It’s 3:35 a.m. in Memphis, TN, and sleep eludes me. Perhaps I’m just excited about watching my alma mater take the football field later today. Maybe it’s my husband’s snoring. Or it could be spending a couple of days in my birthplace has me (unusually) reflective. Whatever the cause, it is readily apparent I won’t be sleeping much tonight, so I’ll write about some thoughts I’ve had over the past few months.
It all started when an adoption blogger I follow wrote about her repressed anger at her natural parents. She and her natural family had already reunited when she sought counseling for her adoption-related issues and it was during those sessions that she discovered how angry she was at her natural family. To her credit, and that of her natural family, they stuck with one another during the process of working through those emotions, and remain in relationship.
After reading that post, I began to wonder if I’m angry at my natural mom and dad and just haven’t addressed those emotions. I’ve reflected on this question for several months, and here’s my take on the matter.
I’ve often joked that anger is my emotion of choice. But there’s much truth in that statement. In my opinion, anger is much easier to address than hurt, disappointment, and a large range of other emotions. My anger, in particular, is easy to deal with most of the time. It burns white-hot for a few seconds and then disappears. Because it’s an emotion of choice, I can summon anger at any moment – and I’m sure to those who have seen my anger expressed – it may seem to appear out of nowhere. I suspect those who have seen my anger also associate it with my ability to be cold and calculating – as those two tendencies often appear shortly after my anger has been expressed.
I think for many people, anger is a last resort emotion. I think those people are disappointed, hurt, etc. and then they get to the point that anger is the only emotion left, and that’s when they express it. For me, it’s the exact opposite. I almost always get angry first (which may or may not be noticeable to the person at whom my anger is directed), and if I can address it myself by reasoning through the situation, that’s where the issue ends. All those other emotions are messy, and I don’t like to deal with them, so I choose not to do so. Unless I’m pushed. And that’s where things get messy.
If someone continues to do things that bother me, I can’t continue to reason through that fact in my own mind with anger as my filter because I begin to wonder if their actions are somehow a reflection on me. Maybe I’m not good enough. Maybe they don’t really care about me like they say they do. Maybe they don’t care about me at all. And that’s when I actually begin to process those other emotions. When that happens, my survival and control tendencies work overtime. In exasperation and desperation, I begin to pull back and that’s actually when I become cold and calculating. It’s not an act of anger, but an act of pain and my unwillingness to experience that over again at the hands of the same person.
I think that is one of the reasons it took me so long to finish the process of finding my natural family. I wasn’t angry at them, but I didn’t want to risk being rejected. Before I finally made the decision to search for them, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I would do if they didn’t want a relationship with me, and I decided I could just be angry, but I think there would have been a lot more to it than that simple emotion. Thankfully, I never had to find out because both of my natural parents were willing to have a relationship with me. And lots and lots of other natural family members were as well.
So, do I have repressed anger at my natural parents? No, I don’t. How could I? They did the only reasonable thing they could do under the circumstances (see how easily anger can be resolved through reason?). But I do have repressed hurt that gets repaired each day as I build a relationship with them. And I think that’s complicated and messy and, sometimes, exhausting, but I guess it’s the way it has to work and I believe it’s worth it.
Time to get some sleep,