When Santa leaves a big box of anger for me under the tree this year instead of the peaceful silent night I asked for, what do I do?
Hi. I’m Grace, and for the last 35 years, I refused to be angry. I was on a mission from God to love people to death, even if it killed me. When I did get angry, I shook it off, hid my hurt feelings under a rug, and smiled. Too bad it doesn’t work that way. Now this pandora’s box of anger is just sitting there under my tree, wrapped in pretty paper, tied with a bow, and waiting to explode.
Why Am I So Angry?
The better question is why didn’t I ever let myself be angry? Because my parents and then “friends” from church fed me these lies: Good girls don’t get angry; anger’s a sin. The Bible tells us to turn the other cheek. Besides, you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar, which is particularly funny because I didn’t want to catch flies in the first place.
What Is Anger?
Anger is a secondary emotion, but a fast runner. When I’m in trouble, anger rushes to the scene like a paramedic. “Grace, you’re hurt. We need to check you out.” No. I’m fine. I dismissively pushed the anger aside. But I wasn’t fine. I was in denial.
Denial is one of the five stages in psychiatrist’s Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s model of grief. The mess of my life is like a giant landfill, towering with rotting trash but Denial says, “Something stinks. It can’t possibly be that gigantic pile of rotting filth. It must be something else. Maybe someone else dropped a rotten banana peel over there – not here. Everything’s fine here.” Facing the mountain of emotional garbage means I’m ready to move on.
Anger Is The Gift That Keeps On Giving
The good news is, per Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s model of grief, dealing with my anger is a critical part of healing. Her model explains a grieving person will experience some or all of these stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
I’ve learned in the rooms of recovery if nothing changes, then nothing changes, so yesterday when anger again came knocking at my door, I tried something different. I invited it in. I listened to every angry word and wrote them all in a journal – even the bad ones. I sat with my anger and cried. Then I got up, shredded the notes and for the first time in a while, I felt better.
In the lesser known stanzas of Rienhold Neiburgh’s Serenity Prayer, he explains accepting hardship is a pathway to peace. Once I accept my anger for the gift it truly is, I’ll be one step closer to finding the serenity I really want on Christmas and every other day of the year.
A Reach Out Recovery Exclusive By: Grace Silverstone