Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What's Behind That Anger?

I've spent a lot of time this spring thinking about and processing rage. I've become convinced of several things:

1. We're all angry
2. Anger expresses itself in many forms - contempt, control, performance - besides what we think of as anger
3. Anger is a cover for something deeper the majority of the time
4. We will not stop being angry unless we deal with whatever is under it

I just finished a good book called Faces of Rage. I'll tell you more about it some other time. This morning, though, my rage thoughts come from dealing with a very angry little girl. Yes, that's right - sweet little Megan has an angry streak. How could she not with that mane of flaming red hair? Megan's always had a tough time expressing what she's really feeling, and lately she's managed that the way many of us do - she gets angry instead.

So, figuring that there was something under the anger, I tried a little exercise. I asked her to draw what she was feeling. Mostly she just wanted to break the colored pencils or throw them. I drew a heart and asked if she could write what was in it. She couldn't. I asked her to pick any color and draw with it. She picked red and scribbled. She wrote "Angry!" She scribbled with black. Then gray.

I drew a man, a big man, out of red. I explained that being angry makes us feel big and powerful so we don't have to feel other things underneath. I took another pencil and drew arrows out from behind our red man that showed maybe he was hiding things like "hurt" or "sad" or "fear." She finally said, "I know" and drew an arrow that said, "Stress."

She was feeling a little overwhelmed by all that she felt she "had" to do today (which was surprising to me given that it's summer and the only things she really had to do today were 10 minutes of Chinese homework and taking a shower). Digging a little deeper, it seems the stress also covered the sadness of the attachment she's formed to our friends' cousin who is visiting and will be leaving on Friday. For the next 5 minutes Megan cried about several things that are weighing on her.

I can't say we got to the bottom of everything - my default these days is to assume that transition stress is at play too -  but I do know that suddenly now I have a very different girl who is happily filling water balloons for an epic neighborhood fight later. It's a good reminder of the importance of looking anger in the face and asking myself, "Hmm . . . what's really going on here?" Apparently doing so can be quite freeing. :)


Margret said...

Wow! Good job, Gina! Your kids are so blessed to have parents that think of such things.

Gina Marie said...

Well Bruce was the one who got me thinking in this direction in the first place at re-LEAF! You can let him know that Faces of Rage is making the rounds here. Hopefully we'll all soon be seeing our anger differently. :)

Crystalrox said...

Hey G!
Way to go on the drawing and the "red man"...it is often difficult for me to sit patiently as you did and experience the anger-y rage and yet still gently press in, and wait and believe something else more profound will emerge...especially if it is a day later (or so!).
Jia you friend!

Gina Marie said...

Crystal - I've got to say you probably gave me the idea with all your creative ideas! I'm so thankful God used it to help me get closer to her true heart.