We Might Need A New Tool
You know those movie bar scenes where one guy says something about another guy under his breath and it ends in someone passed out and bloody on the floor? Yeah, you’ve seen them. They can be set in saloons in the old west with the Marlboro Man or in Boston at a bar run by Ben Affleck. Let’s dissect them for a moment.
There’s a guy with his hands wrapped around his drink sitting at the bar quietly seething.
There’s another guy walking by with chip on his shoulder waiting for a fight.
There are a bunch of other guys sitting at tables playing cards or chatting about the game on TV.
There’s a bartender wiping out a glass with a dirty rag taking stock of everyone in the bar.
The guy walking by bumps the guy sitting quietly.
A fight breaks out.
Chairs get thrown.
Guys get punched.
The bartender ducks.
Everything gets broken.
Everyone is bloody.
Nothing is resolved.
THAT is what we think of when we think of anger. You get mad, someone pushes the wrong button, and you explode. Everyone gets hurt. Nothing good happens.
What if it didn’t have to be that way?
I learned very early on that if you’re not the angriest person in the argument, you’re not allowed to be angry. If you can’t stand toe-to-toe with someone filled with rage, you’ll just start crying. If you aren’t going to follow through with violence, you must walk away.
I cried a lot as a kid. But I tried… I REALLY tried. I tried to get just as mad. And I always failed. I got blamed. I got in trouble. I wasn’t up to snuff on the rage thing. So, I developed the ability to hold it in. Hold it in until it finally came out as tears. Or more.
I’m not sure if you know what happens when a person holds their feelings inside for a long time.
Yeah… they tend to explode in ways that aren’t so pretty.
There was a day recently where I felt EVERYTHING. Something had happened that felt like the world crashed down on me. It dropped me to my knees and punched me over and over again. I felt like an utter failure.
Every 15 minutes, I’d cry. The littlest things triggered me. A line from a movie. A cute TikTok. A memory.
I felt it all. Deeply. I was feeling broken open. It was painful enough that I just kept crying.
As I was spinning out, I kept thinking about what had happened. I blamed myself. I blamed them. I blamed everything I could think of blaming. Until I took another look.
I got on a call with my coach to talk through the situation. When we dug a little deeper, I realized that the situation was just a trigger. In reality, I wasn’t just sad. I was angry. Angry at myself for letting my old ways step in and run the show. I was angry at how my little self acted from a place of fear. And it was coming out in tears. Like it always did.
She told me to take a moment and let it out. I knew what that meant.
So, I got off the phone, peeked into my husband’s office & said “This isn’t about you.” Then proceeded to scare my dog by stuffing my face into a pillow and screaming until I couldn’t scream anymore. I slammed the pillows into the bed over and over. I threw myself on the bed and proceeded to have a full-on temper tantrum. Legs and arms flying. Angry noises coming out of me.
When I calmed down, I called her back. Now that it was out, we could look at what was REALLY going on. I was actually sad about other things. I was in mourning. I was mourning the loss of who I was. I was stepping into who I am really meant to be. I was experiencing the next step in my journey of personal growth. I was letting go of old patterns. I was releasing.
This idea of release has been on my mind a LOT lately. It’s scientifically proven that when we see or think of something, it tends to show up in our view more frequently. It’s called the Frequency Illusion, or the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.
So, of course, I was watching “The Great” on Hulu. It’s a comedic, partially true story of Catherine The Great, the Empress of Russia. In this particular episode, there’s a scene where she and her husband’s older cousin go to the front lines of the war to pass out macarons to the troops. Catherine is distraught about what she finds and feels like a totally ridiculous princess giving out sweets to men who had been badly wounded while wearing her tall hair and beautiful dress.
As they head back to the palace, Catherine is processing the whole experience with a sad and scared look on her face while also wondering silently how her cousin is holding it together. Suddenly, the cousin asks the footmen to stop the carriage. She gets out and walks into the woods only to unleash a scream while kicking at leaves and throwing her arms around wildly. She finishes, walks back to the carriage and sits down. “There. That’s better. Would you like a go at it?”
What a beautiful display of anger and frustration. A full-out scream in the woods. Letting out all of the feelings without hurting anyone. NOT bottling up the sadness or rage – but letting it all out in the open. Letting it go.
Later that same day as I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a friend post about how moms are overwhelmed. They’re trying to homeschool kids, keep them safe, make decisions about vaccinations, stay healthy themselves, and keep up on the latest school closing or outbreak. And they’re bottling it up. Yet one woman took it upon herself to gather a group of other moms for a scream circle at a school football stadium. They screamed together and released the tension. It was healing. (read here)
Most of us weren’t shown what anger looks like when it’s felt and released in a healthy way. I’m not going to compare the differences between how men and women are raised, but I will say that women don’t tend to have as many places as men to fully express their anger and rage. At least not safely.
It’s not just moms. We’re all feeling this way. (If someone says “variant” ONE MORE TIME!)
I’ve been learning this last year that things don’t have to be hard. I’ve been learning that I can have everything I’ve ever dreamed of AND do it with grace and ease. I’ve also learned that letting out my feelings – including my anger – in ways that are healthy leads to even MORE grace and ease.
Since I first heard the phrase “We can do hard things”, I’ve always added “…until they become easy.” That was nice, but I now have a better one.
We can do hard things with grace, ease, and the occasional scream.
So, what if you let it all out? You threw a full-on temper tantrum in your spare bedroom. Or outside on a hiking trail. Or deep in a canyon. Or even on the roof of your building.
What if you let it all out because you decided it wasn’t serving you anymore to get mad at your kids or your dog or your spouse or the deliver guy or that lady in line at the grocery store or that “dip shit” in traffic who doesn’t know what blinkers are?
What if you decided you wanted to do hard things with grace and ease instead of trudging?
You can. And you will. If you decide you really want to.
But first, you’re welcome to scream into a pillow. (I swear, it won’t bother anyone – although my poor anxious dog will disagree.)
You CAN do hard things. With grace, ease, and the occasional scream.