Anger is one of those emotions that really, really, really triggers me. Whether it be the anger of an adult thrown my way that I feel the need to duck and hide from or the explosive anger of my child that I feel the need to manage, it triggers me.
My oldest son feels things in a big way. Ever since he was born, when he is pissed off, it comes out with what to the external observer can appear to be rather violent. As he gets bigger things have started to look scarier. And for some reason the scarier they look the more I feel the need to get in the way of it all and manage it. Even though in my rational mind, I know for sure when he is in the place that makes him through a Wii controller across the room, he most certainly can not hear a thing I have to say. And if he is yelling and throwing things about his room, me yelling back is not the thing that is going to restore any sort of peace.
Just yesterday, I got to thinking in the way that I hope turns in to some sort of shift. The first step for me was rather humbling. I realized, I was asking of my son, something I had yet developed the skill to do. "Please, when you get that mad can you just walk away and cool off." I don't do that all the time. Heck, I had just been right there in the living room yelling alongside him. Check that little piece of reality.
The next step logically for me, was to admit to my son, that what I was requesting of him appeared to be beyond my abilities and was likely not the path that was going to take us away from yelling inappropriate words as the top of our lungs.
So, we talked about anger and what it feels like. "It is like something just takes over my body and I can't control it." Wow, this is good information for me to know but more importantly for my son to know about his own physical reaction to anger.
And the hardest part for me at this stage of the discussion, is to shut up and listen. I don't need to give him information about what he should or even could do when that happens. I can offer compassion for how challenging it must be to be in a body that feels clearly outside of your control and I can ask, "is there anything I can do to support you when feel this way?"
"YES, leave me alone and get out of my way."
I am sure that my heart beat could be heard from a few miles away. It was quite literally pounding inside of my chest. I want to help, in that do something way, and my eight year old has requested, I back off. Alongside my teary eyes, was a hint of amazement as I realized he had just the skill I wished for earlier in the day. The ability to recognize what anger feels like in my body and to know what I needed those around me to do in order to give me the space to adequately process it.
The challenge, for me to remember this conversation in the heat of the moment. To feel my own anger and my own urge to help and still give my son the space he needs to fully experience the anger coming in to his body, going through and inevitably leaving. Cause heck, who wants to carry that kind of nastiness around in your body clear in to your adult life.
I thank my son for showing me, anger isn't something to be afraid of, it's just a feeling or emotion, that needs to find it's way through your body, in order to be fully released.