Anger, the catch-all emotion

I’ve spent many hours trying to understand my emotions. As a child, I learned that being angry was easier than being sad. If I was angry, I didn’t need to feel bad about myself. Anger filled me with entitlement while sadness filled me with, well, sadness.

Sadness felt like an anvil tied to my heart. With each new event that hurt me, weight was added to the anvil. There was no bottom for the anvil to hit. The weight just tugged each day at my heart, becoming heavier and heavier. Eventually it became too heavy and the weight unbearable. To save my heart I became angry. Anger felt like an internal punk rock band which was more bearable than the weight of an anvil.

Anger was so much easier, so it became a catch-all emotion. All of a sudden, the things that made me feel sad shifted to anger. I slid the anvil to the back of my heart and used it as a stage for my punk rock band. It became the root of my anger. The platform for anger to stand on. I would still add to it from time-to-time, but at least I didn’t have to consciously deal with it. At the time, it was what I needed to cope and to stay safe. This is probably not surprising, but it’s no longer helpful.

I’ve been trying to learn to break down what anger means to me. When I first started, I was so scared of my emotions that I would poke at the anger and run away. Slowly, I realized that it couldn’t harm me. It wasn’t going to attack me. I was able to calm the punk rock band down and they handed me a chisel and hammer. Over time, I’ve chipped away at the sadness. However, anger still seems to be an emotion that often fills the space of other emotions. It’s a complex emotion that means something completely different. 

For example, it could mean:

  • I’m tired
  • I’m hungry
  • I’m sad
  • I’ve had too much caffeine
  • I’ve had too much sugar
  • I haven’t had enough alone time
  • I’ve had too much alone time
  • I haven’t had enough physical activity
  • I’m lonely
  • And more…

I noticed that one thing that consistently triggered anger was lack of selfcare. If I spent too much time with someone, even if I enjoyed the time, I would become angry. I would find myself becoming easily frustrated with people I loved, but I felt so much guilt about prioritizing myself over them. I would constantly go back-and-forth between what the right decision was. I would eventually become so tired that I would just succumb to whatever decision was easiest.

I found that it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to make decisions when it came to selfcare. So, I sat down and came up with a solution. I wrote myself a triangle to help clarify the right decision. When I’m looking at my day, week, or month I always make plans in the top two tiers first. If someone asks me to do something and I’m having difficulty saying no, I always refer back to my triangle. I consciously explain to myself that I prioritize selfcare and made that commitment to do so.

I dedicate this process to building trust with myself. It forces me to be honest. If I’m not honest with myself, my internal life becomes off kilter and I begin to feel groggy—almost as if I’m living in a haze. Life begins to move quickly and slowly at the same time. Through the use of this triangle, selfcare is no longer a choice—it’s a commitment. I’ve begun to feel less guilty about caring for myself and making the decisions that are right for me.

Instead of saying “no,” I used to find myself making excuses. I’ve gotten to a place where I’m able to say, “I’d love to, but I have plans.” Eventually, I’d like to say, “I’d love to, but today is a selfcare day.” I want to take time to normalize selfcare for those around me and for myself…so we’re all healthy and happy.

Next week on Better Bertie:

  • Will I get just a little bit better?
  • Will there be another adorable picture of Bertie?

Tune in to find out…