“He who pounds a pillow is in touch with neither his anger nor the pillow.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
What I have always loved about Italians is that they are not afraid to express their emotions. The first day I arrived in Florence, I felt completely at home there. Finally, I didn’t have to feel afraid to share with someone that I was upset about something. Italians are not afraid to listen and appreciate when those they care about are hurting in some way. Most Americans shy away from emotion – especially if it is perceived as “negative”. We don’t understand how to deal with grief, in most forms. It is rather disappointing when you are friends with a person who admonishes you for being angry – it is also rather unhealthy. Stifled anger not only causes emotional upset, but can also lead to many health issues as well. The healthy expression of anger can help you facilitate changes necessary that maybe you have been avoiding which is causing you an even greater amount of suffering.
When I run into those people who turn away at times of dis-ease, I first remember that they are unable to acknowledge and/or deal with their own grief, and then I remember (Agreement #2) do NOT take it personally. I also reflect upon a story that a good friend shared with me, about Thich Nhat Hanh, when I was filled with a great sense of doubt as to whether or not I was allowed to feel the way I did after a great loss.
TNH was to lead a meditation exercise for service men shortly after the Vietnam War. As he stood in front of the men, he could feel their discontent and rage staring back at him. When he began his lecture, the men grew angry and started to yell. One man in particular made several racial remarks and TNH walked off the stage. He then paced back and forth behind the stage for the next 20 minutes or so. A young man asked why he had not responded to the man, and why he was pacing instead. TNH explained that he was waiting until he was no longer angry until he could reply.
TNH did not deny himself the right to be angry, he gave himself (and the other person) some time and space to process the anger, before anything productive could come out of the situation. How often do you own your feelings or turn away from another when they are expressing theirs?