Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Another gift nobody wants?

Grief has been a topic more people are willing to talk about. From Pixar's movie "Inside Out" to Beyonce's new album "Lemonade," the taboo of talking openly about pain and sadness is being shattered as we speak.

But what about anger? That negative emotion that fuels acts of aggression and even violence? Is anger considered a healthy emotion or is it something that we need to acknowledge, but quickly quash?

Today that's been a question I've been wondering about following this post about healing following miscarriage. Before I go much further, I need to emphasize that I have a lot of respect and admiration for both Danny and Mara and the work they do. The are one of my many examples I point to of people who are living full lives following trauma, particularly that of infertility. I also respect where Danny is going with his post today. This idea that it is possible to come out on the other side of loss and find happiness again. But where I was given pause when he talked about experiencing negative emotions following loss. Particularly with anger.

The idea of anger being a bad or immoral emotion isn't a new one to me. I've struggled with guilt for many years over feeling surges of anger. I internalized a lot of self-criticism about these surges, assuming that something was wrong with me for feeling this way or that somehow I was flawed in my perceptions of the world. Following my diagnosis with infertility and then my miscarriages and failed treatments, these feelings of guilt only intensified following pregnancy announcements of friends and family. I literally entered one of the darkest periods of my life where I hit bottom.

One thing David and Dee helped me confront was this guilt over feeling anger. Embracing my anger and allowing me to work through its roots. There were so many sessions in therapy spent learning it was okay to feel the emotions I was feeling. That only by doing so could I actually begin to heal properly and fully. That there could be resolution.

Still, it left me wondering, why is this fear around anger? Why is this emotion so taboo for so many?

Lori had a post recently that has had me thinking more deeply about this as she explores the importance of struggling and anti-coddling. There's so much good material in this post, especially for someone who is interested in education. But in relation to anger, it got me thinking that the resistance we feel towards anger may also have its roots in sheltering. After all, anger can be a frightening emotion.

Overall, I do think Danny and I have a similar outlook on unresolved anger that turns into bitterness and jealousy. It results in the wound becoming infected and without proper care can have long-lasting if not life-altering affects. Still, I wonder whether we need to reassess how we view anger. That maybe, like pain, it's actually a gift even if nobody wants it.


  1. I like this post so much. I have a student who loves Inside Out, and the other day she was really sad and angry about two bad test grades, and she was tearing up and said, "I need to be like Joy, I need to be more like Joy..." I told her that what I love about Inside Out is that it teaches you that you can't have Joy without Sadness, and that it's okay to be sad. BUT, it's also okay to be angry. I find personally that I tend to express my sadness through anger, that it's easier for me to be angry than to be sad. THere's a vulnerability in sadness but a power in anger, whether that's healthy or not. I do agree with the festering wound. I can hold onto anger about infertility and have a "friend" who basically stood in for one giant voodoo doll, a representation of having everything I couldn't and not being super understanding about it, and I would read her posts just to fuel my anger. Again, not the most healthy thing, but isn't anger an essential part of the grieving process? Isn't it better to get it out, to have that primal scream, to punch the pillow, than to leave it inside to fester like you said? Such an interesting topic to think on.

  2. I love this post as well as the one you linked to. Both ring true with me. Being an extremely emotional person, I do my best to share my emotions with my children and encourage them to share their emotions. I also am not truly a free range parent because I encourage my children to work through their difficulties. The challenges they face individually, together or with each other, aren't easy, but I help and guide them, but ultimately they have to work through it on their own. Expressing anger or any emotion for that matter is healthy. Now I do encourage healthy expressions of emotions. Inside Out is a favorite of my kids and it's because they use the characters to express. However my son wants his hair to catch fire when he's mad and then gets upset when it doesn't (I guess that's sadness and anger all in one LOL) But yes, having emotions good or bad happy or sad angry or whatever, is how we survive. Allowing ourselves to feel the emotions and using those emotions to navigate through life, is what I feel is living our lives.(i have no idea if that makes sense, but in my cuckoo brain it does)

  3. I think your comments over on Danny's post spot on. Emotions are merely signals -- not good and not bad. They just are. Anger, like physical pain, can clue us in that there's something we need to deal with, something we need to change in order to function better. Now, we can judge how we DEAL with anger. Some ways are maladaptive, in that they actually create new problems and don't solve the originating one. Some ways are adaptive and effective -- overall, our ability to deal with the situation improves. Not dealing with anger is in itself a strategy, usually a maladaptive one.

    Such a thought-provoking post, and thank you for the shout out :-)

  4. Ooh, you have really got me thinking now. I enjoyed reading the post, but I felt uncomfortable with his focus on Gratitude too. That although he said you should feel your sadness, you should focus on gratitude. But in the early days, that just feels like denying your grief. I'm not sure I'm brave enough to go comment on his blog, but I'm glad you did!

    Anger. That's a tricky emotion, and I am glad you commented on the post, as he very much dismissed it as a legitimate emotion. It's an emotion I rarely - except with my husband, sadly - feel free to display. Why not? Don't I have the right to feel anger too? ... so I'm off to think some more.

  5. I've been thinking about this so much since you wrote about it. Anger is definitely one of my biggest demons. I never think of it positively--it's a weakness and nothing more. But since reading this I've been thinking more and more about the possible positives. I'm still not really sure what they might be, but I appreciate being prompted to consider them. Maybe I'll write a post on this some day, when I get my thoughts straight.

    Thanks for writing this. Very thought provoking.

  6. I agree that the emotion of anger is not good or bad and just is. Anger can be purposeful. It can motivate action or change. However, it is what you do with anger. There are better ways to direct it, manage it or cool it off. There are less helpful ways to deal with it. Anger is a tricky emotion. It is a very uncomfortable emotion for me. I tend to express my anger through sadness, sometimes with angry tears. I can have trouble having feelings of guilt around feelings of anger, but working on it.


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