23 August 2011

Reflections on anger

I don't get angry well.

Part of this is choice: I don't get angry often, if I can help it. It isn't an emotion I encourage in myself ... in part because I don't do it well.

When I do get angry, I find I am almost always dissatisfied with how I react to what I feel. I tend to either blow up (most likely with the kids, unfortunately) or simmer impotently (social justice issues and such, as often as not). Neither of these reactions is healthy, in my opinion.

Part of this is that I was never taught how to deal with anger. I don't say this as a blame thing — one thing I've learned as a parent is you simply cannot teach your kids everything they need to know, ever. You have to do the best you can and then hope they're able to fill in the rest. My folks did a pretty awesome job overall, if I say so myself. But they didn't teach me, directly or indirectly, how to be angry in a healthy way.

What do I consider healthy anger? Well, it's non-destructive — to both myself and those around me. When a child misbehaves badly, some anger on my part is understandable. What is not healthy or acceptable is acting out that anger in violence towards the child, either physical (e.g., a spanking) or verbal (e.g., yelling excessively or saying things I know will hurt badly). In dealing with this kind of anger, I have found the Dalai Lama's advise to be useful. I don't have the actual quote at hand, but the idea is that it's not enough to suppress negative emotions (such as anger), but rather we should strive to replace them with positive emotions. By consciously striving to feel patience and be patient when I initially feel anger, I can better help my children to learn better behavior while showing them they are loved.

Healthy anger is also productive. It should spur me on to doing what I am capable of doing to right wrongs and fight injustice.

I've been thinking about anger a lot of late because of my maternity care situation. I feel a lot of anger about my situation, even after having had time to process. I'm angry that my choices are so limited, even as I'm aware that my choices are much less limited than many of the other women served by the midwives (there are a lot of Medicaid reliant patients in their office). I'm angry that in order to get midwife-based care that is covered by my insurance, I now have to drive an hour each way — if that office can and will even take me this far into a pregnancy. I'm angry at the hospital administration for choosing to eliminate the midwives. I'm angry at U.S. maternity care in general (i.e., too many hospitals and OBs) for not just not supporting midwives as a valid choice, but actively working to keep that choice unavailable in many areas.

To date, this anger has been of the impotent, simmering variety. It has also been self-destructive: I have been unwilling to even investigate the option an hour away, because I resent that I have to. No more.

Today I will call the midwives who are an hour away and see if they can and will take me.

As soon as I know where I am transferring to, I will write a letter to the hospital informing them that one consequence of their decision to shut down the midwives is that I will not be delivering with them. I would switch the family away from them entirely at our next open enrollment, but the fact is that the insurance plan centered on this hospital is significantly less expensive and I don't think we can afford to. And honestly, I have been quite happy with the care we've received from them otherwise. The admin needs to know that there are people in the community that care about the midwives, however, and they won't know if I (and others who feel as I do) don't write.

And if anyone has any recommendations for reading about anger and how to deal with it in a healthy way, I'd be grateful to have your suggestions.

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