For years I had no trouble blaming myself for swallowing my anger down. Not being strong enough to fight back. Judging myself for putting everyone else's emotions first. If only I could have let anger burn down what needed to die. Instead of living years longer than was necessary in the constriction of carefully managing the emotions around me, including mine.
Much like many childhoods, mine was one that had room for one angry person - my dad. This unequal power dynamic meant that only he had access to anger. The rest of us found ways to hold our anger in check and place the tight bands of constriction around our emotions.
Not only did that serve my protective childhood self, it served me in adulthood as well. Relationships where one person easily wielded their anger were a safe place to live within for those of us who cultivated the skill to smooth out rough edges. I had a long marriage with someone who would explode in anger. It was a joke in his family, his anger was legendary. And I knew just how to navigate the tight structures for behavior he created. Until after our divorce when suddenly these familiar structures started to wear thin. I found I couldn't swallow the anger anymore. I was full. 35 years of anger was inside of me and needed to be seen. My body needed access to the full spectrum of emotions that I was holding space for with everyone else.
It's easy to flippantly say we deserve access to a full spectrum of emotions but the actual application of this can be terrifying. There was a reason I didn't let my anger out as a child - it was dangerous. Now as an adult I had my protective inner child screaming "Noooooo!" as I dipped my toe into the water of anger. Who knew what would happen now? Was someone going to get crazy angry at me? Even more mad than I was? Would I be hurt, emotionally or physically? My previous relationship had confirmed the need to stay small in the presence of anger. Now I had to trust myself and my current partner with these emotions - no thank you. I had seen the damage anger could do I did not want to potentially be the one inflicting that kind of pain on others.
A wise friend offered me a reframe that resonated deeply. What if instead judging myself for pushing anger down, for not being strong enough to wield it, what if I was actually SO strong that I could carefully handle and control it. What is my fear of letting anger out and watering it burn everyone I love was so clearly untrue because I had been showing myself how capable I was with anger for years.
What if we decided to could have access to anger, simply because it is a basic emotion that is not actually good or bad. It is information about our needs and a powerful force for change that we have been tying up in the basement. What if we stopped holding our power back, but instead trusted ourselves to flow in the fire we have been holding tightly in. It would mean that we would have to stop managing the emotions of others and instead put that energy and focus on expressing the emotions speaking inside of us. Trusting ourselves to let them help us get closer to our truth.