When CareGivers Get Angry

post-holiday greetingsPost Holiday Greetings So, how did the holidays play out?  Were they days filled with ‘living a good life, practicing loving-kindness, and taking ourselves lightly’?  Wouldn’t that have been nice?  It would have been easier without the drama kings and queens acting out the one story we’re all too familiar with.  And then there are all the high expectations and dashed hopes. How many needs of the ones who depend on us do we have to meet, after all?  And how many compromises does it take to fertilize a seed of resentment before we’re even aware that a seed was there? No wonder I’m a hermit-wannabe.  Other people just get in the way of my Vive Bene, Spesso LAmore, and di Risata Molto.   I do a lot of ‘lip-flapping’ about this stuff and, I’m familiar with the stressors that erode our good intentions: not enough restorative sleep; too much, too little food; not feeling up to par, to name a few.  I’ve practiced skills of ‘de-escalation’ of emotional situations and, everyone knows that the holidays are a notoriously popular time for angry episodes.  So wasn’t I surprised when it was the ‘practicing loving-kindness’ part that bit me in the arse.

Anger: A Most Honest Emotion

I say this because I don’t think that anger is easily hidden, even though we often go to great lengths to hide it and deny it.  Depending on how honest we are with ourselves we might confess to the more venial feelings of frustration, disappointment, jealousy, or resentment.  And how often do we blame Wrathothers for provoking the anger?  “You made me angry”.  “If you hadn’t done / had done [something else] then I wouldn’t be angry”.

  • Anger. “the only emotion powerful enough to both start a war…and stop one.”
  • Most angry people feel that they are / have been treated unfairly; righteous anger when it’s directed at a social injustice.
  • Anger can also be an expression of a denial of compassion.

Anger is, also, a great teacher as long as we can slow down enough, and quiet ourselves enough to hear what it’s telling us.

Confession is Great for the Soul and Lousy for the Reputation

There’s one advantage that an explosively demonstrative angry person has over the more simmering sort.  They don’t have to hide, or deny, their anger anymore. Of course, one’s trust worthiness may be compromised if you are, also, a CareGiver:  one upon whom others depend.  One might just as soon be a child molester, for all the social cache it garners. Explosively demonstrative has it’s time and place.  But it must be proportionate to the situation, with a very clear intention, and very rarely acted on.  And this is where slowing down, acknowledging that something is simmering, and watching it mindfully has the advantage over getting explosive.  No, I didn’t explode. Instead, I met an old fear I thought was dead and buried.

On The Eighth Day Of Christmas

I’m confined to 2 more days with an elder relation, with few distractions.  Not necessarily known as a jolly gentleman but pretty easy to be with and independent. I thought. Seven days of holiday play and socializing was great and tiring.  I wanted, only, to read my novel and sip tea, or whatever.  I don’t know how many “where is such-and-suches?”, or “I can’t find…..s”  it took before I started to think: “This man is going down…on the decline…”.  The throat clearing, snuffling, and shuffling around continued. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was the thought of imminent decline that triggered the fear of having to become my elder’s CareGiver.  I really did think that that fear was dead and buried long ago. So when I noticed that first twinge of resentment I slowed down.  My elder asked what I was angry about. Hide? Deny?  I was not, yet, even aware of any anger.  Thankfully, I asked for time. I knew I did not want to feed the resentment by talking about it then. I needed to just watch where it was going,  between reading my novel and sipping. And I noticed the thoughts conflicting: ‘If this guy goes down, then the world as I know it changes.  If he is in need, I have to be there. Maybe 24 hrs/day. Are ‘things’ in order? What will I have to give-up?’  And from the other corner: ‘I already made the choices to ‘be there’. ‘I like to think of myself as a caring person, so what’s going on?’  Thoughts of the many people I’ve been with, in the intimacy of nursing and friendship, through illness, disability, dying and death, kept circling through. Thoughts of all the losses, to me.  So, Queen of Preparing for Our Last Great Adventure, what’s different now? It’s easy to say that this relationship is, just, ‘different’ from the others.  And I agree.  This one is more personal and the responsibility is more demanding. I, who so blithely have claimed the joy of life as being like a roller coaster ride, was going off the rails.  Nope, that’s not what the fundamental difference is here.   The difference is that, in this situation, I was focused on myself; on how much work it would be; of all the decisions that would have to be made.  And not a thought about what being dependent, on me, might feel like to my elder. It was painful acknowledging this self-centeredness, and the fear of the future, and the resentment about maybe having to compromise my needs and wants.  But it was also a relief to have the anger defused with some insight and, hopefully, learning.

Thoughts, Feelings, Fears, Pains, and Roller Coasters

There’s a new podcast out called “Invisibilia”. It’s about how we’re affected by invisible stuff.  Thoughts, Feelings, Fears, and Pains fall into that category.  They’re coursing through us all the time. Most of them do just that – come and go.  When you notice one hanging on, pay attention.  I find it helpful to have a bit of a mantra to remind me of important intentions to subvert being ‘provoked’ into doing something like: ‘I prefer to be calm instead of angry’, or ‘slow down and pay attention’, or ‘really listen, to hear what he/she is saying’, ‘I don’t need to act on all the Thoughts, Feelings, etc.’ I don’t find any of this easy; CareGiving included.  And I also have a bit of a beef with the third ‘root’ of anger, mentioned at the beginning of this post, because I think that Anger can be a Consequence of Fear.   Any ‘denial of compassion’ can also be a consequence of fear.  It’s not always easy to figure out what that fear is, but being able to name it makes living easier. So, I did get to ride a roller coaster over the holiday season.  Three times, two different coasters.  And I really do think it’s helped me learn how to recognize fear and anxiety as they arise.   It was the first time in years! And it was fun, and yes, as we were strapped in and waiting for the switch to be switched, thoughts of dying, or being very damaged and living on as a result of this ride, did pass through. But there was no going back now and maybe, just maybe, this would be The Big One.                             Yoda 2


Please visit our FaceBook Page where you’ll find a brief article about a Very Unique Roller Coaster! and other articles that may be of interest. The photo depicting “Anger: The only emotion powerful enough to both start a war…and to stop one”  is from “You can have it all! Seven campaigns for deadly sin”  from Harper’s Magazine, November 1987.  Selected Advertising Agencies were each assigned one of the ‘deadly sins’ to promote.  Worth a more than a peek if you have the time. Photo of ‘Woman With Roses’ via www.Shutterstock.com “Yoda” and quote, naturally, attributed to Genius George Lucas and all of his Star Wars stories and characters.  Thank you. Scroll down to leave a comment. Would love to hear.


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