Anger… The emotion that no one wants to talk about. We embrace love, we coddle fear and pitty sadness, but we cannot bring ourselves to face anger. Psychology says that anger is just as much of a valid emotion as the others. That we must process it with the same kindness and care. So why then do we have so little respect for the feelings behind the anger that we shove them down deep and let them fester? Why do we entertain the belief that by simply having the emotion of anger, we are a bad person? Why do we feel the need to apologize for it, and negotiate away it’s validity? Would you apologize if you were sad, fearful or in love?
I’ve been on this dedicated and quite painful mission of self-discovery, for a little over a year now. The past 7 months being the most intense on this journey, by far. I wanted to understand why I had so much anger inside. Why I came undone so easily in situations, and how I could change it. Was it righteous anger for unjust circumstances or was their some feelings of resentment attached that had me so bound. Much like the roots of an old Oak tree, it has been a dismal obstacle course to navigate through. One long and winding root after another going in all different directions and yet all coming back to the same place of origin. Bitterness.
Growing up I felt like I didn’t have the right to be angry, no matter the reason why. I think a lot of us grow up feeling that way. As children we get punished for our outbursts because they are not appropriately constructive, when there really might be a good reason behind them. The problem being in the delivery. As an adult, all that choking back of emotion made me a time bomb waiting to detonate. And detonate I did. The gnawing issue with being such a hopelessly blunt and honest to a fault kind of person is, one – you always rub people the wrong way. No matter how straightforward and pure your intentions are. Because we are in a day and age of being hopelessly politically correct all of the time as not to ever offend anyone, we become doubtful and guarded with everything that is said to us. We’re always looking for lines to read between and find the hidden intentions. When you are a bluntly honest person there are no lines, there is no room for interpretation of your words. Anyone who doesn’t carry this same character trait doesn’t quite know that exactly what you are saying is exactly what you mean. I’ve always felt the need to defend myself when someone didn’t understand or was digging to deep into what I was saying, which usually started the anger train for me. That anger spurred from defense of my truth, comes out with more of the semblance to pure rage than it does clarification of my words. So to many, my reaction goes disregarded as another angry outburst. Essentially removing the focus from the validity behind the anger, and instead placing it on the anger itself. Again, like a child’s anger is observed.
I am a beginner gardener. Truth be told I am green to the core at it. I have many different herbs that I have planted and tend to each day and because I got a little over-eager to grow so many at once, I find myself constantly researching how to correctly tend to each one individually. From the basics of planting, fertilizing and pruning, to watering and sunlight there is an array of information. One thing I’ve learned with herbs is that if you want them to grow full and not just tall, unlike with flowers you must concentrate on keeping the base leaves healthy and plucking the budding flowers. If the herb starts to flower then all of the plant’s concentration on growing goes up, towards creating the beautiful flower. Thus neglecting the vital leaves that are the sole purpose for growing herbs. The leaves have the oil cells that produce that intoxicating aroma we look forward to with herbs, and of course the leaves are what we use in our foods. So now I spend a lot of time babying my plants, making sure each day that every dead leaf and newly budding flower is plucked. I learned that with watering them, if I I shower them from the top wetting the leaves that this can cause disease to spread in turn killing my plant. Instead I have to water at the base of the plant at the soil just enough to dampen the root within the soil but not drown it.
Much like gardening herbs, there is a process to getting to the root of anger and learning how to properly tend to it. So many times we focus our attention on what we can see — The pretenses we put up, the things we know the outside world sees, without adjusting that focus to the root of the issues themselves. Not realizing that in tending to ourselves at a root level will actually change what is observed at the surface level. If we view resentment to be the dead leaves and anger to be the root of the plant than it makes sense not to disregard our anger because of the resentment that spurred from it. Resentment is an important red flag alert to work that needs to be done below the surface. Just because there are a few dead leaves doesn’t mean the whole plant is bad and should be thrown out. Now, I can just continue to water that dying plant and hope it recovers and in turn killing my plant. Or I can pluck out the parts that are dead and no longer serving their purpose and the plant will grow full and flourish from there, by my upkeep of it.
Addressing what causes the ugly, dark parts of anger and plucking those things out is the key. Whether the disease is brought on by placing too much focus on the negative aspects to a situation, or using those aspects as a crutch to hold onto hoping it will somehow change, or throwing the whole thing out entirely and pretending that it never existed. If we examine the dead parts – the equivalent to resentments – removing them from the anger itself and learning exactly what part of the situation made us angry and why, then from there we can grow. If there is a just reason for the anger without the resentments, it would be counterproductive to throw the whole thing out. Because the lesson is in there. The thing that teaches us about ourselves and what not to accept going forward, is there. Anger in and of itself is not wrong. There are many good reasons to be angry within a situation, it is the allowance of bitterness that can strangle the life out of us.
Righteous anger, for instance is a very justified use of anger. However, it still can create a lonely existence, indeed. You are always in a battle when you stay standing for justice and you are almost always losing because of the misconception of your enjoyment for conflict. How many times have you heard “I just don’t like conflict,” from someone who may not share your need to defend? Quite honestly, I hear it all of the time. To assume that people fighting for what is right is done solely because they enjoy fighting is nonsense. It’s like saying soldiers enlist because they enjoy killing people. Soldiers enlist because they want to defend the freedoms of a country they hold so dear and to protect what is right. War is an unfortunate product sometimes of standing that defense.
Some of our greatest leaders throughout history were peaceful people, angry at the injustices enough to stand up and fight against them. All the while loathing the brutality of conflict. Their anger in-tune with their conscience fueled their need to stand firm in what was right. Was their anger justified? Or was it an emotion they should have suppressed simply because it is the less acceptable one?
In my garden one of my herbs is mint. To say that I love mint is an understatement. This is one of the staple herbs that I have been planting FOR YEARS. It repels the critters when planted around the outside of your home, it gives off a beautiful fragrance and it grows like wildfire, with little to no effort. The one thing about mint is that it’s roots are far reaching. If you plant it nearby any other plant, flower or otherwise it’s roots will literally choke out the neighboring plant’s roots, killing it. Much like mint, angers roots are far reaching. And much like mint, anger is a valuable and necessary emotion. It has qualities to it that allow us to stay grounded to the courage of our convictions and our good conscience. But when it is not mindfully tended to and carefully placed it can overtake and strangle the other equally important emotions.
As each year passes and quite honestly — Each DAY passes, I am learning more and more of how better to tend to my anger and keep it well placed. I’m learning that it is 100% necessary to address it within myself the moment I notice those diseased leaves forming and to pluck out the areas that are taking this very normal emotion to a very unhealthy level. To simply dismiss anger as a negative emotion, keeps us from the lesson within the root cause of it. As we take the care to identify these causes, we give ourselves the ability to spread out and flourish.