Of all the emotions, anger is surely the most dangerous. Not only because of how much damage it can wreak left unchecked and unrestrained, but also because sometimes it masks another emotion that is too hard to face. Like fear. Or despair.
While using anger to mask other emotions tends to be a masculine prediliction -- and I have first-hand knowledge of this from my son who seems to coincidentally get in trouble at school for fighting when he has heavy things happening in his life -- this is something I do as well.
It is a lot easier to get angry than to admit that I am overwhelmed with fear. It is lot easier to stamp my feet and curse than admit devastating sadness and cry myself to sleep. While I have done both--admitted I was overwhelmingly frightened and cried myself to sleep-- I often resort to anger. It is a defense, I know. But it feels more empowering than sadness or fear.
But I also know if I'm not identifying the right emotion, it can sneak up on me and come out sideways. That anger I am expressing can become uncontrolled. I become unreasonable. I have resorted to violence in my anger-twisted justification of dealing with the alcohol-altered person I married.
So, knowing this about myself, I know I need to deal with the real emotion behind the mask. Even if it hurts, even if it too hard.
My ex is in Rehab. This is a good news, even if this is not his first time to the rodeo. While I pray that this time is sustainable, I am keeping in mind the old adage of "hoping for the best and preparing for the worst." I am keeping my expectations in check. I remember how disappointing it is when sobriety is hard-gained and then lost in a flash.
I've examined my emotions from all sides and here is the deal: I am angry. Period. It is not sadness or anything else. It is out and out pissed-off spit and vinegar anger.
I am angry for what he has put our son through. I am angry that my son at the tender age of nine, whose biggest worries should be whether there are enough batteries for his Star Wars light sabers, is worried instead on whether or not his father will be sober for good. I'm pissed that our son has had to learn so early that people you love desperately can also be untrustworthy. That a person whose job it is to care for you can be unreliable and neglectful. That he lashes out in school when the worry gets too much. I'm furious that it is taking a team of counselors and family members to make sure he knows that he's safe and loved and help him navigate his emotions.
Maybe I'll move on from this anger, but that is where I am right now and sometimes anger is the appropriate emotion. I know it is a disease. I know! I know my ex isn't choosing to hurt our son. I know! I know his guilt has got to be overwhelming. I know all this and perhaps in the near future I can even bring myself to feel compassion.
But, first and foremost, I am a mother, dammit! Like all mothers I want the best for my child and I want to protect him from harm. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned? nuh uh. Hell hath no fury like a Mother whose child is hurting.