I first noticed I was hiding behind emotional armor with a friend of mine that I loved very much. It was difficult and I choose to give up my emotional armor and become vulnerable. We used to go skating in Central Park every Sunday, she, her husband and my husband (now ex) and I. They were all good at skating. I was awful and gradually over time I became better. One Sunday we had a skating picnic for a friend’s birthday in the Central Park. My friend wanted me to skate with her like we always did and I said “in a minute.” However, that minute never happened she got angry because I didn’t skate with her that Sunday.
We lived in the same building; we were neighbors, so I couldn’t avoid my friend who got really angry at me and we started fussing, me standing my ground that I did not have to skate. During those times I did not have the context of having it all, I lived in a one-or-the-other world. We both went home to our respective houses upset. However, the fussing continued with our respective husbands until they became fed up. My husband called friend’s husband and they both came down to our apartment and we all came together. Our husbands knew that they would not be getting any peace while we were upset with each other. They let us hash it out. I was by the bathroom with my arms crossed and my lower lip pushed out sulking, she was on the corner of our couch, arms crossed in a slouched position.
I loved my friend very much, and I felt the love and the upset I could feel both emotions were whirling around inside me. I did not want to acknowledge either of them. It was in that moment that I accepted that I had armor. I wanted to be right, and upset, rather than ask her to forgive me and admit that she was disappointed. I knew that if I continued this way I would lose my friend, which would meant losing all the fun that we had together, the skating, parties, cocktail hours, conversations in the garden, shopping, everything and most of all the intimacy and trust we ever had. This was the first time that I realized that this is the way I acted when I felt attacked or made wrong. I would just cut off the relationship. I saw that I was prone to suffering rather than cleaning up the messes.
I took a leap of faith and took responsibility for my armor. It was a protective shield that I had created years ago to avoid feeling vulnerable. Being vulnerable for me was a weakness and I didn’t want to look or feel weak. Accepting my fear of vulnerability opened me up to a sense of power. I became honest with myself and my friend. I’m human, at some point in my relationships and interactions I will experience or cause upsets, disappointments and communication breakdowns. Life is not black and white and my fears were valid, and my actions or inactions have consequences.
I’ve learned that anger is an important emotion and if not expressed it ends up becoming resentment. Anger is here to help us deal with our perceived violations and perpetrations. I can choose to express it or repress it. If repressed it becomes a vicious cycle and I will continue experience lack of control. I feared my anger because I felt that it was bigger than me. I repressed anger not knowing it was the same experience, Ieaving me with feelings of constant defensiveness.
Today, I feel that there really is nothing to be fearful of about my anger. Owning anger and using it as an alarm system to realize when our boundaries have been breached. Note that when we are angry it looks like we are angry at the other person. However, if we are honest with ourselves we see that we are angry at ourselves when we distinguish this, it become a form of sadness, and I have now learned to deal with it in a way that supports me. I can be with my anger. I listen to what aspect of my boundaries have been breached. Katherine Woodward Thomas so eloquently says:
“Listen to its power and its fury. Underneath the resounding whirlwind of rage is a very important message that we obviously need to hear. When anger consumes us, there is information present that is much like gold that must be searched for and minded.”
We can then restore our integrity and personal safety. Anger becomes an opportunity to take positive action – where relationships thrive, friendships are maintained and love is present. It is a powerful opportunity for balance in relationships.
We cannot have or keep love and friendship alive without experiencing our emotions and growing without doing the work we are resisting.
You do not have to answer the questions below – however, by doing so and taking action you might be able to put your boundaries back in place and restore your personal integrity. You might see and opportunity for true forgiveness.
- Who are you angry at?
- What are you most afraid of?
- What are the violations of your boundaries?
- What is your responsibility?
- What if any actions are you willing to take or not take?
- What could happen if you take no action?
- When will you take these actions or have the matter be complete?
- Is there a place for forgiveness of yourself or the person involved?