Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Welcome Guest Blogger: Liana Laverentz

Balancing Your Anger

Today I’d like to talk about balancing your anger. Anger is not a bad thing. It’s a warning signal that something in your life isn’t going right. That something isn’t happening as you think it should be. As women, I think we are socialized to deny our anger. If not to deny it, then to suppress it. And when it seeps out, as it inevitably does—or explodes, as it often does--we are called names that nobody should ever be called. You know what they are. You’ve probably called yourself those same names a few times. See how well you’ve been socialized?

People have just as much right to be angry, as we do to be hungry or thirsty—or even afraid. God gave us anger for a reason. To spur us into action. To stand up for ourselves. To fight injustice. But it works just as well on the home level. It helps us to maintain our boundaries—and as writers, we need boundaries. How else are we going to carve out that precious time we need to write, without boundaries?

Feeling anger is okay. It’s what you do with that anger, how you express that anger, that may be questionable. Acting out, road rage, cursing someone out, being snarly and unkind, spiteful or sarcastic, or committing violence of any sort, is not an appropriate or acceptable means of expressing your anger.

But we all feel like it some times. I’ve expressed myself most ways listed above, and more, in the past. I still have my moments. And they tend to sweep over me without warning.

So what are we supposed to do with this feeling that bubbles (or sometimes roars) up inside us when it hits?

Believe it or not, we’re supposed to stop and think and try to figure out where it is coming from, and if it even belongs to us. What do I mean by that? Women are the caretakers of the world. Face it, we can’t help ourselves. We love to take care of the people, places, and pets we love. We love it to the point that we take care of them so much we neglect to take care of ourselves. But that’s a subject for another day.

What I want to talk about today, is making sure that when you feel angry…it’s your own anger you feel. Because just like you can do laundry for another person, you can get angry on their behalf, which gives them the luxury of not having to deal with their own anger--because you’re doing it for them. Ever get mad at how your husband is treated at work, while he calmly goes about reading the newspaper? Ever get furious about something that happened to your children or aunt or best friend that leaves you steaming long after the supposedly injured party has forgotten about it and moved on?

If so, you’ve been taking on the emotional baggage of others. Feeling things for them, so that they don’t have to, just like if you were doing the laundry for them—only at a high emotional cost to yourself.

Anger takes time and energy. It drains you, whether you express it or not—it drains you even more if you don’t express it—because it takes twice as much energy to repress it as it does to feel it and deal with it. When I feel anger coming on, I just let go with it…but rarely, if ever, in the company of others. I wait until I am alone. Like the other day. Saturday morning, and I was running errands, just like millions of other people. I went to the post office, picked up my mail, hit the library and two different stores for groceries, came home and unloaded the groceries, put them away, and made a cup of tea to settle in with my mail.

But there was no mail. Oh, the junk mail was there—it always is—but my personal mail was missing. I looked all over for it. No luck. I whipped out the phone book to call the post office. No luck. Finally I found an 800 number to call. I got put on one of those endless recorded loops. All I wanted was the phone number for my local post office, so I could see if my mail was there without having to make a special trip, gas costing what it does these days.

That option, of course, was not available, the recording told me ever so cheerfully, and sent me back to the main menu.

I literally screamed in frustration, slammed down the phone, jumped into the car and raced back to the post office, as it was Saturday, and they closed at noon. I had seen that mail. I knew it was out there somewhere. But I couldn’t call them, and I knew all weekend I would imagine it being run over in the wet and muddy post office parking lot if I didn’t go back there and check it out.

So I raced down the road, with only ten minutes before closing time, swearing like a sailor all the way. Not like me. Not like me at all. Suddenly I realized what I was doing, stopped and thought, what is going on? You’re not usually like this, and you’ve handled a lot more serious challenges than a few pieces of missing mail.

But by that time I had reached the post office. I sailed in to check my box, and voila! My mail was there. I had folded the junk mail over and my personal mail had slipped out and onto the floor, before I’d ever left the building. Someone had found it and turned it in, and the kind ladies there had put it back in my box for me.

