I have always been uncomfortable with anger. It's not an emotion that I often feel (except, historically and mysteriously, with both of my brothers). When things don't go the way I wanted, or when something dangerous is closely evaded, or when someone tricks me, or when I am denied something I desire, I feel disappointed, relieved, embarrassed, or frustrated. My reaction to these feelings is usually a strangely mis-fitting pleasant attitude, an even-keel calm, some distracting humor... but rarely anger.
So, door slamming, raised voices, shaking fists and red faces were always frightful and foreign to me because I didn't understand them, and didn't know how to interpret them, accept them, or respond to them. This difficulty was amplified in my employment, where I had to sort through the meaning and motivation of being swore at, stormed out upon, and glared into the ground. I didn't take it personally, and wasn't hurt by it; if anything, I was baffled and amused. But my amusement was not constructive or helpful, so for the past 3 years, I have been observing and interpreting anger in order to react to it well, and respond to it helpfully. Today's observation brought a particularly helpful amount of understanding.
Pamela was the first person in front of my office this morning at 8 AM, with 3 tired children and an apathetic boyfriend. She immediately stated her demands (none of which I could meet (at least right away)), and towed her crew into my office with a slammed door, a raised voice, a shaking fist, and a red face. I watched with a strangely mis-fitting pleasant attitude and even-keel calm (trying to suppress my humor reflex), as she yelled at me the injustice of my inadequacies. I could see pretty clearly that it was not the lack of a 30-day Bus Pass that was boiling inside of her, but the disappointment, the embarrassment, and the frustration of a mother who felt unable to take care of her kids; a woman who was being mentally abandoned by the man who was her greatest sense of comfort and support; the child of a mother who belittled her for her dependency, even if it was temporary.
I began to understand that anger appears stronger than embarrassment or defeat. Anger is powerful, not vulnerable.
Pamela is angry because her and her 3 kids are staying in an emergency shelter, and are shooed out during the day into the elements with no transportation. She's angry because she doesn't have anywhere to go. She's angry because her boyfriend is going to leave and go back to his mama's house in Benton Harbor. She's angry because she just wants to play with her kids, to take care of them, to be able to get what she needs, to be secure, to know what will happen tomorrow, and next week, and next month, and to be able to put down her bags in a place where they won't get stolen, and feel like her kids are safe even when she is not holding all of their hands, and cook the way she loves to, and relax her muscles, and slow her mind, but she can't. So when her boyfriend leads the kids back to the waiting room and closes the door behind him...
... she lays her head on the desk and weeps.