Dealing with Anger

 Following on from my last blog entry about inner work and personal development, here is an excerpt from a series of threads on my on-line discussion forum dealing with issues like forgiveness, slowing down, ensouling the home and so on. And of course, each discussion is within the larger framework of personal development – how do I as a homemaker find the inner resources to create the kind of homelife which is healthy and nurturing for my family? The following is my response to a woman living in a very inhospitable part of the world (in terms of weather and climate), at home and alone with three very small children all day long.

It is not the end of the world to fall apart in front of one’s children. If it was, then my world has ended numerous times!  It is ok to shout and lose control and really have a fit. Not wonderful, not something to strive toward….but a normal part of life – and completely understandable for a mother at home with three small children day after day.

So we’re talking damage limitation now. And I think the main thing to do is to accept that these things will happen from time to time and then remember to redeem it when you’ve come back to center once again. Go lock yourself in a bathroom for five minutes, splash water on your face and remember to breath. Do NOT worry if your children are crying or banging on the door – that’s fine, they’re upset, but being upset never killed anyone. You are their world and you are working on coming back to yourself.

Once you rejoin them, say something like “Wow! Mommy was really angry! REALLY very cross. Wheewf. It’s gone now. The Big Angry Mama Bear is gone now. ” And playfully attack them with pillows and laugh or give them a cuddle – depends on how your children react to such things. Some need boisterousness to get past trauma, others need peace and quiet.

Children NEED to witness anger and fear in adults. But it is the second part which makes the difference between frightening and possibly harmful situations and those which are about learning to be a full human being. And this is the transformation. It is our job as adults to transform the sadness or anger and let our children witness how we get back to center. Esoterically, to be a witness is as powerful as actually doing, as acting. And for children it is inestimable.

Just think how children who are in childcare for most of their days – or Waldorf kindergartens – do not get to witness and live through all the human experiences which make us full human beings! That was one of the truly awful things that struck me in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina – this desire to pack the children off immediately to school. How strengthening it would have been for those children to get to live through an experience of adults working to overcome their grief and their tragedy and build something new instead of shutting the children off in their sterile schools where, I guess, they could read about human tragedies in social studies textbooks….

This is one reason why it is universally recognized that homeschooled children – of whatever method – are more mature and can fit better in all kinds of social situations than those raised en mass in schools for most of their lives. So embrace the pain! It is a gift of being at home with one’s children.

Back to the subject at hand…I have had, actually, the experience many times that when my sons are being particularly awful, that a real blow-up diffuses the situation. My eldest in particular, who is a very intense person, continues at 17 to be much calmer and centered after we have had a big argument. He becomes more and more “in your face” and demanding and somehow needs the release of an argument to work through whatever it is that is mounting inside. Of course at his age (once all is back to normal) we discuss what it was that led up to the explosion and our (his Dad and I) observations on how he appears to need such a release. We work to help him understand what is going on inside him so that, as he matures, he no longer needs to explode. And over the years, I can honestly say that sometimes I choose to allow myself to yell at him – I have learned, over the years, how to work on my own strengths and weaknesses so that I am not merely reactive when my sons pushes one of my triggers. He somehow needs me to yell – my hope is that as he grows up he will no longer need this as he becomes more self aware.

Which leads me to point out that when children are being particularly awful (let’s not dance around using PC language – children can be awful!!!) that the parent needs to do some inner work. I know, I know – all paths lead right back to us! But that’s the truth isn’t it – inescapable truth. Exhausting, frustrating truth.

Could you be expecting too much from your children? Might your picture of what you “should” be doing be too high? I am a little wary of your phrase referring to your children’s “power” – I know it can feel that way and twins can run anyone ragged – but tiny children do not have “power”. They can certainly push our buttons and some are extremely adept at that – but there is no power involved. To wield or use power necessitates consciousness and focused will. Less-than-four-year-old children have neither the consciousness or the will forces to exert power.  Anyway, after you perfect the art of regaining a lost center, don’t blow it by then beating yourself up with guilt!!!

One last thing I would add is that I feel it is also important for children to witness their parents arguing – but even more important for them to see them making up. Children can get very frightened when their parents fight – and for good reason as their parents are their world, are their matrix, their survival, their love. But it is part of being human – and most importantly, if the children see the parents make up, say they are sorry, give and accept forgiveness, then they learn how to deal with anger. Unless we are saints or ascended masters, we lose our tempers, say things we don’t mean and do horrible things to people we love. Only through enormous amounts of inner work can we get that under control (and still it will break away from time to time). But what we can always do is forgive, return to center, move on (not cover up or avoid) and let our children have the invaluable lessons of learning to deal with pain and neither fear it nor pretend it doesn’t exist.

Posted on August 14, 2008 in Family Life and Parenting

COMMENTS
  • Holly Olson says:

    How insiteful this was. Forgiving us of our limitations and giving us a rope to pull us “back to center”. It took many, many years for me to figure out that is exactly what I was trying to do after an erruption. It feels good to see it in black and white.
    Holly

  • rq says:

    that’s great! i will forward to some people. thanks Donna.

  • Tracy says:

    How amazing to read something like this. I always feel like I’m somehow broken because I am not yet able to stay calm day after day after day with my two small children. I have this ideal mother image in my mind that I always find myself falling short of, and anger is one of the main problems I have to work on in my life. Giving myself permission to be angry (never on purpose, and less and less over time), to pull myself back to a calm peaceful place, and translate that experience to my daughters… Thank you. Still working on myself. I wish there were a how-to guide on making a better me.
    -Tracy

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