“Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one that gets burned.” Buddha
Anger is a normal human emotion. It can be a healthy response to a situation. However, anger is not an acceptable emotion in society, especially in women. Women are taught to “be nice” and not demonstrate anger. Unresolved anger causes problems. Anger will leak out if it is not addressed. For example, I recently snapped at a co-worker. I was working on a memorial for the Women’s Veterans’ Forum. There was a lot of stimulation. People were talking in the connected office; laughing and joking. The building was shaking from the construction next door. I was trying to concentrate and having difficulty focusing. I was angry at myself and my inability to focus. I was angry at the changes in my cognitive abilities caused by the concussion. I was annoyed at my coworkers for making noise. That reaction was not “fair” but a response to the situation. My supervisor walked in and asked a question. I ended up unloading all the built up frustration and anger on her. Fortunately, she understands TBI and stress. She handled the situation as a professional helping someone in need. This was an example of leaking anger. I was not angry at my supervisor. I had unresolved, unrecognized anger from other sources. Unresolved anger also leads to hate and mistrust.
Healthy anger can motivate change. Any powerful emotion is a signal that something in life needs attention. What is the cause of the anger? What actions can be taken to address the situation? If the problem can’t be resolved, how do you release the anger? Action does not indicate a loss of control. Take my situation at work. How could I have managed the anger at my noisy co-workers? If I recognized the anger and accepted my emotion, I could make different choices. For example, I could take a break from the project. I could also approach my coworkers, explained the project, and asked them to joke quietly. Instead, I shoved down the anger and it came out at someone who was an innocent bystander.
Since the concussion, my emotions are more on the surface. This has advantages and drawbacks. I have to be more aware to my feelings, the environment, and triggers. On the other hand, I tend to struggle more with maintaining balance.
The quote by Buddha reflects the harm that comes by holding onto anger. It only hurts the angry person. It does not matter if the anger is at someone else or life or yourself. Unresolved anger burns. It turns bitter and breeds more anger.
Anger is present in my life. I am angry at the accident, my brain, and my body. I feel as though my body and brain have betrayed me. I am angry at myself for getting into the accident. The brain is not healing as before. I am different. I don’t like all the changes. I am angry that I can’t run like I did before, at my cognitive slowness, at my weakness. At times, the anger motivates me to work harder on my rehabilitation. Other times, it sucks the energy away. I get bitter and feel helpless. Resolving the anger is an act of acceptance. It is a process. I have to accept who I am today, at this moment. Tomorrow, next week, next month, next year may be different. I will continue to improve. This is who I am at the moment. I may, eventually, have to accept that there are permanent changes in my life and brain function. I must learn to embrace myself.