Sarah-ious discussions: When we’re provoked

Take time to explore your anger; only then will you be able to calm yourself.

Image used with permission from Google Commons

Take time to explore your anger; only then will you be able to calm yourself.

What’s it called when suddenly all rational thought escapes your brain? When your heart races, jaw clenches, smile fades? What is it, the sudden need to throw caution to the wind? To lash out and hurt something or someone? And what follows? The feeling that settles in after you’re done hurting and being hurt? The desire to reverse time to undo your actions? The sudden willingness to apologize? What are these moments called?

Anger is a timeline of painful surrendering a vulnerability that’s dominated by the need to escape; when we succumb to our demons, strangled sadness. But why do we submit? Why don’t we embrace the unfolding wrath? After all, isn’t rage simply a deafening void?

I’ve understood that fear hides anger, deterring witnesses. And I know that when I’m angry, I usually don’t know why because I’m too busy concealing my emptiness. When I’m busy fisting my hands, screaming into pillows, wiping tears, I put off interrogating my anger. I don’t give myself a chance to retrace my steps because too often, too many times, I’ve told myself to “forget it.” My anger is disrupted by embarrassment, a tide that rearranges my emotional system, further damaging it. Although my ill temper is drenched, it remains intact; there’s not much time left before it dries.

The difficult truth is: when we’re children, adults tell us not to get angry. When we cry, we’re asked to smile. Anger is forbidden because it disrupts the quiet. And by the time we grow up, we’re unfeeling, unable to express ourselves openly. We don’t know how to control our anger because we weren’t allowed to explore the feeling when we initially encountered it.

And so when anger slaps us in the face, we’re left open-mouthed, submissive to aggression, the monster who wreaks havoc without reason because hurt people hurt people.

What’s it called when suddenly you try to relearn, dismantle societal teachings? What is it, the sudden need to reconnect with yourself because you had yourself wrong all this time? To express your feelings as an adult? To apologize to the former you? And what follows? The feeling you get when you’ve mastered a useful technique? The feeling that comes after a good cry?

When we’re provoked, we should soak in the anger that surges forward, feel our blood warming, stomach clenching, frown forming. Because only when we accept anger will we rummage for parts of ourselves in it.

There’s a moment in a person’s timeline of rage when their eyes soften; it comes right before they cause damage, right before they see red. It’s a rope that we throw at ourselves—the one that leads us back to rational thought; love. Grab on, slowly swing through, converse with the fury you’re surrounded by, let go, and jump. There you are, unconquered.