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Reality Check – Anger is not like flatulence

Posted on October 16, 2014 by Maple Creek

When my daughters were younger, we had a big problem at the dinner table. One of our adorable, angelic daughters had a habit of emitting flatulent gas audibly during meals.

In other words, she farted. Loudly. Loud enough to cause her and her sister to convulse into fits of laughter, which usually resulted in more gas being emitted and at least one daughter falling out of her chair.

We tried to explain to this daughter that silent-but-deadly farts are actually more polite than loud ones, but to no avail. When you’ve got to get it out, she said, you’ve got to get it out.

While we were busy confronting this problem, I overheard a radio program on a similar theme. Anger, most people believe, needs to be released or it, too, will bubble up inside you until you explode. And once you release it, supposedly you will feel better. In other words, anger must be like farting. But I don’t believe anger works that way. When we’re angry, if we let it out all at once, we may not get rid of it. In fact, venting anger can actually make us angrier, unless we do it carefully. When we’re angry, we often use harsher words than we really mean. Those words can hurt the other person horribly, making them angry, too. 

My kids got along wonderfully 95 per cent of the time. But when they got angry, the house would be filled with wails of, “you never want to play with me!”, or “you’re such a mean sister!” until finally you heard, “I don’t want to play with you ever again!” and a door slammed somewhere. When such words were said, both girls invariably ended up in indignant tears.

Thankfully, though, our house became more peaceful thanks to an object lesson I tried. Here’s what you do: take two paper plates, two tubes of toothpaste, two popsicle sticks and a $10 bill. Tell the kids to empty their tubes of toothpaste onto the paper plates, and then tell them whoever gets the toothpaste back in the tube first can have the $10. Don’t worry; you won’t be out any money. The task simply can’t be done. Toothpaste, like words, can’t be put back in. Once it’s out, it’s out.

We adults need this lesson, too. After all, if our relationships with our family members are the most precious things to us, then we should make sure we’re treating them with tender care. Running a steamroller over our beloveds as we list all their real and imaginary faults isn’t exactly protecting those relationships.

Sometimes everyone needs a time-out. Perhaps you need to put that colicky baby into a playpen and take some deep breaths, or to tell that wayward teenager who walked in at 2:30 in the morning that you’ll discuss it tomorrow, when you’ve all had a chance to calm down. Or maybe, when your husband arrives home late from work again, it’s time to go for coffee with a girlfriend to give your white-hot wrath a chance to simmer down so you can discuss the issue later constructively.

When my kids fought, I explained this concept to them. Anger is not like farting. You can’t just blow up at each other; you need to identify the real problem and talk about only that. Let’s all treat our most precious relationships with the care they deserve. Maybe there are things that need changing, but don’t just attack someone you love. You can never put that toothpaste back in the tube.

You can find Sheila at http://ToLoveHonorand Vacuum.com.

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