Defending Anger, Angrily: “I Am Not Angry!”

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Today I am pleased to have a guest post by Galen Pearl of 10 Steps to FInding Your Happy Place and Staying There. I have been reading her blog for close to a year and have appreciated her honesty and compassion for herself and others. Her pearls of wisdom are never short of luster. Today she is talking about feelings…

“Feelings, whoa whoa whoa, feelings….” 

Feelings, Roger Whittaker

 

I Am Not Angry!

Galen Pearl 10 Steps to finding your happy place and staying thereYears ago, I was a very uptight person. I didn’t see myself that way. More so, I saw myself as being in control, of myself and of, well, everything else. I never got upset, never cried, never asked for help or let anyone see if I was struggling. Of course, I never struggled. Thinking back, I never really laughed, either, not a deep belly laugh.

I had a friend who was short on tact, but always told the truth as she saw it. She observed that I was an angry person, very angry. “Seething with rage” is how she described it, along with “barely contained,” and “always on the brink of exploding.”

How did I respond to her assessment? “I am not angry!”

I Am Not Afraid!

Another time, also years ago, this same friend and I were discussing the primary driving force in our lives. It’s sometimes hard to see it in ourselves, so we were seeking insight from each other. When it came time for her to identify what she saw as the primary driving force in my life, I was expecting something that would reflect the bold risks I had taken in my life, the adventures I had been on all over the world, the professional success I had achieved, and the less traveled roads I had walked.

My friend did not hesitate. “Your primary driving force is fear.”

I did not see that coming. After being momentarily disoriented, my defenses kicked in. I confidently proclaimed, “I am not afraid!”

At the time, I thought that my friend did not know me at all and perhaps was not such a great friend after all. Looking back, however, I think she might have known me better than anyone, and was a good enough friend to tell me the truth.

The more anger towards the past you have in your heart, the less capable you are of loving in the present. Angry, angrily, anger,

Feelings: Anger, fear, grief, sadness, even happiness. I did not like them. They were so unpredictable. Unruly. Chaotic. Big. Threatening. Scary. Better to keep them under lock and key. No telling what would happen if they got out, but it wouldn’t be pretty. And once out, I might not be able to get them locked back up. I would be at their mercy. My life would be a mess. As Jim Morrison observed, “We fear violence less than our own feelings.”

But feelings can’t be ignored, no matter how unjust or ungrateful they seem. –Anne Frank

Dealing with Feelings

Milarepa, an 8th century Tibetan Buddhist, came back to his cave one day to find it filled with demons. He didn’t know how to get rid of them. He tried to teach them Buddhism. They ignored him. He got angry and attacked them. They just laughed. Finally, he gave up and said, “I’m not going anywhere and it seems that you are not either. I guess we will have to live here together.” As he turned to make some tea, the demons promptly left.

Like Milarepa with his demons, I eventually made peace with my feelings, not because I became wise, but because I became exhausted. Denying, repressing, or locking up feelings takes a lot of effort. Like leaks in the dike, as soon as you plug one, another one springs forth. I finally sank to my knees in defeat as the dikes gave way.

Guess what I found out. The feelings weren’t half as bad as my fear of the feelings. True, some feelings are more pleasant than others. Some are uncomfortable. Some are downright painful. But feelings are a package deal. We can’t choose some and deny others. Learning to tolerate and even to embrace all my feelings allows joy to flow freely.

And when challenging feelings arise? I make them tea and cookies.

We would love to hear from you: Do you all allow yourself to feel? Is it helpful? 

Galen is a Southern girl transplanted to the Pacific Northwest. She has 5 kids, 2 grandchildren, 6 birds, and a dog. Her blog is about 10 habits that transformed her life from one grounded in fear to one grounded in joy. Her book 10 Steps To Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There). Find Galen on Facebook 10 Steps To Finding Your Happy Place, too! 


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16 Comments

Harleena [email protected] Writer

Nice to see you here Galen, and am glad you had her over Jodi!

Most of us Do try to hide our feelings or aren’t very sure about them. Nor are most of us aware about how to express the feelings we truly feel within, be it the feeling of joy, sorrow, anger, or just about any kind of feeling.

I remember the time I was in college and things were just settling down for me – those initial few days. I was just not sure still if it was the field I wanted to take. It was kind of mixture of feeling depressed, sad, anger, and yet there was no one to share it with. It was after a few days of settling down that I realized that I wasn’t alone who was feeling this ways. Most of the new teens were in the same boat, though being with one another and knowing that all our feelings were similar made the difference to make us feel better.

Feelings do have a very important roles in our lives, provided we know how to deal with them and not let them get the better of us. I guess what really matters is that you learn to accept the feeling that you feel and learn to live with it. Jut as you mentioned, if you are feeling angry – let it come out or divert your anger to doing something that will take your mind away from it till it all cools down.

