I really needed to read this post:
I have been not feeling well, short tempered, irritable, fearful, anxious. All things that come along with PTSD, not sleeping well, physical pain, and holiday emotional triggers.
I have not allowed myself to feel angry. Ever. I instantly feel ashamed of my anger, and extra ashamed when I yell at my children. I can’t keep myself hidden away until I feel better, until I feel safe enough to be around them without yelling. I realized I was treating myself like an angry lion, best kept at a distance from everyone. Some of my social anxiety is not so much that I am afraid of the other people, but of my own responses. Hmmm.
Here is a summary of the post from the link above, all the steps are hers, with my thoughts added. Please go see the original too, she has some great posts.
Step 1: Allow Anger
“Anger is neither a positive nor a negative emotion. It is normal to feel mad when things aren’t going the way I want.”
Wow. Really? Is that true? Anger seems so terrible to me, I have never allowed it to just be. I have never allowed myself to just feel anger, like any other emotion. I have always heard of bad tempers, short fuses, and anger management and have never before thought of anger as just another natural part of my body. Could it be ok to get angry, and could there be a healthy way to express it without causing harm?
Step 2: Think loving thoughts about my child
“I try to be gentle with myself with this step because hitting (she was talking about her kids hitting each other – this also triggers me) can be an emotional trigger for me. To aid the process, I try to think of a memory that brings up feelings of love, such as snuggling and reading together. Most of the time, this step is easy because that anger I was holding on to really isn’t about my child, but rather my reaction to what occurred. I can see this more clearly once I’ve finished step one.”
I have never tried this. I have used visualization to help with pain, anxiety, fear, loneliness, depression – you name it. I never thought of actively turning around the anger by thinking of how much I love my kids. Maybe I can picture the rowdy rascals sleeping peacefully, and remember that they are not always wild beasts.
Step 3: Examine Expectations
“After I’ve let go of anger and have returned to feeling the connection I have with my child, I can begin to look at what my expectations were before I became angry. My expectations in this case were that my kids would “behave” because I was sick.When they didn’t meet my arbitrary definition of “behave,” I became resentful that I couldn’t be sick in peace. And when their disagreements escalated to hitting, my expectations were that my kids get along well or that my partner would step in before it occurred. I notice that nowhere did I explain my expectations to anyone.I didn’t even look at my expectations consciously or I would’ve seen how ludicrous they were. My kids aren’t bad or misbehaving. They’re simply having trouble managing their big emotions. Once I reconnect that, I replace my false expectations with this reality.”
Nothing to add here. This is so true. Emotional outbursts are not the same as misbehaving, and they need me to guide them through it. If only I could guide myself through my own big emotions first.
Step 4: Feed the Needs
“Once I’ve looked at my expectations, I can identify my needs and figure out how to meet them. Identifying needs is probably the most important part of making better choices. Identifying my needs means that I no longer have the urge to use the language of blame, judgment or domination. I can experience the deep pleasure of contributing to my family’s connection. On this particular day, my needs were for peace, a harmonious house, healing, authenticity, and to be understood.”
I’m not always sure what I need. I so often feel ill at ease and misunderstood.
Step 5: Use “I” Statements.
“In order to meet the needs that I identified above, I need to communicate them to myself and to my family. Using “I” statements, or sentences that begin with “I feel” or “I need” create a more non-judgmental conversation, free from blame or defensiveness. I hope that in stating my feelings and needs in this way, I will both feel heard and be able to listen well. I consult this NVC list of needs when I need help. Today, I said:
- to my partner, “When I am sick and the kids are fighting, I feel stressed. I need peace and quiet so that I can heal my body. Would you be willing to have full responsibility of the kids so that I can rest for a few hours?”
- to my kids, “When I hear everyone arguing, I feel worried that someone will get hurt. I need everyone in the house to feel safe.”
The problem is these statements still transfer blame. Hubby would feel attacked if I said that, and hurt that he let me down, but he wouldn’t have known what to do differently, and so it would happen again. He probably thought he did have full responsibility and was not as bothered by the argument as the sick mom was in her agitated state. Mom may not have noticed the squabble if she was up and about and busy. Everything is relative here. But I statements are a good place to start, much better than lashing out with “Why can’t you ever help me?”
Step 6: Learn from the experience for next time.
“There will be a next time. I am not always successful at curbing my anger and I will yell again. But, I resolve to be a better parent every time. I learned today that when I’m sick, I tend to set unconscious expectations for myself and for my family. I am faster to react with anger because I am exhausted and don’t feel well. It is important to remember that I will make mistakes as a parent. Failing and resolving to change is nothing to be ashamed of. Each mistake is a chance to remember what I already instinctively know about how good it feels to authentically connect to another human being.”
OK, I don’t think yelling a bit is “failing as a parent”. If it is, then most parents I know are miserable failures, including myself. Yelling is a part of being human, and I think it is ok for kids to see us blow up sometimes. I always apologize and tell them it is because I am tired, and not their fault. I think that lesson may be more important, to show them that even I struggle with emotions.
I am so totally not perfect. I struggle to stay level headed. I struggle to find an ounce of peace or joy, and bobble
instead around fear, anxiety, sadness, pain, and anger. Yes anger always seems near my surface these days, and it is exhausting to constantly rationalize and control it. I will try to visualize when I feel angry, that is my big take-away from this article, something new to try. Count to ten, sure that does help, but what if we were all running on a beach and flying kites while I count to ten? Maybe I can count the seagulls and see if that helps me handle tense situations more calmly.