My daughter Grace would be mortified if she knew I was writing this, but I’m doing it anyway because I know she’s not alone in this: When she gets mad, she cries and she hates that! She feels weak and weird especially when it happens in inopportune places like in school or at the mall.
Why does it bother her so much? It’s not because she’s upset to be angry. She knows that people get angry and, as long as they aren’t flipping out, causing danger to themselves or others, it’s pretty acceptable. What she hates is the tears because she sees crying as a weakness and an inability to hold it together.
I find this interesting but not that surprising. We’re told almost from the moment we cry after being born, “oh, honey, don’t cry.” And that continues for years and years with phrases like “big boys don’t cry” or “you’re a big girl now, you don’t need to cry” or “are you seriously crying over that movie/comment/Hallmark commercial?!” It’s not fair that it’s more acceptable to be angry than cry. To me, they are equal expressions of emotion. What’s interesting to me is that they seem to come from the same emotion.
I once heard a wise person (perhaps Oprah) say that ALL ANGER COMES FROM SADNESS. Think about that for a while…think of the last time you were really angry about something. Maybe it was the last time your husband made fun of your squishy backside. Down deep, it’s not that you’re mad; it’s that your feelings are hurt. Think of another – you are furious that your kids are, yet again, ignoring you about setting the table and coming to dinner. Yes, that’s worthy of anger but underneath it all is hurt that they never seem to listen to you, even though you are their parent and you work so hard for them and try to teach them how to be good and responsible people and you made such a good dinner which they probably won’t eat and (inhale) – it’s about sadness.
Think about this as you go through your day-to-day life and I bet you’ll see what I mean. So where does that leave my tear-prone daughter? Well, afraid to show any emotion because it might mean that she feels tears bubbling up and that would be awful! My lovely, kind, sensitive, giving child becomes robotic out of fear of feeling. That isn’t right!
I’ve been talking to her a lot lately about this anger-sadness correlation and have encouraged her to try to identify what the feelings are REALLY about. This has resulted in some good, deep talks with her and an increasing awareness on her part about what might be lingering just beneath the surface that she needs to deal with. And I’ve told her that it is okay to cry and to be angry (within reason).
I’m not just helping her with this realization. It has helped me too. I’m far less likely to fly off the handle and feel more of a sense of calm and peace. And when I feel angry feelings creeping up in myself, I am quick to ask myself “what’s this really about? And what are you going to do about that?” Try it, it works. Just don’t get mad at me if it doesn’t help you right away because that would just make me sad.
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