Think about the last time you were insanely angry. Not mildly annoyed or a bit irritated. When you were full-on mouth-foaming, heart-racing, couldn't see straight angry. When you remember that moment, ask yourself this question: What was I grieving?
I know, seems like a strange question. You might tell me, "I wasn't grieving anything, I was *#@X+$% angry!" And maybe that's true. Or maybe it's not.
As frustrations grow in the COVID-19 age about our health and safety, the current state of the US and the world, and our seemingly grim future, anger has risen. Some is certainly justified, but a lot of times it seems wildly out of hand. The hate and vitriol don't seem to match the circumstances to which they are applied.
We have all undergone an immense change since the coronavirus struck. But we were immediately thrust into survival mode, trying to figure out how to take care of the most basic of needs -- food, shelter, supplies. We didn't have time to stop and think about what this huge change meant for us indefinitely.
Nor did we grieve our immeasurable loss -- for our lives as we once knew them, the reliable physical and emotional connections we had with family and friends, the ability to go where we wanted when we wanted, the ease of obtaining things we needed, and so so much more.
Anger, like grief, is often our response to feeling loss, helpless, sadness, or out of control. And when we don't acknowledge (or don't want to acknowledge) that we are feeling those things, rather than grieving what we feel we've lost or why we're sad, we get angry. Most often turning that anger on others despite their potential innocence in the situation. Yet that anger hurts us, too. Our mental health suffers because we dwell on negative thoughts and can't sleep at night, and our physical health is affected because our bodies are in a state of high alert -- adrenaline pumping, heart pounding, muscles tense.
The temporary release of anger might feel good in the moment, but the harm we may have done to ourselves or to others could be long-lasting and deep.
If you get curious and stop to ask yourself, "What am I grieving?" when you are angry, you might find something else there.
Perhaps you're feeling like you can't protect your family, or you're scared of losing your job, or you don't know where the money to pay bills is coming from. Perhaps you are hurt by all of the terrible things you are seeing in the news or on social media. Perhaps you're sad that you don't know how to help what's going on.
Whatever it is you may be feeling, being able to see it for what it is, to sit with it for a bit, to allow yourself to feel it and work through it -- in your mind and your body -- might help give you a sense of calm and centeredness.
Anger is useful, but it's not useful for everything, or all the time. Instead, let's find out what's really going on within, so we can hope, heal, and find some optimism in these often dark times.
Although these resources aren't specific to coronavirus, there are some good tips for dealing with our sense of loss due to the pandemic:
Articles Feeling Grief Means Being Alive: 7 Tips to Help - PsychCentral From Sad to Mad: How Suppressing Your Sadness Invites Anger - Good Therapy Psychology Tools: What is Anger? A Secondary Emotion - HealthyPsych