Ok, I get it. The news is probably full of the next battle after the Oscars slap. It’s old news by now. But, I’m a 60s boomer waiting for the peace we preached and protested for, and nowadays all I see is fighting. It’s just too much.
Hey, back in my day comedian Don Rickles insulted everyone. I never did like his ugly jokes. It’s hard to be funny, especially in a not-very-hilarious world. Robin Williams struggled and Jonathan Winters wound up shimmying up his boat’s mast, naked. I’m not trying to normalize nasty sarcasm, but can we please pick our battles?
Here’s the question resounding within the squiggly noodles called my brain: is this the way of the world now? Bombing and attacking all the time, everywhere we turn? Can’t we show our kids some other idea about power? How about a bit of heroism like being a mature, kind, lucid human being?
To me, the other way to ask this jaw-gnawing question is: what should we all do with our anger? I’ve learned that resentment tells us we have unmet needs, it gives us a way to know what we want, it guides us to ask for our values and wishes. But there’s also fertile information underneath it. So, I turned to Brené Brown’s book Atlas of the Heart, for the calming I craved.
There I found this mouthful of truth: “I’m not sure there’s a braver sentence in the human catalog of brave sentences than “my feelings are hurt.” It’s simple, vulnerable, and honest. But we don’t say it very often. We get pissed off, or we hurt back, or we internalize the hurt until we believe we deserve it and that something is wrong with us. But rarely do we say ‘this really hurts my feelings.’”
Anger is just one of our many emotions. All of them give us information. I had a male client last month who said his wife wanted him to share his feelings more. (Ever heard of that?) No matter how we explored it, he wasn’t aware of any unexpressed emotions. He just felt irritable and impatient. I whispered, “I sometimes find when men guess at their fears or hurt, it helps.” Suddenly, feelings poured out of him.
Expressing our soft underbelly is vulnerable and it’s not always safe, granted. But, all of us are pioneers in the world of emotions. We can learn how to use them constructively, instead of spewing vindication or using armor like “I’ll show you,” or shutting down, etc. We wear our internal defenses like shields and pay for the external ones like the military, walls, and the national defense.
We’re all on edge these days, I get it. My plea is this: can we all keep learning skills for conflict resolution and teach them to our kids? It’s possible on the planet to understand our reactions and direct them towards cooperation, clear requests, and disclosure. It’s time to stop arguing about the Oscars until the cows come home (do they still roam?) and put down the sword. Anger, fury, judgment, stonewalling, shunning, longing, and fear are also floating around underneath our angst.
Katy Byrne, MA, LMFT has been a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Sonoma, CA and the bay area for thirty-five years. She’s been a columnist for The Sun and Women’s Voices News for over 15 years and has written two books: The Courage to Speak Up and The Power of Being Heard. Conversationswithkaty.com. 707.548.8982.