Angry?

I could feel heat flowing to my neck and cheeks, I could hear the pitch of my voice rising, I felt myself crackling on the inside and yet, I was almost outside my body watching this woman I didn’t recognize.

She was angry. She was more than angry. She was enraged – yelling at the top of her lungs, tears stinging her eyes, her fists in two tight balls, nails digging into her palms. The man watching her?

His expression was one of discomfort, helplessness even.

And then she… I… stopped and took a breath.

It was old anger that bubbles up and spills over when certain actions trigger long-standing issues. They have to do with divorce and its aftermath, kids and money, a profound experience of powerlessness and exhaustion that chains this month to each of 144 preceding months that mark my ex-husband’s departure out of state, and a state of affairs that resulted, which I could never have predicted.

Divorcing? Divorced? Angry?

I hadn’t felt it in a considerable amount of time – that rage, that outrage, that indignant, blistering, physical expression of feelings that I can only name hatred. White hot hatred.

That is a difficult admission, and I wonder how many other divorcing or divorced men and women feel it. I wonder if men are better at getting it out of their system once and for all.

I wonder many things, in the aftermath of so much wretched and wrenching emotion.

I don’t live my life in a state of fury; these are moments, far fewer now, and more likely to occur when I’m tired, when I’m stressed, or when I’m not feeling my best physically.

And they’re more likely to occur if my children are even remotely impacted.

Anger Management: Calling the L.A. Shrinks

A new show on cable has caught my interest – a reality TV offering I thought I wouldn’t care for but I’m finding it informative.

In LA Shrinks, the segment I’d like to mention features Dr. Greg, a psychologist who helps people with anger issues. We see his patient go ballistic on the L. A. freeways, notorious for their traffic nightmares, as she loses all control – red-faced and screaming expletives behind the wheel with Dr. Greg beside her in the passenger seat looking grim at a level of road rage he may never have witnessed before.

We see him in his own difficult scene later in the show, as he dines opposite his once emotionally and physically abusive 70-year old father. Their discussion clearly brings up pain. Watching the exchange between them and hearing the narration afterward, it’s evident that Dr. Greg is managing his emotions, but I find myself wondering at what price. Can he feel a fist in his stomach, pounding in his chest, throbbing in his temples?

I wonder if sitting on rage is better or worse than yelling, like his patient, and actively acknowledging our triggers.

Triggers

For me, triggers link to moments of utter powerlessness, a sense of being small, worthless, unable to fight back – or rather, exhausted from trying to do so and defeated all the same. I know the self-sabotage that can result when feeling beaten, and beaten down.

I think of the LA shrink himself, Dr. Greg. His anger – expressed or not – would reasonably seem associated with that childhood abuse, and naturally, children are powerless in that situation.

His patient?

She’s trapped in the car on the freeway – physically trapped – needing to be somewhere on time, needing to use the bathroom, and surely she feels powerless.

My rage? My post-divorce rage?

The powerlessness.

In fighting a man, a family court system, ensuing scenarios – and my only options available with money – mountains of it – which I did not have at the time and surely don’t now.

Powerlessness.

And triggers.

How Do You Deal With Feeling Powerless?

What do you do when you feel powerless? How do you manage it?

What do you do when anger takes you over – body and spirit? Do you express it? Do you squelch it? Do you talk it out, cry it out, find a punching bag in a gym or take a 5-mile run? Do you pour yourself two stiff drinks or root through the fridge in search of food to dull the pain?

Powerlessness can be debilitating.

Anger?

I am undecided as to whether screaming it out as I did recently – and note, in the privacy of my own home – is better than pretending the fury doesn’t exist, or stuffing it down with leftovers in the fridge. At that moment, exercise was not possible; for me, it would have been a viable alternative.

The underlying problem? I doubt it will disappear entirely.

 
Click image from LA Shrinks to access original (video clip) at BravoTV.com.
 

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© D. A. Wolf

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Comments

  1. Ah. Yes. We witnessed the powerlessness at Divorce. But have not experienced it directly. So we offer an understanding nod and a virtual pot of tea and a Let Rip, lady encouraging gesture.

    When we feel powerlessness, it just reminds us that the Universe is magnificent and curious and magical and has a way of teaching and working things out………

  2. Wow! This post speaks to me in so many ways. I have been in therapy for over a year now. Originally my reason for going was for the kids – I wanted to be able to help them deal with the awfulness of divorce in the best, most educated way possible. But it turns out that it’s helped me much more. One of the things I recognized is that anger, my anger, is triggered by a couple of things – one of which is the feeling of powerlessness. So I’ve been working on changing that. I’ve found that very rarely am I completely powerless. I need to recognize that, embrace that and do what I can to make sure that I do what I can. It helps. It helps so much.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Interesting, Cathy. Good distinction – powerless, versus “completely” powerless. Perhaps it is the extent to which we feel – and are – powerless. A little luck never hurts, either.

  3. I’ve been furious with someone at work for the past month-seething in fact- and have at times expressed that professionally and at times not. Mostly what I do when I feel rage towards her coming on is to write her an email saying everything I really feel, and then delete it. It works, most of the time.

