A volcano in my tummy
I don’t know about you but we have real issues with anger in our house. Which is ironic, because growing up, anger was never outwardly expressed in my home. I never heard my parents row; no one raised their voice; no one swore. It took til I was 19 to learn how to swear – Andy taught me! Not that I am extolling the virtues of swearing but repressing anger and bottling it up can lead to a whole host of other problems.
It is OK to be angry. Sometimes there are very good reasons to be angry. Of course, it’s how you handle that volcano in your tummy that matters.
Nicola was seething with anger from the first moment she came to live with us. Before she could even walk, she would shuffle on her bum off the carpet onto the hard wooden floor and then bang her head repeatedly off the floor. She scratched and pulled hair and generally made herself very unpopular in toddler groups! She had good reason to be angry though. She’d been very happy in the foster home, the only home she could remember and then some random stranger had come and handed her over to us and she was now living in a houseful of noisy strangers and had no way of expressing her anxiety and stress apart from through anger. We bought this book – A volcano in my tummy – to teach her some anger management techniques but techniques are so hard to put into practice when the volcano is about to erupt. It’s an ongoing struggle – only yesterday she threw a pot of face cream in anger and it smashed the screen of her Chromebook….so that is no pocket money for the next eight weeks to pay for the repair.
Sometimes when we witness injustices, when we see other people being treated badly or we are treated badly ourselves, the rage builds up slowly within until it erupts like a volcano with devastating effects. I guess this is what happened to Moses in Exodus chapter 2. It is complicated for him. He has been brought up as an Egyptian and has had to watch his own people being abused and exploited and mistreated by the people who have welcomed him as one of them. It builds up inside him until one day, it is all too much and he erupts – killing an Egyptian who he sees beating a Hebrew. It is understandable but definitely not excusable. Allowing anger to build up inside is dangerous and there has to be another way.
And Moses’ response? He pretends it never happened. But the truth will out and when he criticises two Hebrews for fighting the next day, they respond with –
Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian? Exodus 2:14
So Pharaoh finds out and tries to kill Moses and Moses runs away. There are always consequences to an eruption of anger. There have to be. This volcanic eruption is not acceptable – ever. This morning, Courtney has been taken into police custody for breach of the peace for damage caused in the home by her uncontrollable rage. We cannot allow this rage to go unchecked, however hard it is to follow through with the consequences. This is the reality of today in my life as I sit writing this blog about Moses and his rage. Like Moses, she has her reasons – but they do not excuse the emotional and physical damage caused. Right now, she is planning to disappear off to a friend’s for a few days, leaving this home and this family behind her for a while (a bit like Moses). This is not how it is meant to be, how we ever dreamed it would be, how we long with all our hearts for it to be.
So how can uncontrollable rage become controllable? How can we stop a volcanic eruption? The next five points are basically the answer to everything – anxiety, depression, stress, anger management……I’ve read all the self help articles on these subjects and they all basically say the same thing. And in my life, this has become my mantra –
Exercise is the answer – now what’s the question?
Because when the red mist descends, it is too late. Counting to ten is pretty much impossible. Walking away takes an inordinate amount of self-control. It’s all about prevention rather than cure. Commit to these five things for a month and then tell me how your anger issues have been – that’s my challenge for today!
- Exercise – fresh air, physical exercise – the best stress buster in the world (hence my current addiction to it!)
- Healthy eating. Comfort eating really is a short term comfort – in fact, the only comfort is while you’re actually eating – in my experience, after that, you soon feel pretty crap.
- Get enough sleep – however you manage it, do it. You have less emotional resilience if you are over-tired.
- Talk – find the right people to talk to….people you can trust, who know how to listen, who have a positive effect on your well-being rather than dragging you down. And talk during a situation, when the emotions are real, not reported with hindsight….that is so hard but so important.
- Relax – find something you enjoy, really enjoy and go for it! Make it a priority, make time for it and DO NOT feel guilty – it is important for your mental health, stress levels, low mood…whatever you want to call it.