agree with this, so I have been doing some “enemy images” and self-empathy work (and praying for those who are most likely to be the recipients of my anger). My goal was to clear my judgments and take responsibility for my “stuff.” It has helped a lot, and yet I still feel a general anger in me that is not directly related to anyone or any specific situation.

I have felt shame about this and have developed a story that I am an angry person. This is especially challenging because I have done what feels like mountains of work on my anger over the past 40 years.

Yesterday, I opened up about this to a friend who knows me really well and she said, “You are not an angry person.” She said this in a matter-of-fact kind of way— As if it was fact. I was tempted to argue with her but decided to continue listening instead.

She went on to remind me that I was raised in a home where there was a lot of anger. An environment where anger was expressed easily and accepted as okay or common. I remembered that in my childhood home, there were two main emotions that could be expressed easily: anger and happiness.

At this moment in the conversation, I started to push against her a bit by saying something like, “Well, okay, but I am a grownup now and have done 40+ years of inner work, so how do we explain my angry self now?”

“You are not an angry person,” she said.

Then, I remembered a moment many years ago when I asked my friend Art to teach me about electricity and how it works by installing a new light switch in my home. Art is a kind and patient teacher. However, it was not going well. We kept running into snags and challenges. It was taking several more hours than we had expected, so I started to become more and more nervous. Several times I expressed my nervousness in a way that could easily be perceived as anger (even I perceived it as anger!).

Later, after the light switch was installed and Art had left, I spent time trying to figure out why I had gotten angry. Art was not angry. In fact, he expressed joy and curiosity throughout the entire process. Then, I got it: In my body/system, I determined that someone would be angry in this kind of situation. Art was not doing it, so I took it on. I manufactured anger to fit the situation! Later, I called Art to tell him what I learned about myself and also to express my regret. He still was not angry!

I think it is especially easy for me to feel anger when I think I am being judged, or when someone sees me or my actions differently than I do. In this scenario, I am more likely to defend myself and, if I do not find connection or understanding, I can feel anger. My judgment of the other is that they are not hearing me (remember Marshall’s comment about anger being a natural feeling that stems from a judgment of another person or self?). My needs are to be seen, understood, and known. But, is their reaction about them or me?

“You are not an angry person.”

I find this statement fascinating and I am going to spend this next month investigating it by asking myself these questions when I think I am angry:

  • Am I really feeling angry? Or, is there some small voice telling me that anger needs to be present, which tempts me to take it on?
  • Is my sense of anger a habit?
  • Do I agree with any part of the other person’s judgment of me? If so, what can I do to own up to my “stuff” and support the relationship?
  • If I do not agree with their assessment of me, do I really need to defend myself or feel angry? For instance, could I simply empathize with their reality without taking it on as mine?
  • And, what are the deeper feelings under any anger I may be feeling?

Through this investigation, perhaps I could update my self-image and know for myself that, “I am not an angry person.” In this moment, I think of this possibility as pure FREEDOM! Free like how it could feel if I was trapped in a small place that I had languished in for many years, and a door magically opens!

What is on the other side of that open door? I think the message could change to: “I am a joyful person who deeply values all Life.”

Sending you a warm and loving hug.

By Mary Mackenzie

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