    I think I’m entirely too comfortable feeling angry so am trying to work on that. But sometimes you need to let it out.

    Thanks for this.
    Delia Lloyd
    http://www.realdelia.com

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      I think we’re taught to shut down (or shut up) the anger. Women, especially. But the seething will eat us up, in my experience. I’m more inclined toward letting it out – in non-destructive ways. Writing it out, but not sending it, sounds like an excellent thing to do, Delia. (I’m making a note.)

  4. You KNOW I’ve been there… too many damn times.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Yes, I know Supermodel. Draining, isn’t it. “Just when you think it’s safe to go back into the kitchen…”

      Hope you are well.

  5. Intellectually, I realize that I am not completely powerless in dealing with situations where I feel angry. My problem is letting that anger dissipate, especially if I make the choice to not do anything about it. That is on me. In order to deal with these lingering feelings, I turn toward writing and running.

  6. I learned something years ago that has really helped me in so many ways…be slow to speak, quick to listen, and slow to become angry. Even at the ripe young age of 59, I have to say this over and over again in my head when speaking to my mother….who is 88 and still as mean as ever. But, when I slow myself down, I am less likely to lose it and say something I will regret. Writing always helps!

  7. DaveysHouse says:

    Maybe this is helpful, maybe not. I used to feel rage, mostly squelched, but occasionally and violently expressed, towards my father. He never could deal with it and would distance himself. Someone eventually explained that he is very emotional by nature, was taught/forced to control it, and it was as if I picked it up and expressed it for him and for both of us. The only thing that helped, and damned hard it was, was to soften my position, choose to see the best in him and not take on his “stuff”. He always knows when I disagree with him – just a look in person or a long pause on the phone, and he gets it even though he doesn’t change his mind, nor does he know how to apologize. But I’m calmer and don’t have to have the last word anymore. I’ve tried to apply it to other situations with varying degrees of success, such as when I was once fired with no explanation… Thank you for bringing up such an important topic.

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      I think as women, especially, we need to talk about anger. We need to talk about a lot of things, in fact – more honestly, so we feel less isolated and can learn from each other. Thank you for your comments, @DaveysHouse, @Pam, @Rudri.

  8. Wow…does this post ever speak to me! I tend to take a long walk, see a friend, or I’ll write, sometimes accompanied by a glass or two of wine. The Sheepfarmer goes up into the mountains, turns his radio up loud and screams at the top of his lungs. He says it helps enormously by evacuating his anger. I have NEVER seen him do it. I have not had the “courage” to do that, but I think it would be very helpful and releasing.

    I think anger is another cultural difference between the States and Europe. It is considered more acceptable here among couples, friends, family, etc. in smaller doses. People generally will spill their guts without leashing poison. That being said you will NEVER see a young mother talk nastily to her children in the grocery store (or wherever) or hit them for that matter. I am probably going to open a huge can of worms for saying this, but I have become appalled at some “family behavior” in public places that I have seen over there. I am no longer used to it.

  9. I’m of the opinion that it is not even possible to really stuff anger, as it doesn’t just go away. It still exists in some form, and if it is not at least recognized, it will reemerge later in confusing and consequential ways. Although I think this is a mainstream position, I’m not able to find easily accessible, clear and authoritative references on the spur of the moment. I did find an article titled “Stuffing your ANGER? It may physically hurt you”, presented at a psychological convention. The abstract says “Women who routinely suppress their anger to avoid negative social consequences pay a high price in terms of their health. “

  10. Powerlessness creates anger … and for me, fear. The best help for me is to acknowledge it and then exert power where I do have control: exercise, make a decision, etc. To not give in!

  11. Thanks for writing about this, D.

    I’ve never been good at it. I’m definitely one who lets it ALL out (though only with family). It’s good for me but not for the people around me. My brother, on the other hand, has kept it all in. That’s made our lives easier, but he’s suffered – is suffering to this day still – for it. His therapist once told him that he and I are the same, only I took my anger outward and was thus able to heal more easily.

    I appreciate that you linked anger with a feeling of powerlessness. I don’t know why I never thought about that. My husband and I have had many many clashes over this – he used to lose his temper around our son and I would then lose my temper at him because, as you said, we will get angry if our children are in any way impacted. It helps me to understand that the anger stems from powerlessness – powerlessness against a child who doesn’t listen, who talks back, etc. And yes, of course, I have been there too. But it’s so much easier to point out someone else’s anger issues than to acknowledge our own…or at least it is so for me.

    Again, thanks for this honest post.

  12. This really helped me D, thank you. I do have waves of deep anger that are absolutely linked with feeling powerless–but Cathy’s remark and your response will help me stop next time, I hope and ask if I am completely powerless or not?

  13. “How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.

    So you must not be frightened if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloudshadows, passes over your hands and over all you do. You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any miseries, or any depressions? For after all, you do not know what work these conditions are doing inside you.”

    – Rilke

  14. I have felt the most powerful post divorced. Power only gets stronger and it has been over 25 years. Love me life. My most lonely day single has not matched my loneliest day in a marriage of 20 years. Left and never looked back.

  15. I used to be angry many, many years ago and then I realized most people are trying their best and are just who they are and to not sweat the small or large stuff. Life is too short.

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