I learned how to be emotionally dishonest at an early age. When I was a child, any expression of anger earned me a one-way ticket to my room for a prolonged timeout. Afraid of breaking what appeared to be a fragile relational thread, I learned to either redirect or deny my anger. In essence, I learned that anger was simply not allowed.
This misguided response to anger continued well into my 40s. By that time, I had three young children and a husband who worked multiple part-time jobs. I was increasingly exhausted and angry, but I continued to deny the latter. At the same time, though, I became increasingly aware that anger was sometimes unavoidable.
Though my own parents never modeled a healthy expression of anger, validated this emotion, or helped me navigate through it, as a parent myself I felt a deep need to approach anger more proactively. I wanted my kids to be able to understand and respond to feelings of anger in a healthy way. So together, my husband and I read books; we went to seminars; we grilled older, more experienced parents; and we learned.
Through this learning process, I began to see that because I’d denied the presence of anger in my own life for decades, it had morphed into barely recognizable manifestations within me, such as:
- withdrawing both physically and emotionally
- people-pleasing (especially saying yes far too often)