Every window in my house is currently steamed up. (No, it’s not what you think! Jeesh, don’t make me blush.) The reason? I live in Florida. It is summer. The humidity is higher than Donald Trump’s bangs.I just returned home to this heat from
vacation in the cool, humidity-free Northeast. No matter. I am loving the all-consuming stickiness.
At last: the outside world is matching my inside world.
As vacation ended and some unpleasant realities of life creeped back into my consciousness, anger began seeping out in all the ways that Oprah would advise against. Projecting onto my husband. Snapping at my daughter. Scowling about towels left on the floor and muttering loudly under my breath. A tiny voice within squeaked, hmm you seem pretty CHARGED UP about this…perhaps something else? To which my ego (angrily) replied, NO! Really, I AM this angry over my husband whining about needing a nap after he slept ten hours last night! (Yes this really happened. Normally I would I would chuckle and lovingly mock him and tell him to shut his pie hole. I would not be full of PRIMAL RAGE.)
I was full of PRIMAL RAGE.I’ll spare you the details of the who and what that led to my anger. It isn’t necessary. What I will share is how surprised I have been at the depth and fierceness of the anger—and my unwillingness to simply name it for what it was.
Why, I wondered later, is it so hard for me to just say, “I AM ANGRY AT X AND I NEED TO JUST SAY IT OUT LOUD!”
Many wise souls have pointed out how resisting what is is the source of our suffering. Certainly it was the source of the suffering between my husband and myself, as he threw his hands up and said, “Whoa, why are you so upset with ME? I know this isn’t about me, this is about x! Stop projecting!”
He even predicted that ten minutes later I would be back, apologizing, and admitting he was right.
Damn it, I hate when he is right.
I think it all has to do with anger being a secondary emotion.
I read the term “secondary emotion” for the first time a year or two ago. I had this major “AHA” moment. I had been lumping anger as an emotion with all the rest. Turns out, anger is special. It is just the first layer of a delicious cake of emotions. Perhaps it is the crispy charred caramel bit atop a Crème brûlée. You have to poke through it to get to the creamy, smooth center, the meat of the thing.Which, in my case, turned out to be sadness. So. Much. Sadness. Once I finally admitted to my husband that he was right (sigh), that I was not actually angry at him, I crept into a spare bedroom and wrote a little. The tears started flowing and they wouldn’t stop. Streams and streams of tears. I hadn’t cried like this in a very long time. I let it run its course but it took an awfully long time for my eyes to dry up.
No wonder I was hiding behind the anger. Who wants to unearth all that hurt and sadness?
I’d love to carry my metaphor forward about the dessert and crème brûlée, something trite about how sweet it is to finally break through all the flavors and eat the gooey custard middle. But that is not the case. There is nothing fun or delicious about resisting anger, feeling anger, and then crying for twenty minutes.
For me, the closest I can come to that happy ending is through my writing, which always helps me unpack what I’m feeling and find some self-compassion in the process. Not as tasty as a French dessert, but I’ll take it.