Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Losing It

Emotions - we have a ton of them. We have more emotions than we can even identify. We can call some of them by name, like anger and sadness and frustration and happiness. And a lot of times, when we run across one that is a little unfamiliar, we bend it to fit one of the names we know. Have you ever done that? Have you ever lashed out in a fit of anger when what you were really feeling was fear? I know I have.

Anger is the emotion we kiss on the mouth most often, yet it is the one we struggle to express appropriately. What we want to do, on a visceral level, is scream and throw things and break things and curse out loud. And when we are little kids, we get as close to this as we are capable. Until, that is, someone smarter (insert "older") tells us that this is not the right way to express anger. To me that translates to "just don't get angry."

Says who?! Okay, calling people names might not be advisable. Broken stuff might need to be replaced. Screaming might wake up your little brother. But I suspect the real reason we are taught to turn our back on anger is that the folks around us feel really uncomfortable and don't know how to react to us when we lose it. Anger offends the tender sensibilities of the genteel.

Even the experts can't agree on the costs vs the benefits of getting mad. Read several articles and half of them will tell you that stuffing anger will lead to emotional and physical distress. The other half will say that blowing your top could lead to, you got it, emotional and physical distress.

I've tried it both ways. I've kept things bottled up, and I've flipped the lid. Neither makes me feel much better. But... there is something awfully satisfying about letting loose a long string of words that would make your grandmother blush. I'm just sayin'.

1 comment:

BB said...

Have you read Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion by Carol Tavris? It's quite good. It's about time for me to read again myself.