I recently broke up with my mum. It turns out we were in an unhealthy relationship. I was so busy feeling guilty about being a dick teenager that I let her tell me the rules of the relationship, even though I gradually grew out of those rules and how they sat with me. I kept forgetting to re-negotiate until it was too late and then I did that thing that people in toxic relationships do where I actually just blew up and cut contact.
My mum’s greatest criticisms of other mothers was that they treated their children as friends rather than their children. But I noticed recently that my mum, had the attitude that, ‘no-one can know the family secrets.’ We came upon a situation where my dad said something that really hurt me and instead of supporting me through it, her first and most important advice was that I had to keep this pain to myself and was not to share it with anyone, not even my closest friend. She didn’t want anyone to know how insensitive he can be, how cruel he can be without realising it and that it wouldn’t be fair to tell anyone because he didn’t mean it. She wanted to protect him before me. It echoed a thousand years of women telling younger women to keep their mouths shut so as not to make waves. I cannot tell you how much this hurt. It only seemed to support a lifetime of this belief that our lives are shameful and anything that might hurt our reputation is to be hidden and never shown to the world. I felt in that moment, utterly betrayed by my mother. When I needed her love and kind words all she had was fear and reasons for me to close myself down and not trust the world. So I walked away, betrayed, and my hurt turned to anger. And here I am furious and strong enough to do what I need to do to change this cycle that has never served either of us.
I’m suddenly angry in every sector of my life. It’s amazing to me that I spend so much time telling my clients that ‘anger is a tool,’ ‘anger is a compass’, ‘anger tells us that something is not okay.’ And yet there I was suppressing it in so many areas of my life NOT EVEN REALISING IT! What a goose, you could say. I’ve had some stern words with myself and we all agree (me, myself and I) that it is in fact very healthy to be angry. Let me rephrase that- it’s healthy to be angry IF you take responsibility of your anger. For example rather than being angry at Joe Blogs for treating you like an idiot at work, ask yourself where the pattern started? Look at where you can change it and know that no you are not angry at Joe Blogs for treating you like shit. You are angry at you for letting him because if you had have been clear and made up your boundaries earlier, he would not be talking to you as if you were a primary school girl trying to understand university level maths. This is what anger gives us: A tool to understand ourselves better. Firstly it tells us ‘yes there IS something wrong’ then it gives us the strength to change it. But the greatest gift is the tracking device that takes us back to where we went wrong and potentially the advice we can give our future selves to how to NOT BE IN THE SAME SITUATION AGAIN.
Of course anger is dangerous if you just keep getting off on the fact that you are angry and you don’t do anything about it. Like my partner who is ANGRY all the time at the moment because he hates his job and he just keeps getting angry over and over again and blaming everything around him for ‘getting angry’ when really his inner compass is going STOP GOING TO WORK YOU GOOSE, CHANGE JOBS. I’ve done it myself about twenty times with about 20 different jobs. Your angry? Good, something’s not right and your ‘inner compass’ is giving you direction.
I’m finding I’m actually pretty furious about a bunch of things, and when I’m not scared of it (it’s a gradual process:) Anger is great. Yes there a whole bunch of people and things in my life that it’s time I re-adjusted the boundaries for. E.g ‘no I will not work for free’, ‘yes I will only do what I am paid to do’, ‘yes I am angry, your behaviour is inappropriate and disrespectful.’ I’m learning for the first time that unlike what we are often taught as kids, emotions are actually very useful to get you onto the right path for you, the path that brings you the greatest joy and love of the world around you.