Thursday, November 11, 2010

Go Ahead, Get Angry

Recently I got an email from a woman who had read So Much For My Happy EndingSo Much For My Happy Ending.  She wanted to thank me for “writing her life.” Like my protagonist (April) this reader had been married to a man who is bipolar and refusing treatment.  People who have this particular disorder who refuse treatment can quite literally destroy the lives of the people they love and are usually emotionally and/or physically abusive (although frequently not intentionally). She felt that the book helped her understand that it was okay to be angry at her ex even though she also felt some compassion for him and that she was not obligated to stay with him.

I’ve gotten other emails like hers about So Much For My Happy Ending.  It seems like there are a lot of “Aprils” out there. But what struck me about her email was the part about it being “okay” to be angry.  I would take it a step further.  It’s not only okay to be angry, it’s necessary.  People don’t leave abusive relationships unless they get angry.  Fear keeps people in their place and if all you feel is sorry for your abuser then you’ll try to be a martyr. Only anger will actually get you out the door.  

In fact anger is frequently the agent of change. America wouldn’t even be a country if a bunch of angry settlers didn’t decide that they’d had it up to here with the Brits taxing them without offering them representation.  To this day the most reliable voters are angry voters.  I have mixed feelings about that as I wrote about here but that doesn’t make it less true.  Anger has a bad wrap but on a whole it can be an awesome motivator.

But of course the key is to keep the anger controlled.  It’s okay to be angered into taking action but you don’t want to allow your anger to make you completely reckless and you really don’t want it to make you illogical.  People who know how to manage their anger (and managing anger isn’t the same thing as dismissing it or repressing it) know that living well is the best revenge. People who don’t know how to manage their anger get taken to small claims court for slashing their cheating boyfriend’s tires.

And of course once the anger has moved you to take necessary action, once you’ve effected the change you craved and you are on the path to living a better life and once you’re truly secure with the decisions you’ve made, then you can let the anger go.  When the anger has served its purpose you won’t need it anymore and you’ll know when that moment comes.  But don’t chastise yourself for being angry when you’ve been mistreated or someone has messed with your life, even if that wasn’t their intent. If the anger is moving your life in a better direction, if it’s keeping you from getting depressed and it’s motivating you to take needed risks that you were too afraid to take before then embrace it and yes, control it, but don’t deny it and don’t feel ashamed of it.  

Just be sure you take the living-well revenge-path rather than the tire-slashing one.


Christie Craig said...


Great post. Having had an "April experiece" myself in my younger years, I agree. I know the value of anger and the difference between bitterness and just life-conforming anger.



TerriOsburn said...

I've had some experience with this and definitely used the anger to move on. I remember a few years ago when I realized the anger had gone away. The minor irritation is still there (since we still share a child) but the anger isn't anything like it used to be.

I embraced the living well is the best revenge policy, and man has it worked for me. :) It's cool to hear you've reached so many readers with this book. I'll have to look for it at Borders today.

kyradavis said...

I really think anger is a misunderstood emotion. We have it for a REASON but of course we have to control it. I'm so glad both of you have used it in a positive way to improve your life. Terri--I'm right there w/you in regards to the whole I-have-to-deal-cause-we-share-a-kid but it's not as hard anymore. I can feel more compassion than anger now but it was the anger that helped to get me to a better place.

Robin Kaye said...

I think anger is very healthy as long as it's controlled and I am forever telling my kids that it's okay to be angry. Just use it for good instead of evil.

Anger has fueled so many things. There's a lot to be said for that I'll-show-you attitude. I've used it a few times myself.

kyradavis said...

Robin: I agree with everything you just wrote. I think we make a mistake when we automatically tell everyone to simply "let go of the anger" or to "forgive and forget." Not only is it bad advice it's frequently not even really possible to do. Instead we should be saying (as you say to your kids), "It's okay to be angry and this is how you can control your anger and turn it into something useful." As you pointed out, the key is to control the anger rather than allowing it to control you. But suppressing it or feeling ashamed of it is not useful at all.