I don’t really know a lot about anger.
Not the simple kind—pure and uninhibited, such as road rage or the type of angry you get when you see an animal in pain for a senseless reason.
Nor the complicated kind–twisty and confusing, such as homicidal ideation or the type of angry you get while standing next to a hospital bed occupied by an ill child.
Sometimes I think that if I were given an MRI—you know, the kind of brain scan where the patient is presented with various stimuli in order to see the location and intensity of neural activity– the part of my brain that’s responsible for anger would lie dormant, regardless of the stimuli.
The part of my brain that processes feelings of hurt or isolation or disappointment would light up like a football stadium in Texas on a Friday night, however. So bright that if I opened my mouth you’d see the glow from my brain as these feelings ricocheted around in there aimlessly, forbidden to escape.
The part of my brain that understands forgiveness and joy and the love of desserts would light up too, I think. Fiercely. Probably at the same time as the unsavory feelings described above.
I’m a person who, even in the darkest times, keeps hope and contentment and laughter about as far away as a frazzled mom keeps her bottle of wine.
Anger–for me–tends to manifest itself in the form of hurt feelings. Or disappointment. Or, on days I’m not particularly proud of—self-blame.
On the rare occasions I feel a flash of anger, justified or not, it’s quickly followed by a wave of guilt. I think of all the reasons why my anger is unwarranted. I think of all the ways I contributed to the situation. I usually then decide that my expectations for the person at whom I am angry are too high. I step back, remember that I can’t control anyone’s behavior except my own, and remind myself that no one actually owes me anything, despite the stories I tell myself sometimes.
I’ve also come to understand that for me, anger is better defined as a need for reassurance from someone.
Reassurance that someone hears me, even if they don’t like what I have to say. That I’m valued; worthy of support and loyalty even when I’m tired or grumpy or stressed or humorless. That I’m respected and will not be diminished by words such as “bitch” or “crazy” or “selfish” or “stupid”.
That I’m loved and wanted, even if it’s conditionally, and only for now.
Reassurance that I’ll be welcomed back tomorrow. And maybe even the next day. Willingly, without a sense of obligation.
So many emotions experienced by people–despite how they manifest–originate from anger.
Jealousy. Spite. Self-doubt. Exasperation. Criticism. Irritability. Insecurity. Resentment. Shame. Disgust.
I think most people, when angry at loved ones especially, need reassurance.
The jealous husband needs his wife to tell him that she loves him one more time before she leaves for work. The insecure girlfriend needs her boyfriend to notice when she’s hurting. The overwhelmed mother needs to see that her son can show compassion toward others. The guilt-ridden child needs to know that his parents have forgiven him.
I’ll take that over an apology any day.