This morning, I exploded into a fit of rage. Before you start imagining shoes or plates flying in our tiny Airstream, let me assure you that Jeff was sleeping peacefully in the back, so no one was harmed in the explosion. Although I didn’t make a sound—picture a silent scream here—I may or may not have pumped my fists in the air and kicked my feet under the table. I’m pretty sure my aggressive maneuvers caused our trailer to shake, but apparently not enough to wake my husband, so there’s that.
Although I didn’t set a timer when I intentionally let myself rage, I think the whole thing was over in less than ten seconds, maybe even five. In fact, it was so short that I expected there might be a second wave, kind of like when you vomit (sorry, I know that’s gross) and think you’re done, but seconds later, you realize—oops— you’re not. My rage, thankfully, was not like that. It was over as fast as it started.
In the moments after the explosion, I cautiously forced myself to peek inside my heart, almost afraid to examine what else was in there. Instead of seeing black horror—how I imagine rage would look— I sensed space. You might be thinking, “Wait… what does that even mean?” The space I sensed inside of me felt like a big open area, with me in the center and nothing around me apart from an aura-like glow that I recognized as God. It was so quiet and still; I imagined that if I spoke, my voice would echo. Whoa. While I wasn’t exactly sure what had happened, all I could think was: That. Was. Cool.
If you have been reading my posts for a while, you will have noticed that I’m a big advocate of being curious about behaviors (“Why am I reaching for chocolate right now?”), thoughts (“I am such a loser”), and emotions, oh say, like rage 🙄, because we can learn a lot about ourselves when we slow down and pay attention. In last week’s blog, I wrote that our wounds drive our behavior. That’s why I made a case for dealing with the roots of what we do, feel, and think rather than the symptoms. (As a side comment, if I searched for the roots of my behaviors as much as I look for grey roots in my hair, I might be much further along on my healing journey than I am. Just sayin’…)
So, let’s get back to my fit of rage. Because I try to follow my own advice, I decided to get curious about a chronic reaction of anger that, up until that moment, I kept trying to talk myself out of. I wonder if this ever happens to you: Someone says or does something that causes you to immediately feel a certain way (in my case, angry), which I immediately feel bad about because it’s “ridiculous to feel that way,” so I shove the anger down, embarrassed that it decided to make an appearance. In my case, my anger arose right when my husband tried to offer help with my business. In case you missed it, let me spell it out plainly: I am a person who, for some reason, gets angry when my husband wants to help me🤷🏻♀️. (Perhaps this is the black horror I imagined living in my heart.)
I decided I needed to get to the root of what was happening inside me. I was tired of going into an internal shutdown mode almost every time Jeff wanted to work on a project together. I was also tired of denying how I was feeling. Pushing down or denying anger never works out well in the long run. (It reminds me of the time I power-hiked up the side of a mountain, fueled mainly by rage. 🙄 That’s an example of what can happen when you ignore your anger for too long. It’s great for your workout but not so great for emotional regulation.)
Let’s pause to have a quick look at anger because so many of us don’t quite know what to do with that emotion. Because it feels scary or “ungodly” or plain uncomfortable, many of us push it away. Let’s be clear, though: pushing anger away never makes it disappear. It comes out as cynicism, irritability, bitterness, passive aggression, and/or tension in our bodies. If we don’t learn to acknowledge our anger and understand it, most of us oscillate between suppressing or denying our anger (like I have been doing) and having it erupt like a volcano (which I have also done). The better path is to learn how to identify and express anger in a healthy way. We want to be able to notice it in our bodies so we can lead it, rather than shove it away or let it lead us.
We also cannot eliminate anger, nor should we want to. Anger can alert us to danger—whether due to mistreatment by someone else or a physical danger. It can motivate us to take action on behalf of ourselves or someone else. Jesus certainly demonstrated this truth. Sadly, many of us get trapped in an anger sandwich—fear on the front end because we have not been taught how to manage it and guilt on the back end because we believe that anger is messy and should be avoided. (The guilt thing is huge for me.) Anger becomes trapped in the middle, unprocessed and simmering away…oh, say, like a time bomb.
So, let’s wind back to the moments before my outburst this morning and use it as an example of what it can look like to be curious about our not-welcome emotions. Per my custom, when struggling with an issue, I opened my journal and ask God to speak to me. I told him I noticed that I got very defensive when Jeff wanted to help with my business. (As a side note, if you notice that in certain situations you feel defensive—code word for angry—that may be an indication that there is a part of your heart where fear, hurt, or loneliness is hanging out. Anger manifests to protect those more vulnerable parts of your heart.) As it turns out, this was precisely what was happening with me.
As I sat with the Lord, I heard and wrote in my journal: “Jeanie, I’m sorry you have been overlooked. Your opinions and ideas have not been considered or valued. No one has taken the time to help you process your ideas or help you flourish. Your talents weren’t recognized or valued even as a little girl. You are hurt and angry. I see that.”
“Yep, yep, yep,” I thought. As Jesus honed in on what was happening inside of my heart, I felt seen by Him. However, His words acted like a magnet for my anger, and I felt a deep rage starting to boil from within. I wrote, “I AM SO MAD ABOUT THIS!” Penning bold words on a page in my journal didn’t dissipate the escalating tension I felt in my body, so I screamed—silently, of course. (Sleeping husband, remember?) This is also where I may or may not have pumped my fists and kicked under the table. Clearly, my body needed to dissipate the emotional pressure that had been built. After that—Silent. Space. Came.
I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I’m all fixed now because my anger was diffused; that is not the case. However, because I got beneath the anger to recognize what was going on in my heart, I am now in a better position to deal with the hurt and pain that comes from not being seen or heard. The same can be true for you.
I suspect this is a good time to sit for a minute and notice what emotions or thoughts are coming up in you. Here are a few questions to consider and perhaps journal about.
- What is your relationship with anger? Do you pay attention to it or tend to push it down and ignore it?
- Where do you feel anger in your body?
- Think about the last time you recognized that you were angry. Consider whether fear, hurt, or loneliness might have been lurking underneath the anger.
- What is one thing you can do to foster a healthier relationship with anger? (Hint: committing to noticing and naming it is a great start.)
As always, I love to read your comments, thoughts, and reactions to my blog. I invite you to respond below!