I have met many parents who have experienced more moments of explosive, disproportionate rage than they would really like to admit. Below are some tools to help.
Rage, anger, and resentment
Rage differs from resentment, anger, or irritation in that it feels uncontrollable. Rage is more likely to be explosive, and you will have almost no time in which to employ emotional regulation tools when it is happening. It overpowers you This is why you end up lashing out and behaving in ways you will deeply regret, like shouting at the kids, or telling your spouse that they are an ar*%hole.
First of all mothers are prone to experiencing rage because pregnancy, birth, and parenting are so hard, all consuming, and challenging – way more so than many of us realise before we do it. The other factor is how resourced you feel, many mothers are not too well resourced – basic needs like sleep, time alone, a moments peace, are not being met.
Often while meeting the needs of others a mother’s thoughts and feelings go unprocessed, and build up. When the tipping point comes it is often over something seemingly trivial. Rage doesn’t come from nowhere – it is not the being five minutes too late, or the lost homework that is the real problem. Underneath the surface there will be an iceberg of unprocessed emotions and thoughts from the day, the year, since your child was born, even since your own childhood. The explosion is not out of nowhere as it seems.
What can I do?
Firstly, get to know your triggers – is it when your children seem rude and ungrateful? or when they hurt one another? Is it when there is too much noise and sensory overload. Amidst the technicolour, high decibel world of children, things do often get loud, fast, and messy. Mums are often given the advice to walk away for a few minutes to calm down but that is not always an option.
Getting to know your triggers is about looking for patterns as to when you struggle most.
How to process
Once you have committed to letting go of your unhelpful patterns there are things you can try, to help you regulate your emotions effectively :
- Journal. Writing it out can really help to identify, validate, and express those feelings so they don’t accumulate and erupt in an unwanted way. This is a simple, effective, and deep level of self-care.
- Meditate. Meditation is an invaluable tool in the quest for better emotional regulation – there is really nothing as effective as mindfulness in learning to hold and observe emotion without acting out.
- Expect less. This might sound like a bit of a cop-out but when making your plan for the day, bear in mind your limitations – have you had barely any sleep? Remember your basic needs – you will need to rest, drink water, eat well. Prioritize feeling resourced – you can’t give what you haven’t got. Give yourself what it is you need.
- See a counselor. Professional support is really useful especially if you feel under-resourced, or like you need some extra support. Seeing a therapist can help you to learn new emotional regulation tools to help you in the here and now and also help you to work through deeper issues like grief, your own experiences as a child, or relationship issues.
You are not alone
Yes, mothers don’t often share their worst parenting moments with each other at the school gates, but try taking small risks and sharing with trusted peers, or in online communities. You will find it is not just you.
Try writing down a list of all those adults around that you could rely on in some way for support should you need it – hopefully this will help you to feel a bit more resourced, and less alone.
Keep it in the day
Allow yourself forgiveness rather than falling into the black hole of shame, so that you can start again without being dragged down for too long by regret. You know raging is bad for your children but change is eminently possible, keep it simple and keep it in the day.
What can you do today that will make a difference – can you meditate for ten minutes while the baby naps? Could you do some yoga at home? Could you write out how you are feeling? Take responsibility for your rage a day at a time by incorporating these self-care tools into your routine.