Thanks for sharing. 🙂

Galen Pearl

Harleena, It’s nice to be here! You mentioned knowing how to deal with feelings. I think that’s key, isn’t it? First I had to acknowledge that I had feelings, and then learn how to be on friendly terms with them. As you observed, we are often not alone in our feelings. Honoring them doesn’t mean being driven by them. We can learn to modulate our feelings by addressing the beliefs underneath them. But for me it was a big step to just admit I have them!
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Jodi Lobozzo Aman

Harleena and Galen,
In a way, before we admit them, they are much more dangerous. They carry more power while invisible. Noticing them is the first step!
Love,
Jodi

Tina Barbour

Thank you for a wonderful post. I have a hard time with anxious feelings, but I’m trying to learn to sit with the anxiety more and stop trying to just make it go away. It didn’t make sense to me at first–to acknowledge and recognize the feelings. But I’ve found that it really helps.
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Galen Pearl

Tina, Anxiety is tough. You are right that trying to force it away is usually not productive. Then I get anxious about being anxious! I used to be the queen of the the what if game. What if this happens? What if that happens? My mind could spin out tales of disaster and woe like a bad novelist. I learned that on one level it was a habit, a thinking habit. I began developing a new habit by giving my mind a substitute thought when my anxiety started to get ramped up. Often my substitute thought was simply “I am safe.” Eventually, that became a habit and my anxiety lessened. You are right that the first step is to recognize it.
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Jodi Lobozzo Aman

Great answer!

Vidya Sury

Hi Jodi and Galen! I enjoyed reading this post, seeing as it International Day of Peace Day (Galen, loved your notes in the “Pearls of Peace”). I’ve found it is always about coming to terms with any feelings to release fear/anger and reach any kind of inner peace. And to do that we have to “let go” – easier said than done. 🙂 Takes so much effort (and pain). I usually divert my mind, usually with some hard physical labor or go for a brisk walk. It helps tremendously and throws a totally new perspective on it. My favorite is to sleep over something. It is as though I’ve exhaled the sharpness of the pain. And of course, my next favorite is to hang out with children. Poof! Happiness just muscles its way in!

Lovely read, Galen. But you know I am a huge fan of yours!

Jodi, so lovely to visit here. I’ve seen you around. Hope to connect more. Love, Vidya
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Galen Pearl

Vidya, I love your phrase about exhaling the sharpness of pain. There is much wisdom in that concept on both the physical as well as the metaphorical level. When we experience physical or emotional pain, we often hold our breath, or breath shallowly, into the top part of our lungs. Breathing deeply into our bellies and exhaling fully relaxes our bodies and tells our brains that we are safe. You have offered several great techniques for befriending and releasing painful or disturbing emotions. Thank you.
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Jodi Lobozzo Aman

I have just started to see you around, Vidya, and I am looking forward to getting to know you, too! Thanks so much for responding! I love to sleep on something, too. I just close say, “I don’t know what this means, the meaning will come, I don’t have to figure it out! And I find peace. i think most of distress is trying to figure out who to blame, ya know?

Rachna

Loved reading this post, Galen! Feelings really are difficult to express. Sometimes, we suppress them subconsciously especially the unpleasant ones. And, we do become defensive when someone confronts us. I wish we all have friends who are blunt to our face and point out something that they see. Great post! I could relate to it a lot.
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Jodi Lobozzo Aman

I would appreciate this, too, but when it actually happens, I do find it hard to handle. 🙂 Sometimes people do get it wrong and I am left feeling misunderstood, about 75% of the time my husband gets it right and it is very helpful!

Galen Pearl

Rachna, I think there is a way to speak truthfully and compassionately at the same time. My friend was truthful, but could sometimes be abrupt, which made difficult truth harder to hear. Nevertheless, she had me pegged! Glad you liked the post. Thank you.
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Rachna

You are right! Not everyone appreciates plain talk. Like you, my husband also gets it right most of the time :).
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LeAnn Williams

I really liked this post. I think that I do allow myself to feel. However, I do know what it is like to deny feelings,also. As I have grown older and perhaps wiser I understand more about what my feelings really are all about. I have a friend also that shoots from the hip. A few times I have questioned if I liked her thoughts on how I was feeling. Blessings for this one; it gave me food for thought.

Galen Pearl

LeAnn, I know many people are on a first name basis with their feelings and always have been. My feelings were strangers, at least to my conscious mind, for a long time. Getting to know them and make friends with them has increased my joy tremendously, to say nothing of my emotional and general well being! Thanks for commenting.
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Jodi Lobozzo Aman

LeAnn, Saying the post made you thin is the best compliment. So many nuggets can come out of thinking and seeing something new. I do undertsand more as I get older but I love reflecting on this and relishing in it!


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