As a kid growing up I was taught to deal with my feelings by either talking about them, expressing myself in appropriate fashion understanding that by holding onto everything I would at some point lose it. Now flash forward and we are all adults who haven’t necessarily figured out cooping mechanisms to handle failure, relationships issues or employment mishaps. So what do you do when someone you assume can handle life’s ups and downs seems to be close to meltdown?
I have been around both teens and adults whose ability to handle bad news and also self-inflected consequences makes it tough for them not to take out their anger, frustration and emotions on everyone around them. I know personally that I would rather not open up and spill my guts on the ‘table’, yet, I have discovered that the sooner I talk about it, learn to deal with it and then move on the sooner I will go from being a toxic husband, dad or friend to someone that is healthy.
I was very fortunate to be taught anger management skills from a mom whose husband was gone for months at a time because of military service. Looking back I know that my mom’s hope for me wasn’t to hide my feelings but to learn how to express them and find resolve, forgive if possible and move on. I understand that it is easy to talk about all of this but in the middle of a meltdown at work where it’s not your fault it would be so easy to reach your boiling point and just want to quick.
As I observe many who do have meltdowns I can step back at times and see how I can either be part of their healing process or just add fuel to the fire. I know that at times I could get satisfaction from making someone look like a failure because I would never put myself in their position and unfortunately be quick to tell them this. I’m learning that many adults don’t know how to deal with obstacles so they either avoid them totally or don’t think much before they make a choice that could cripple their personal lives or hurt their career.
So how do I figure out how to deal with personal meltdowns or potential pity parties? I tend to be way too quick to react to circumstances. I want to be in control and not look like it’s ever my fault when something goes south. I had an experience where I had a neighbor come over to complain about something. My past experience would have made me be in the reactive mode and be ready to defend myself. This neighbor, who was totally different, seemed to be apologizing for bothering me. I see my need to choose to respond by getting some space, not talking first but asking someone for help or actually eating my pride and admit that I screwed up.
The sad fact in today’s culture is that too often it becomes acceptable to be loud, obnoxious, rude and foul mouthed. It is too easy for someone’s anger to go from a verbal assault to physical violence. I see too many, both young and old that struggle constantly with figuring out boundaries when it comes to self-expression. Is it ever ok to cut someone off on the freeway because they cut me off? The consequences of not getting my anger under control can be detrimental not just to me but those around me.
I know that too often I’ve seen people who have be told that being angry or mad at circumstances is totally wrong. Yet, when there is an injustice it is necessary to take a stand for what’s right and usually the expression of emotions is justified. I love the advice that James gives in his letter about not letting the sun go down on your anger. He also unfolds the reality that being angry isn’t always wrong but you have to learn how to be constructive instead of destructive when in the middle of an anger outburst. I also appreciate James’ advice to be slow to talk but quicker to listen because typically we can’t deal with circumstances when we are too busy jabbering away.
I will be the first to admit that I have unresolved anger issues at times that do control me and stop me from being the best person at the moment. So I’m learning how to use my temper instead of losing my temper and see the impact it has on those around me that are too use to blowing up regardless of whether it makes any sense at all.