As a caregiver rising to the challenges each day brings, do you get mad very often? Do life’s little inconveniences – an important item forgotten at the store when you have no time to go back, a new complaint from your loved one that must be addressed when there’s no room for that on your schedule, or even spilled milk – sometimes bring forth a tirade of frustration from you? (Of course, we know you only vent it when your loved one’s not around…but you may still feel bad, guilty and ashamed about it afterwards, right?)
It may surprise you to know that those occasional tirades:
- Are completely normal in your situation, and help you let off steam in a safe, non-confrontational way,
- Allow you to quickly “reset” your brain so you can continue dealing with whatever is required of you in that moment, and
- Contrary to what you might think, are likely a sign that you’re dealing with frustration in a far healthier way than if you were shrugging everything off like it’s “no big deal” (as in when you say, “That’s FINE, then I’ll just go back to the store and pick up that prescription I forgot…. I’ll have to skip that quick get-together with my friends that I was so looking forward to…but I guess it wasn’t that important anyway….”).
Our society tends to value the ability of some people – especially women – to go through life without ever becoming outwardly angry. Therefore if you get angry at all, you judge yourself just for feeling angry, and much more for expressing it – even in privacy.
The irony is, if you make friends with it and listen to what it’s telling you, your anger in all its forms is one of your greatest allies in creating a life free of the debilitating kind of long-term stress that doesn’t just make day-to-day experiences unpleasant, but can literally make you sick!
I go into detail about this phenomenon, and why we all (and especially family caregivers!) need a new perspective about anger, in the Take Back Your Life book…such as in the following excerpt:
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From Take Back Your Life, Chapter 5:
Caregivers often do not acknowledge any anger until it’s an explosion or a major implosion. If you hear yourself saying or thinking things like, It doesn’t matter, She can’t help it, It’s all right, Who cares, Someday it will be better, or, Never mind, you may be pushing aside feelings and issues. If you find yourself saying things like that throughout the day, and throughout the week, allow yourself to Stop! Breathe! Focus!
What is that little twinge you’re saying “Never mind” about? Those little never-minds build up. And you eventually get to a point where your anger suddenly feels overwhelming – either externally, and you have an explosion, or internally, and you suffer all the consequences of your unexpressed anger.
In situations like this, we’re either going to explode, implode, or find a way to be passive-aggressive. These attitudes and behaviors manifest in behaving as a bully, a victim, or a martyr, none of whom are happy people. We’re working on achieving the internally calming strategy. Counselors have long said, “You have to feel it to heal it. A feeling denied is intensified.”
If you are afraid of feeling angry, then you’re probably afraid of expressing your needs. If you are willing to befriend your angry feelings and communicate in a productive way, then change can happen.
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There are so many situations that can trigger anger, and everyone has their own unique patterns around anger that have become embedded in “who they are” since childhood. It’s a huge topic that affects not just individuals and families but whole societies.
You may not be able to resolve all the conflicts that involve people around you feeling angry, but exploring what I teach about anger in Chapter 5, and answering the questions in that chapter’s worksheet, is a great place to start in your own life. Once you acknowledge your anger and whatever form(s) it takes, you begin to mine a rich lode of information about your deepest needs, desires and goals for your life – and how you may be neglecting them in the name of being perceived as the “no problem” caregiver all the time.
We deal extensively with the topic of anger in one section of the TBYL Group program, We all feel angry and/or resentful at some point through our caregiving responsibilities. If we’re honest with ourselves, and use the information our anger makes available to us, it’s often life-changing.
So why not take your anger by the hand, welcome it in and make it your best friend? Really listening to what it’s trying to tell you and you’ll open the door to a whole range of new choices that result in you having a much happier life, while still providing the high-quality care that’s so important to you.
Feel free to leave a comment below about how anger shows up in your life, and what you’ve learned about yourself through your experience with anger. Or send me an email at Loren@LorenGelbergGoff.com and let me know what insights, questions and ideas for change this article brought up for you.
For more ways to have the best possible life while being a great caregiver, be sure to get the book and keep reading!