Okay we have made it to day 10! We are in our second week of Dry January journaling and I am so happy you're here.
Here is today's prompt:
"What is your relationship to anger as an emotion? How would you describe anger and more specifically, your anger?"
I learned recently that the more oxytocin that you give a person, the more angry they will become.
Oxytocin used to be called the "love" hormone but as are most anecdotal names, the scientific community has found that while yes oxytocin does increase feelings of love and connection, it also increases anger and anger outbursts.
Imagine a mother bear, she is first - a mother and then, a bear. This means that to her cubs, she is the softest and most loving creature on this earth but to a human in that same moment, she is a killing machine BECAUSE of her love.
So what does that mean for my anger? Is it there because I love too much? Honestly, I wish that were true. I think looking at anger that way, as a protective measure is a really helpful understanding for me because that's what my anger feels like most of the time. Like it's been protecting me from anyone seeing my vulnerability and my pain.
Anger also feels like a moment that someone will take me seriously. If I yell, if I scream, if I am harsh - you will know I am serious.
That is what I always thought. I always thought conflict was loud and explosive and hurtful.
That seemed like the point, honestly.
If this sounds familiar, you may have some trauma just like me. We never learned conflict resolution in my house so a lot of this work happens in real life and with a therapist. Anger doesn't have to be scary and conflict doesn't have to be hurtful, I promise.
Once I met Luke (Luke is my husband if you're new here), I realized quickly that I wasn't going to be able to fight this way with someone who wasn't my mother lol. This was no way for a relationship to work. For a while I would just bottle things up and hope that they would come out later that right way. But every time we would explode, we would yell, and it would all go to shit.
I would always cry. Always. But only if Luke yelled at me, I wanted to be able to yell as much as I wanted. I know. I know.
So I'm coming to terms with this fire - this anger. Sobriety has helped A L O T. I don't want to downplay that. Alcohol throws gasoline on emotions. Truly. It will numb them and then it will make them come back with bigger and louder than they ever were before.
Emotional regulation was something I was never taught. I was taught to resent the people you love, be passive aggressive, and have screaming matchings that you never actually resolve and then say I love you a day later.
I'm learning that my anger doesn't need to be directed at anyone (including myself) and that I don't need to "tame" it or shut it up. I need to give myself space to listen to what it's saying. That means walking away sometimes, that means quieting down (not shutting - that's important), that means taking a break.
My ego doesn't love this. My ego likes to win fights. But I have to choose calm. I would rather have a calm interaction and "lose" than a chaotic one and win.
Nobody wins in chaos.
My nervous system has showed me that we cannot live this way. Holding the anger in or taking it out on others.
Over the past year, I have slowly felt most of my anger slip away but there are still remnants hidden throughout my body and my subconscious. They pop up every now and then and cause problems in my marriage. They make me stop in my tracks and apologize and work because these anger outbursts are cyclical. They will pass down in generations if I don't stop them.
Anger is really scary and it's not talked about enough. There's so much shame around an uncontrollable emotion. Anger will exist no matter how I feel about it so I might as well start listening to it, understanding it, maybe even loving it.
It was years and years and years before I ever talked about this. But every time I do it, I feel a little bit freer. Every time I let someone know about the angry kid in my head just trying to protect us from feeling hurt, I feel a little freer.
There is so much freedom in truth telling, in honesty. In knowing that keeping our secrets hidden only locks in the shameful ideas we have about ourselves. I think as I move out of one season and into the next, instead of trying to live a "perfect" life, my goal will always to be to live an honest one.
I wrote this post months ago, I cannot even remember how long. But it rings just as true today. I got in an argument with my husband this morning. Over the MOST trivial shit in the entire world. And omg I wanted to freak out. Blow up. Make myself heard. But I didn't. It wouldn't have helped so I didn't. We have been practicing listening to each other and communicating in ways that don't shut the other person down.
Emotional regulation - especially around anger takes practice. Over and over and over again. This past year we had fights and arguments like any other year but the difference was that every time we fight now, we reconcile and we talk and we make a plan for next time. Before - in large part due to the fact that I would usually be drunk - we would fight, like blow up fight and then say I love you and never actually work through it.
Sitting with your anger long enough to hear what it is has to say is liberating. It frees you from the fly off the handle response and allows you deeper understanding into what is going on. Usually anger signals me that a boundary has been crossed and if I am not thinking, I will unleash all the anger of every crossed boundary I've ever experienced in this one moment.
But when I sit with my anger, I am able to not only understand what I am upset about but I am able to communicate it in a way that my partner can understand too. Anger is scary if you were raised in an all or nothing home that never actually gave you guidance on this shit. Give yourself a break. Like everything, learning how to navigate these emotions takes work and it doesn't have to happen overnight.
It starts with awareness. Awareness of when we're getting overwhelmed or tired or hungry or frustrated or triggered and giving ourselves tools in the moment to walk away or work through it or get quiet. When we can understand where our boundaries are being crossed, we can communicate new ones - we can allow ourselves space to grow and heal and do things differently.