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Moving From Anger and Rage, a Caregiver’s First Steps

Posted Sep 14 2009 10:37pm

You’re furious at your siblings for not helping you in caregiving  mom or dad. You’re outraged at your mom or dad or spouse because he/she said something really, really  ugly that pushed all your buttons–and they expect and demand so much. You feel like you could just walk out the front door and keep walking.

That’s two types of caregiver rage–there’s many more. Rage is so off the charts that it consumes you. Rage is when you want to hit something (or someone) smash something, cry, scream and just absolutely lose it. You can lose yourself in rage, but it’s also a tool. Rage tells you that something is terribly wrong. Listen to it. Then figure out how to get out of this volatile place before it harms you.

How do you get out of being “en-raged?”

I won’t tell you to slap a smile on your face and go out into a field and pick daisies. That’s insulting. You may have every right to be that ticked off.

Getting out of rage takes time and comes in incremental steps.

Think of a marathon runner. They didn’t just put in their running shoes, open the front door and sprint 26 miles the first day. They started with a half mile walk around the block–a mile or two. Then they began to walk-jog. That’s where I am. I walk-jogged 3 miles this morning. That’s all I’m capable of. I envision myself walk-jogging five miles, and eventually jogging more than walking. But it’s going to take time.

If someone tells me to be happy when I’m not, it makes me even more livid! 

I have been so head-exploding hurt and enraged that it took me years to deal with it. Not kidding. I had some pretty big hurts to get over. I never ever thought I’d say this, but I’m not longer in-raged. If something happens that pokes the embers, yes, I can still get pretty worked up. But in general, I can observe my thoughts, my emotions now, I can see now that the other person was sick or hurt and they did some really awful things. No excuses, but I too have done some mean things, and we’re all accountable for our own actions. I’m out of the vengence game. I’m all out of hate–the barrel is empty.

You can’t let go of this crap overnight, or even in a few days or weeks–not when it’s huge.

Rage can turn into anger.  Anger is like ocean waves. You can feel moments of absolute fury, but then there’s a lull. Sometimes, like waves, anger rolls in one on top of the other. Then, it’s calm for a while.

Anger can be notched down to hurt. Tears may come. Or screams. Good tears. Good screams. A baseball bat slammed on a pillow might feel really good.

Or anger might morph into resentment. It’s all part of the process. Resentment can be reasoned with–a little. Resentment may turn into disagreement. You can vehemently disagree with someone. You may not understand their viewpoint but you don’t feel the need to rip their eyebrows off their face. You can choose to walk away from a disagreement. You can choose your words, feel pity for them, and eventually, wish them no harm. It takes time.

So if you’re off-the-charts crazy mad right now. Don’t even try to be nice. Just try not to hurt anyone–with words of actions. That’s a big accomplishment, and it’s enough–for now.

Being at peace and joy may feel as far away as from here to Australia–it may feel impossible to get there. But do you know that if you want to go, you can book a reservation and fly to  Australia? Yes, it’s a long way, especially from the East Coast, but it is possible to see koalas and the Sydney Opera House. First, you have to believe that Austrailia (peace and joy) is out there–somewhere–even if you can’t see it, or even get there today.

Forget about trying to make the finish line in one giant leap. You’ll land flat on your face.  Just get your shoes on, head out the front door and tell yourself you’re just going to stroll around the block. That’s all. First steps.

Carol O’Dell

Author, Mothering Mother

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