This morning I had a bout with anger that I haven’t experienced in over a decade. I am proud to admit my actions while angry has changed dramatically. Dealing with behaviors in your children that are a direct result of a disability can often be a struggle to process.
Our oldest daughter of 18 years has Down Syndrome and we experience challenges daily. Sometimes we win these battles and sometimes we lose miserably. For my daughter’s privacy, I will not go into the details of this morning, but I was absolutely beside myself. Logically, I knew it was a direct result of her disability, but emotionally I was stunted.
What did I do with my anger?
I still have it.
7 hours has passed since we discovered our little problem and I am still angry. The thought of the act and the regression it represents I am not able to currently get past. I want to clarify that I am not mad at our daughter, but in fact, I am mad at myself. The what if questions in my mind to prevent our mini-disaster are much louder than any other voice in my head.
This level of emotion I am experiencing right now is very familiar. Validating my emotion while not acting on my emotion has not been my forte over the past 40 years. I have put holes in walls, broken windshields, and even broken my own bones out of anger. I remember on more than one occasion losing my voice because I yelled so much. No, I am not perfect. Not even close.
This morning, however, was different. While my emotions ran piping hot, my actions did not. Upon discovery of our little accident, I walked down the stairs and through gritted teeth told Jess, “I need to leave the house.” Luckily, we don’t live in a neighborhood, so I was fortunate enough to have the space to walk around without encountering another soul. Ten minutes later, while still angry, I was able to respond appropriately and out of love, not anger.
Getting to this point
How much time do you have? In my teenage years, my response to heightened emotions was to act them out. Whether it was fear, love, hate, or simply having my heart broken I let my actions follow right behind my emotions. In my early twenties, my physical reactions to my inward emotions started getting me into trouble. Relationships ruined and some great military training taught me how to hold in my actions and emotions.
It wasn’t until my mid-thirties did I start to understand that our emotions are natural and real responses to our situations. Our integrity comes from how we react in those instances where our emotions feel out of control. Some great advice I read in The War of Art is that emotions are our signal that something is not the way we think it should be. Sounds vague, but I like to think of our emotions as early alert signals to a required action.
The things that make us upset or angry are not typically healthy for us so it can be a warning signal that we need to take action to prevent that act from happening again. If the thing that makes us highly emotional is actually positive, then we are given the signal to take an inward look and see if there is something to change. My best example is when you have a good friend call you out on a bad habit. Your reaction is most likely anger, but should your action be the opposite?
This journey of self-control and emotional freedom is one I experience every day of my life. I love to know that I am not alone in this journey and would like to help other men work through our maze of emotions. Send me a message and let’s connect.
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