Updated: Nov 28, 2018
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My resting heart beat slows. My eyes are wide open, piercing with barely a blink, and my breath is slow. For a time, I am numb. Unable to move and not a word mutters from my breath. In this moment, I am the most calm I've ever been.
"Talk to me. Claire! Say something" she mutters stoically.
Milliseconds pass as reality rushes back in and I begin to break. The external composure dissipates and the emotions come spiraling in. My heart races as the tears flood. The shame and heartache are unbearable.
"What did I just do? Why did I say that? How did I get there?" I scream while gasping for air.
"How did I get there?" I repeat over and over as I cry myself to sleep.
"Because I was trying to protect her."
"Because I felt undervalued."
These were my responses when I took the time to process the two fits of rage I could most recently recall. It was like this darkness would erupt, despite how hard I'd tried to keep it under wraps.
"I hate her. The girl that comes out when deep hurts are triggered. She is a bomb of pent up frustration, and she takes limbs and crushes souls when she explodes. I hate that people have met her and know that she exists... But I've come to a place where I acknowledge that she is there, and it is my job to make sure she is controlled" I processed out loud.
"I'm (Not) Friends with the Monster Inside of My Head…"
I know she's there, so, I'm an over communicator.
I've made it a priority to figure myself out and articulate what I need. In fact, I often over analyze. I can find .05% of the problem to own for the sake of self-awareness and I've learned to use my words, both to my defense and detriment. I joke that my husband will be glad he never has to guess with me, and I know many friends who are incredibly grateful for this attribute as well.
I've read and taken every personality test from the Gallup Strengths Assessment to the Enneagram. I've gone through recovery programs where I inventoried hurts, habits and hang ups and regularly meet with a therapist. I'm on antidepressants to help manage my emotions and I regularly exercise for the endorphins. So why? Why does she still erupt?
Because people are people; and people are messy. Because we can't control people, but we can control ourselves.
Most of us know that anger is simply a secondary emotion to a deeper rooted issue. It can range from a mild irritation all the way up to seething rage. What most of us don't realize is that even boredom is a mild version of anger in the form of dissatisfaction with what is going on. Anger comes in all shapes and sizes, is normal and human. How we deal with our anger, however, is where are maturity grows or stagnates.
As I've come to evaluate the reasons my anger erupts, here are some practices I'm learning to implement:
Identify your triggers: Who or what is likely to upset you or make you uncomfortable? What thing or things send you to a place that is unhealthy for you or the individuals around you? Know your triggers, and either avoid them, or prepare yourself, as much as you can, to face them head on.
In the moment, BREATHE. This may sound silly, but: Count to 10. Focus on the counting to let your rational mind catch up with your feelings. If you still feel out of control by the time you reach ten, start counting again.
Evaluate your expectations: Are you reasonably angry? Or are you upset that the reality of the situation is not matching the idea in your head? Evaluate how you came to those expectations. When we set realistic expectations, we equip ourselves to deal with situations that are less than ideal in a healthier manner. We are not as affected by behaviors as we would be if our expectations were out of line.
Reality Check: Is it worth it? - Is this anger worth it. Is it worth ruining the rest of your day? A friendship? etc. Is there anything you can do about it? Is taking action actually worth your time?
Power of the Pause
If you're anything like me, all of this might sound super idealistic in the heat of the moment. You're probably thinking…"Yes yes Claire. All of this good and useful information will come right back to me, after I already took their head off. Thank you."
If anyone knows...I know! So, if you can only practice one thing I mentioned above, if you can only get one thing right… learn to pause. Train yourself to count to ten or PRAY, until you can think clearly. I firmly believe that if we could learn to do this ONE thing, in multiple areas of our lives, it would make a drastic difference.
I don't confess to doing any of the things I write about perfectly, but I'm committing to you sweet friends who hang with me to be better at this. I'm still learning how to love others well through my ugly truths and comforting encouragements. And while I don't think on this side of heaven I'll ever be perfect at it, I know I'll be damn proud of myself for trying on the next.
"Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end." | Proverbs 29:11
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