A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in my living room when my entire building started to rock, my glass of water trembled, my heart raced, and my cat flew out of the room in fear. It was an earthquake. A week later, it happened again only this time everything rocked even more.
Earthquakes are one of the disadvantages of living in California; so far we have been very lucky that the magnitude has been low.
The thing that was most striking to me was that once the earthquakes were done, my cat bit me. An angry bite that didn’t hurt, but her ears were down and she looked mad. She looked mad but I knew she was acting out of fear so I picked her up, kissed her face, and snuggled with her until she calmed. I think it was nurturing to her and I know it was to me.
Have you ever been scared and responded with anger?
How about when your child runs out into the street in front of oncoming traffic? Or when your elderly mom forgets her walker and starts to fall? Or when your partner drives faster than your nerves can handle?
Anger seemed to be an acceptable emotion in my family during my childhood. Sadness wasn’t okay, fear didn’t go over well, and happiness to a point was okay unless others thought you were gloating. I began to notice that I turned to anger almost automatically, and – like my scared cat – I lashed out. I kept myself safe and alone. Safe and lonely.
I went through years of retraining, teaching myself to allow other emotions an expression, rather than automatically turning to that old familiar anger. There’s nothing wrong with anger itself yet I didn’t want to be limited by it, and I wanted more effective ways of expressing it. And unfortunately, I was rarely greeted with a loving embrace like the one my cat got after the earthquakes.
Today, I know that if I look under my anger, I can usually find hurt, sadness, or fear. And if I take time to connect to those emotions – including to my anger – I can uncover greater depth and healing. Everyone in my life benefits from this.
Today, consider looking underneath your anger to see what other emotions are asking for your attention. And when scared, may we all be received with a kind word or loving embrace!
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