I don’t really keep up with Elena Brower’s life too much, and so I’m not sure if this subject remains current, but the other day a Babs came acros this 2011 post by Elena, which discusses her apparent anger issues. Now, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t suffer from time to time from the great red beast, but what really struck me about Elena’s handling of her anger, was her use of punitive measures.
From the article:
“At first, [my coach and I] designed a consequence of money: each episode of my temper with my kid cost five bucks, then fifty bucks.Then we chose the consequence of a can of Red Bull for each incidence of temper (I eat kale twice a day, so Red Bull, with all due respect to the Red Bull lovers, is straight-up punitive). Each of these consequences did slow me down, to be sure, but the anger wasn’t gone.”
But, Elena was eventually instructed to quit the punitive consequences and replace them with embarrassing ones, which, by the way, remains punitive.
“Every time I have a strong outburst with my son, I have to explain what I’m about to do, and then sing the below song to the nearest adult stranger, with him present. It’s happened twice in a few weeks, and yes, it’s funny, but more importantly, my temper is losing steam because I know as soon as I feel the burn that I’m going to have to sing to a stranger.”
And, sing what exactly?
“Oh I wish I was a less angry mama / That is what I’d truly love to be / And someday I will be less angry / ‘Cause this song is gonna take it outta me.”
You can listen to the song here.
Can you imagine walking down the street with your kid, when some skinny white chick comes up to you and starts singing this shiz? Now you’ve got two kids who are totally traumatized—the kid who’s mom is singing the song, and the other kid who’s looking up at his mom with teary eyes asking “Why is the crazy lady singing at me mama?”
Elena, baby. We need to talk.
Listen. Anger is an emotion. I know some people want to believe that it’s a dangerous one, or that it is somehow low on the emotional totem pole. But, really it’s just an irrational response to stimuli. There was a time when I was head high in the teachings of a particular Western teacher who believed that anger was, in and of itself, cancerous. In some sense this is true. But, in actuality, it’s not the feeling of anger that is cancerous, but our inability to step outside it, to witness it, that eats away at our being.
Anger, like any feeling, is an opportunity to investigate the self and how we’ve consciously or subconsciously constructed this self and taught it to behave. See it, and other rebellious emotions, as doors, entry points, and opportunities. Don’t shun them. They’re ripe for investigation!
For example, when I get angry, I need to first know that I am angry. Then, from there, I can try and locate that anger in my body.
Hmmm…. I think it’s in my chest. Also, a little bit on the back of my neck. It feels hot there. Like someone poured hot pepper just below my hairline.
Then, I trace the anger as far back to its emotional source as I can, allowing myself the freedom to be honest about where this may lead me.
I started to get angry when my kid dropped his ice cream on line at the bank. If I think about it, my initial feeling was actually embarrassment, because that’s how my mom made me feel when I made a mistake in public. I hated feeling embarrassed as a kid. And, now I hate feeling embarrassed by my kid. My embarrassment, and the way my mother made me feel, makes me angry.
And, wouldn’t you know it, now you can see that your “anger” isn’t really anger at all, but rather an angry-textured veil protecting you from feeling embarrassment.
See where I’m headed with this?
Were I to simply sing my anger away, I’d have no opportunity to grab hold of the rope of anger and spelunker my way into its depths, essentially disempowering myself through willful ignorance. In effect, I would become less intelligent of my own self were I to sing away my feelings.
So, stop being so hard on yourself, girl. Children can be total bastards—little shits seemingly put on this planet to destroy all that is good in adults. And, yet, aren’t they unbelievably spectacular? They contain the entirety of the universe, and with that the ability to make anyone who’s near them at their worst want to claw out of their own eyeballs. It’s cool. Talk to your kid about anger, and don’t let him deny or judge it. He’ll thank you later in life when every girl (or boy) in town wants to do him ’cause they’ll think he’s so super grounded, understanding, and sincere. He’ll be like a big sexy ox and have you to thank (who will, in turn, have us to thank).