Something I’ve learned on the way to being a nicer person is that feelings are ok. That sounds ridiculous but it was a huge insight for me. Somewhere along the way in my life I told myself feelings were dangerous, that they were a sign I was out of control, so I stuffed them down, way down, where no one would get hurt.
Turns out you really can’t do that for too long or you get angry for seemingly no reason or feel incredibly weighed down which leads you to become a world class asshole. Granted, you can be a charming, witty and funny asshole but all those pushed down feelings can bubble up. For me it was a mean streak and I’d spew sarcastic half-truths to laugh at others’ expense. I’m embarrassed at how mean I was and it wasn’t until I finally started addressing my ongoing depression that I saw clearly the kind of person I was.
I tried all kinds of therapy and medication but nothing seemed to get at the root issue until I had sessions with a psychiatrist. He did guided visualizations and we realized I could intellectualize everything but I didn’t FEEL anything. I was totally cut off. Any feeling was only a knot in my stomach.
It took a long time to get at my anger, now it’s wonderfully available to me at anytime. My anger lets me know something has to change and while I can’t control my feelings, they really just arrive on their own, I can understand the causes and control my actions because in the end, it’s what we do that hurts people, not what we feel.
I also learned that once the build up of all those years of anger bled off my anger was less scary. Even better, once that old anger was dealt with other awesome feelings started flooding in, like love and gratitude and joy. Turns out I’m way less likely to be my old asshole self if I hug my kids and feel the love beaming out of me.
Speaking of my kids, they have taught me that I can be angry and ok at the same time. It’s very empowering to speak your true feelings and know that you are ok. It also teaches my kids that it’s not the feelings but what you do about them that matters. Be angry, take a breath, some space, some time and think things through, after all, anger just shows you give a shit about something and that is pretty cool.