Have you noticed lately that everyone is becoming more edgy and cranky? Last week, The New York Times ran a story by Claire Martin about a business that provides “Anger Rooms”, where people pay to take a bat and beat up TV’s and other “smashable” objects to release their repressed rage.
This new idea for a business doesn’t surprise me much as I have been noticing, at an alarming rate of increase, that people behind the wheel of their cars, or just standing on line getting coffee are, at best, short fused.
So many people are walking around with feelings that they ascribe to depression, of which emotional deadness is part, but as we dig deeper, we see their sense of powerlessness, and the real culprit… ANGER. Ah!! This anger can “seep out” at the most inopportune moments and can destroy lives and relationships.
On a simplistic level, anger is the result of not getting our needs met or the response to another having crossed our boundaries.
Years ago, I borrowed the color alert system from Homeland Security and still teach it as a tool of emotional awareness; blue: everything is hunky dory. The energy is calm (even if we are dancing our hearts out) and everyone is in a ‘good' mood.
When anger is building, there comes a subtle shift that is noticeable if one is paying attention to themselves or others. This is why being present is so critical to feeling in control; one can sense the shift from blue to yellow.
Then, the yellow starts to turn orange because no one is paying attention, and of course the next stage is red, which is meltdown time, and the person explodes.
You’ve witnessed that trajectory at the mall when kids are having a tantrum, or when your spouse comes home distracted and grumpy and you end up in an argument over the silliest things, or when you feeling ‘out of sorts’.
Many of these feelings can be distilled down to unaddressed anger. But, we live in a society that tries to keep our feelings in our head and pushes away healing those old angers. They will reappear over and over in metaphors and symbols until we deal with them…or not.
Thus, bringing your pre-relationship anger ‘luggage' into your marriage can sometimes be a positive thing, contrary to popular belief. When we bring our childhood angers into our adult relationships, we have a chance to share those intimate pains with the person closest to us and we give our partners a chance to help us heal.
The negative pieces of our lives make us part of something that is bigger, something that makes us human with warts, blemishes and frailties. When we are in a safe place in a relationship, we are free to express all of ourselves, even the dark sides.
The deep bond you have created with your mate always needs ‘new' material to keep it vibrant and dynamic. This explains why some couples are still in love ‘till death do ye part’ ; they keep the relationship real and current. In part, I believe the divorce rate is so high because too many people are afraid to share their real feelings and true selves with their spouse.
Looking at our current political landscape, some people are now feeling free to take the filters of civility away and let it fly; anger shows up as racial slurs, hate crimes, and blaming others for one’s own poor choices. What is scary is that those feelings and thoughts have always been there, but now they are not hidden, they are out in plain view.
Hypocrisy and double standard is becoming normalized. Say “good-bye” to common courtesy, being polite, or being appropriate in public. Remember Peter Finch's line from the film Network? "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore.” Well, we are a society of people who are mad as hell and aren’t dealing with it in healthy, productive ways.
A better angle might be to work on acknowledging, and dealing with our anger in positive, intelligent ways using counselors and life coaches to frame the problem with those who love and support us.
By doing so, we might just create a kinder world.