Anger is a totally natural emotion, although we're told the opposite from a very young age. As toddlers, when we feel the anger of a stolen toy, or a lost turn on the slide, we instinctively do one of two things. We retreat (as in, cry to our mommies) or we retaliate (as in hit, bite, or any other toddler-approved means of fighting). Action # 1 leaves us in the role of "victim", for which we are cuddled and coddled, and the other child is shamed and usually punished. Action # 2 usually means we are in major trouble...but usually leaves us with a feeling of satisfaction (which evolves into guilt as we age). We learn that retaliation has no grounds and should not be a means of getting what we want. We learn that anger is wrong, and it should be shuffled out the door or swept under the rug as quickly as it overcame our sensibilities.
By the time we reach adulthood, many of us with guilt complexes or a need to "people please" (in other words, people who usually need therapy) have learned just how to deal with the onset of anger: repress it. The problem with repression is that the anger doesn't go away; it builds until it erupts in the form of a massive credit card bill, some broken glass, or a pile of hubby's clothing on the front lawn. Usually, these eruptions lead to a forked path, which could be a bankruptcy and a civil lawsuit, or the much more desirable path of an outlet to an anger-free zone.
Ah, the healthy solution...finding an outlet. No, I don't mean an outlet in which to stick a safety pin when you feel that you can't contain your anger at a) boss b) boyfriend c) ex-husband d) all of the above (yikes). I mean an outlet as in a way to release or express your pent-up emotions. For those of us divorce survivors, we had to find said outlet for anger before we ended up emptying a box of wine while the film crew of Hoarders knocked impatiently at the door.
My own outlet started out as shopping, but quickly became exercise and running. Sadly, in my line of work, shopping is out of the question. I've now lost about 25 pounds and I exercise regularly. That wasn't always the case though. I had to find an outlet. I channeled all my frustration, anger, and feelings of woe into a daily 30 minute workout that led to ultimate pound sheddage (new word!) and blissful pant sizes smaller than I had ever hoped to go again. It wasn't easy though. It took a lot of hard work, early mornings, and dedication to keep the anger from swelling, like my weight would have if I'd eaten my weight in Ben and Jerry's Cookie Dough (like I originally wanted to do).
The one thing I was not planning for was the day I realized that all of the anger was gone. What do I do now? What motivates me? Anger motivates us to seek success in our goals so often, but what happens when you run out of fuel? I used to find listening to angry remixes of Limp Bizkit and Stabbing Westward were major fuel for my workouts, but soon I found myself moseying along to the Avett Brothers, and other mellow beats. I found that contentment was short-lived. After all, there is always someone or something to make you angry, right? Being a happy, well-rounded, and positive person means saying no to anger. I am often reminded of the movie Anger Management when I think of this subject. Jack Nicholson's character teaches Adam Sandler's character a simple phrase to help him ease his anger when it arise: "Goosfraba." According to the site urbandictionary.com, this actually means, "A word that Eskimos use to calm down their children. Also a word Eskimos use when they're having sex." Hmmm. So maybe that's NOT what I thought.
Finally, I want to admit the truth. I know that not everyone will pick up running or crocheting, or even writing as an outlet. Sometimes just venting to a friend or using extreme sarcasm in Facebook posts is outlet enough. But in the spirit of this blog post, I have created a list to help ease the anger that I still occasionally find following me like a persistent puppy. Hope this helps some of my fellow survivors of divorce, or work, or any other little idiosyncrasy that life throws your way.
1) Wine (as long as you're only having a glass and not leaving the premises)
2) Chocolate (dark is healthy and good for your heart, but Reese cups usually ease the pain of a mandatory meeting on a Friday afternoon)
3) Netflix-You can usually find some ridiculous reality show to make you feel better about yourself, and help you to laugh off the anger. I suggest the show Til Death, a sitcom starring Joely Fisher and Brad Garrett that chooses to celebrate anger instead of hiding it.
4) Buy something frivolous like an expensive cake with your name on it or some rubies (unless, of course, you're the bankrupt person mentioned earlier)
5) Remember, when you're angry, there's usually someone else out there who is just as angry about the same thing. Find that person and hash it out. Usually, complaining loves company. As Olympia Dukakis' character Clairee Belcher says in the hit play/film, Steel Magnolias, "If you don't have anything nice to say about anybody...come sit by me."