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Mad to the Bone

“Your anger helps you identify what’s important to you, it helps you set clear boundaries, and it helps you access the strength you need to be vulnerable. Your relationships can’t thrive without healthy anger.” – Karla McLaren

Anger tells us something we value is being threatened and is evolution’s way of telling us “Do something about this!” We start mobilizing to do … something. Often, if not well-thought-through, we may regret what we mobilized to do. Being an adult with our anger means finding a way to a healthy expression of it. 

“Anger is loaded with information and energy,” wrote Audre Lorde. It is part of our life force, wired into the core of our self-preservation mechanisms. We can use that energy and information towards generative acts, or we can explode in a potentially regrettable scene, or we can let it fester (which is a lot for humans to hold on to).  

For most of us, we haven’t had a good model for anger in our lives. Our experience with this emotion has made it a hot topic. Some of us in order to not be that angry person, eat our anger and let it fester inside of us. Some of us are hot-headed like our parents were (or were not at all). And some of us try to avoid it like the plague. Yet, as a valid emotion we’re bound to experience in our day-to-day adventures, how then do we deal with it? 

Melodie Beatty, in her book Codependent No More, prompts us to look at the stories we absorbed about anger’s place in life:

“What do you believe deep inside about anger? What myths about anger have you subscribed to? If you need to subscribe to new beliefs about anger, do so. Attack the myths whenever they try to attack you. How do people in your current family situation deal with anger? How did your mother, father, brothers, and sisters deal with anger? What’s your pattern for dealing with anger?” 

She also encourages that if you have repressed anger, to write about it. Consider having a notebook devoted to anger if this is a big topic that needs processing. Keep a notebook handy throughout the day to write about your anger as it occurs. 

Liz Fosslein and Mollie West Duffy, in their recent book, Big Feelings: How to Be Okay When Things Are Not Okay, devote an entire chapter to anger, rich with takeaways to help you see how your anger shows up for you and full of handy tools and tips for what to do with it when it shows up. 

In this conversation, Mollie joins my colleague Chrystal Bell and me to talk about many facets of anger and how it has shown up in our own lives. And, how we can not bring our inner ‘Beth Dutton’ to the surface when it shows up in relationships that we value.


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