Coping With Anger

A recent conversation about parenting:

Husband: I’m not used to being filled with hate and anger

Wife: Any other father would be yelling and hitting by now

Husband: The Dalai Lama wouldn’t be hitting

Wife: Any normal father

Husband: I’m not trying to be normal, I’m trying to be exceptional

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Recently, I’ve been finding myself being “really mad” at one of my kids. Worse, I have been carrying my anger around and wrapping it in self-pity. This is a crappy habit to create!

To turn things around, I tried a 14-day cleanse…

Monica laughed as my cleanse was light weight in a Boulder sense… huge salad for dinner and no booze. I didn’t notice any difference physically but the anger has started lifting.

Here’s what I’ve been doing to cope.

Own It – when I’m angry, I notice the anger. I try to create some space by breathing and noticing “wow, I’m angry.” When I can pull this off, I don’t act on my anger.

Not acting on anger is a win, even when angry.

Identity – I remind myself that I’m not always the role that is making me angry:

  • Employee of difficult boss
  • Parent of difficult kid
  • Customer of difficult company

I discovered my painful identity when I was hiking (alone) feeling sorry for myself. I reframed my self pity into “a guy who can go for a hike.”

This helped until I became “guy who’s calf blew out on a hike!” At least my calf trouble got me swimming again and I noticed that problems in my body don’t make me angry.

Communicate – My anger doesn’t like anyone to know about it. So I have been introducing my anger to my wife, my friends and, now, you. Getting the emotion in the open creates space. Space is good.

Share Goodness – when I’m happy or enjoying myself… I send a little bit of that happiness to the object of my anger.

Breathing in – this is a good moment

Breathing out – I send her some goodness

The Rational Mind – I think of myself as being calm and rational. It’s everyone else that runs on autopilot.

Persistent irrational emotions point out that I’m merely OK in “my world” but have trouble with “the World.”

I want to apply evil intent on my kids but, looking deeply, the only possible intent is love and inclusion. Until I can experience that reality:

  • Keep breathing
  • Keep trying
  • Let go of the emotional warfare

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Today’s my youngest’s birthday. She’s one. It took me five years to become comfortable with babies and now they are gone!

Hopefully, I can up-skill with preschoolers before 2018.

Family Mantras

In my life, focusing on the faults of others is always a reminder to look inwards. For when I’m struggling with myself, I start to look outwards for easier targets! My article on creeping clutter was triggered by catching myself wishing my wife would clean up the kitchen.

There is a lot of anger in the world outside my home. Even inside, the minds of preschoolers are churning with strong emotions.

I’ve been able to modify my own sources of greed, envy and anger. I do this through awareness of three truths:

  • We’ve already won
  • We have more than we need
  • I don’t need to be right, I want to be at peace

When I see the truth in these mantras, I remove the seeds of greed, anger and envy. If these seeds grow then we can end up disgraced, or in prison. Theft, fraud, infidelity, anger and unhappiness have their root in a desire for more.

As I roll through my day, I am on the lookout for examples of how we’ve won, how we have more than we need and how serenity benefits the family.

A friend observed that having the opportunity to argue shows how lucky we are. Debate is a sign of affluence. When faced with an argument, he sees a person that is lucky to have the time to make themselves unhappy!

From the outside, it can appear that I spend a lot of time focused on the risk of negative outcomes. However, from the inside, I find it helpful to remember that my time is limited. To my family, I say…

Whatever happens, remember this – I had a fantastic life and loved you very much.

What’s your family mantra?

Love and Hate

The first time your kid tells you that she hates you can be traumatic. My wife will never forget when our oldest told her that she hated her. Not reacting is one of my strengths so, when it was my turn, my daughter’s hate flowed through me. As a father, I want to help my daughter accept her emotions and let them go. 

Quite often, people that are good with love (mothers, wives, daughter), close themselves to negative emotions, such as hate. That closure, between mothers and daughters especially, can lead to strange dynamics, especially when an unexpected trigger results in an outpouring of hate.

I have an ability to react slowly. Being slow to react makes me appear cold but has helped me deal with some very abrasive people (and challenging preschoolers).

A couple weeks after my non-reaction to my daughter’s hate, the conversation when like this:

Daddy, I love you

Daddy, I hate you

But, I love you more

There is a tension between the love and hate in our little girl. By acknowledging, and not suppressing, the hate, we helped her avoid making the hate her focus.

The other morning, we were walking into school and she saw a little buddy entering the classroom with his mom. 

Lex beamed and told me, “Daddy, that’s my friend.” 

The little guy immediately screamed, “I am NOT your friend!” Causing his mother to stop cold with a universal look of maternal horror. 

Lex shrugged and said, “it’s OK Dad, he’ll be my friend this afternoon.”

A home environment where we let go of hate is wonderful gift to pass to our children.