noun 1.a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure or hostility. Anger is hard. It’s hard to express and it’s hard to handle. It makes us anxious and uncomfortable. Rather than deal with it, many of us try to sweep it under the rug. We’ve been led to believe we should simply let it go. This belief has literally become a pop culture phenomenon cultivated by the theme song Let It Go from the movie Frozen.
Has anyone ever just let it go? I’m not talking about when someone cuts you off during your morning commute. I’m talking about the kind of problems that keep you awake at night. To appease your confidants, you might quell talking about it to death, but it probably plays in your head at the same rate as Friends reruns on TBS. It affects your sleep, your work and your ability to handle daily tasks. It can be consuming. And all because you’re trying to just let it go rather than just.deal.with.it.
Everyone has a go-to emotion. When we become irritated, upset or stressed, some of us cry. Some of us get angry. I get angry. I mutter swear words. I think mean things. I grind my teeth. I become irritated with myself and others. I make myself sick, resulting in headaches and neck pain. This past year tested my ability to handle stress. It forced me to face my anger. As someone who takes her health seriously, I decided to heed my own advice and take my mental health seriously. I hired a therapist and here’s what I learned: • Anger is the unsexy emotion. It’s much cooler to appear calm, cool and collected. It’s cool to let it go. • You can’t stop anger. And that’s okay. But you can control how you react to it, how you cope. • You have a right to be angry. You are allowed to be angry as much as you experience other emotions.
As a culture, we associate anger with jealousy, hate, malice, abuse and negativity. It is ugly. It is villainous. We’ve been programmed to believe that. Think about your favorite Disney movies. There’s always a villain and often – but not all the time – they are misunderstood and angry with the cards they’ve been dealt.
Anger is normal. It can be beautiful. It can even nurture you by pushing you to become a better version of yourself. It can be the drive you need to help make the world a better place – or at the very least, your world. It is not your emotion that defines you, but how you cope. To cope means to struggle or deal, especially on fairly even terms or with some degree of success. It doesn’t mean you’ve solved your problems. I am coping. I’m not physically violent. I don’t have destructive behaviors (like alcohol or drugs). I’m not hateful. I am just angry, and sometimes I’m not. In fact, most of the time, I’m not. But when I am, I am allowed to peacefully deal with my anger in my own way – whether it be through therapy, writing, venting to a friend or working out. We all need outlets. When my normal gym routine failed me, I turned to therapy. It is incredibly uncomfortable for me to disclose my problems to a stranger, but I continue to do it. I believe it will make me a better person.
I am constantly reminded of this quote from Cheryl Strayed: “Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will.” 2017: The year my anger nurtured me.
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