Anger Management, As Told By Cats
July 17, 2015
I’ve made something kinda nice and relevant for me, that I hope you find helpful too! Five interesting tips on keeping calm – getting a little less angry! Illustrated with cute cats, as one does 😉 . But first – because it’s been a hundred thousand years, a little update and some context!
As I write this, I am reclining on a dusty purple and black geometric print armchair, swollen feet propped up on a matching ottoman, under a low styrofoam ceiling hung with deflated heart shaped balloons, so old they literally shatter in your hand. Cuddled up around me are Achim’s teenage drum set, a lava lamp, and a jumble of exercise equipment, obsoleting electronics and wooden furniture upholstered in faded and torn Aztek print. I’m camped out in my mother in law’s cellar, and let me tell you, I am one happy camper, because here, IT IS COOL.
We’re in the middle of a heatwave, and I am massively pregnant. Ultrasound confirms: This little girl is going to be a tank. Oh boy. Thanks for the heads up, doc. Honestly, I almost wish I didn’t know! I am finally feeling relatively prepared, though, baby quilt finished (because clearly, that was the most important thing!!), hospital bag packed, baby clothes washed, folded and neatly stacked in a big, washi tape labeled cupboard that is definitely the most ridiculously, fastidiously organized corner of our apartment! And – Halleluja! – the rest of the apartment is also somewhat in order for the first time in at least a month! Seriously, when we decided to pack up and sit out the worst of the heat at Oma’s, both Achim and I were like, “YES! Awesome! We won’t mess up the apartment!!!” Lol.
And yep, it is no coincidence that the month of household squalor corresponds with a month of zero blog posts! It’s been a busy, sweaty, slow, waddling through the hoards of laundry kinda time, maybe slightly overrun by The 100 Day Project and lots of nesting – which for me means a general frenetic need to sew and craft… But alas, I never forgot you! And I am back, with an appropriate post, ahem. On getting angry, or rather, getting not quite so angry.
Well, it’s an appropriate topic for me anyway, given my current circumstances I mean. And, like, who I am as a person. Heh heh.
I am what they call an emotional person. Which is maybe, kinda code for WARNING! TREAD LIGHTLY IN CASE OF HUNGER, SLEEP DEPRIVATION, CONCURRENT EMOTIONAL EVENTS, AND OTHER RANDOM, UNPREDICTABLE CIRCUMSTANCES! SHOUTING: POSSIBLE; SNIPPINESS: PROBABLE; TEARS: DEFINITE.
I’m kidding. Okay, no I’m not. Okay, I partly am. I honestly do think there are many good things about being a person who really feels stuff, and my sweet husband loves me for it (thank goodness!!!). However, this blood that boils over some no big deal thing my poor, oblivious partner in life happens to do is not something either of us particularly cherishes.
So I’m working on it. Doing a little light reading, trying to use some strategies. I think it’s helping, so I wanted to share a couple that I like with you. These particular tips come from a nice little bit on controlling anger from the American Psychological Association. I have illustrated them with cats, naturally. Because cats as we know, are also fickle creatures, easily prone to pouncing and scratching and sulking or worse… But importantly, they are also very cuddly and loveable. And everybody, even us emotional types, needs a little cuddlin’!
To be clear, this isn’t a comprehensive list, and it’s also really not going to be a enough for someone who has a serious, clinical problem with anger. This is just a few little ideas I pulled out that I’ve been trying and finding helpful. Ahem.
ELENA’S TREEHOUSE DOES ANGER MANAGEMENT
Tip 1: Stop the trainnnnn! Try, try and tear yourself away from the madness, even just for a second and take a sweet, deep breath. Breathing deep from the belly is a little bit magical, if you can muster up the emotional strength to do it! When my wild mind is feeling all justified and doggedly stuck on being pissed, I find I can sometimes kind of trick myself into calming down a little through deep breathing.
Tip 2: Not all anger is misplaced – sometimes it’s caused by real, tough, unfair stuff we have to deal with. Feeling angry can be a normal, healthy response. But a lot of the time, it can just make us feel worse, especially if we are frustrated about something we can’t really control or change at the moment. In these cases, focus on just dealing. Collect yourself, and make a little plan, even if it’s something small, like a way to avoid a similar situation in the future. Resolve to do your best next time, think a little about how, and then go have an ice cream. Because ice cream often makes things better (I’m pretty sure that’s a fact).
Tip 3: This is something my good dude has been calling me out on forever and would ya look at that, the APA agrees! Angry people tend to get a little dramatic. We are feeling all fired up, so things get a little exaggerated in there! Generally, sweeping “always” and “never” statements are kinda not really true, but the more we say them, the more justified – and angry – we feel, and the more hurt and unfairly treated the recipient of our words feels. I like this tip because it’s so concrete. Just don’t say those words! When you hear them come out of your mouth, stop and rephrase. Tone that shit down. Somehow, “You often…”, feels a lot different than “YOU ALWAYS….”Tip 4: I feel a little stab in the heart over this one. Apparently, angry people tend to demand things – appreciation, agreement, a willingness to do things their way… heh. I can relate. I notice that a lot of the time when I get angry at Achim, it’s really just about my way vs. his way. For example, we had this one ongoing thing, because I like the sink kept empty so I don’t have to fish around and touch disgusting stuff, and so it doesn’t make a mess when other stuff gets dumped in in the process of cooking, etc. But Achim likes to keep water in there to soak the crusty egg pans I make practically daily. It makes sense that these are our priorities, because generally I cook, and he cleans up. So really, that’s understandable. Genuinely remembering this, and asking him if he will do it my way because I’d really like him to, not because I’M RIGHT AND HE SHOULD DO IT MY WAY, helped us find a solution and honestly just made me a lot less angry.Tip 5: And lastly, another tribute to my calm fella. When I read this tip, I actually called him, because this is so classic Achim. When I am really worked up, he often tries to help me laugh a little. Just tries to defuse things by being silly. The APA article says that when we are angry, we often feel like “things oughta go my way!”. It suggests literally picturing or drawing the colourful names we come up with for a coworker we are angry with, or envisioning ourselves as a supreme ruler or god marching around making everyone do as we say! The idea is that this will seem a bit ridiculous and help us see that maybe we are being a tiny bit unreasonable, and maybe, just maybe even a little silly. It’s not that anger isn’t a serious thing – it is, but it can also cause us to lose perspective. Recognizing this can dampen that fire a bit. And frankly, laughter feels good. Much better than anger!
SO! What do you think? Does any of it sound helpful to you? Or do you have other strategies? I would seriously love to hear!