Life was good again. But the anger I had felt on the way there was a huge clue that something was not in balance in my life. First I had to figure out what it was, what I was REALLY angry about—I mean, come on, a misplaced letter or two?—and what I was going to do about it.

I also had to figure out if the anger was mine to start with. Was I feeling it on someone else’s behalf, or my own? It had been a rough week, and I had spoken with a number of people about personal problems they were having. Seems like everyone has something serious going on in their lives, no matter which way you look.

Turns out this time I was feeling anger on my own behalf. But there have been times when I have felt it on the behalf of others. For instance, two of my closest friends are in prison. The things that happen to them, you would not believe. They’re both strong, silent types, so they don’t bother getting angry. Which leaves me susceptible to getting outraged on their behalf. I really have to watch out for it.

Because my getting angry gets them off the hook for feeling their own emotions. It makes me look like a raving lunatic while they go calmly about their business. It’s as real and tangible a service as it would be if I did their laundry.

And it keeps me from staying focused on my own life and goals. It steals my time and energy and creativity.

So the next time you feel angry, do not waste any time trying to deny that you are angry, or trying to talk yourself out of being angry, just be angry. Feel it, vent it, express it in a safe and appropriate way. Storms never last forever. The emotion will pass. Then, take a deep breath and try to step outside of yourself for as long as you can manage it, and--first of all--find out if your anger is your own, or if you are feeling it on behalf of someone else.

If it’s your anger, take responsibility for it and your part in whatever led up to it, and make the time to figure out what it is in your life that is out of balance and needs to be changed.

You deserve no less.

If it is another person’s anger you are feeling….hand it over to them (or God) and be done with it. You don’t have to hand it over like you would a laundry basket. You can simply hand it over in your mind. Or visualize putting it in a basket and handing it over if you want to. Visualize saying, “This is not mine. I am returning it to you.”

Save your precious time and energy for your creative pursuits. Don’t let the emotions someone else should be feeling steal your focus or future, as person or a writer. Don’t let anyone’s anger—yours or a loved one’s--steal your balance. Life is too short to spend it angry.

About the author: Liana Laverentz is the author of two contemporary romances with The Wild Rose Press, NJRW Golden Leaf and EPPIE award-winner, Thin Ice, and Jake’s Return. Both deal with the subject of anger. For more information, go to Liana also hosts a monthly chat on the Long and Short Reviews Yahoo Group the first Thursday of each month, where we discuss ways to find our balance between writing and Life, which tends to get in the way of our writing more often than not. Read Liana’s articles on Finding Your Balance then mark your calendar to join us at the LASR Yahoo group .


Judy Thomas said...

Thanks for this, Liana. I'm very much a nurturer (just ask my husband) and find I tend to take on anger that isn't mine. I think women are much more susceptible to that than men are, because we're wired that way (especially when it comes to our kids and those closest to us).

Dru said...

WOW. Great post. I've learned a long time ago to let anger go by getting it out and then finding the peace within.

jean said...

Enjoyed your post very much. Thanks for a new way of looking at anger. I've found it's so much healthier to let it go than to hang onto it. Congrats on the success of your books :-)

Melissa said...

I enjoyed your post, Liana. Thanks!

Dena said...

Hi Liana, Great post I also enjoyed it. I never thought of my anger in that way, but it makes sense and I do that with my daughter if something happens to her.

Brandy said...

I, too, enjoyed your post. It never occured to me that being the "Listener" and nurterer that I am that I may pick up on anothers anger and express it. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thanks everybody! I'm a nurturer, too, and I've found it really helps to separate what is mine from what I'm feeling on behalf of others. And the oddest thing is, once you stop feeling their anger for them, they start feeling it on their own!

Liana Laverentz
Thin Ice (NJRW Golden Leaf and EPPIE Award Winner)
Jake's Return
Available in e-book, print, and on Kindle
Ashton's Secret (coming in 2008)

jodi said...

sometimes it's hard to let go of anger. *sigh* Very nice article :)