I remember reading one time that sometimes people think they’re angry because they aren’t comfortable with or don’t know another word that fits what they’re feeling. In reality they might be frustrated, upset, annoyed, depressed, or offended. We’ve dealt with this in our family more than once.
The first occasion was when our precious youngest son kept saying he hated his father when he was out to sea. In our version of Navy life, my husband leaves for a couple months at a time, a few times a year. Each of our three children has responded to these patrols differently. Our little guy, though, took it the hardest and I didn’t know what to do until Dada came home. When I told him to be prepared because his son kept telling me he hated him, he calmly responded, “He’s probably just mad at me for leaving.” Light bulb!
Of course he was. And that’s not only completely normal, but something I can work with and help with. I didn’t know how to take “hate” out of the mix, but thankfully my husband did. It took a few more months but our son finally started to identify other feelings – sadness, anger, “I miss him” – and stopped telling me he hated Dada. Crisis of emotions averted.
Lately, our daughter has been struggling with anger issues. She flies off the handle with her brother, who is very good at remaining calm and poking the bee’s nest. Until recently, I figured it was just a sibling thing. But she’s also reacted more strongly than I felt necessary when things haven’t gone her way and her brother wasn’t involved at all. When I ask her about it she says, “It makes me so angry!” Every time. So, today we chatted about other words that might fit more precisely and give her options for how to act.
provoked, agitated, ruffled, flustered, frustrated, startled, shocked, irritated, mad, fuming, raging, displeased, bitter, resentful, offended, jealous, envious, troubled, pained, hurt
I’m hoping this lesson with my Dollar Store thesaurus will help our lovely, little girl better identify and react to the emotions that bubble up inside her.
Sitting down with her got me thinking about my verbiage too. I often say I’m tired. I think I’ll try on some of these other options. “Tired” is so…yesterday. Today and tomorrow I might be weary, drowsy, exhausted, spent, bummed, down, worn out, overwhelmed, disinterested, or bored. Or old. My patient, antagonistic son likes to remind me that I’m old. And that makes me tired.
Alas, thesauruses are a wonderful resource and I think we should pull them out more often. It could make life more interesting and more approachable. When I look at my list I see that the answer for me might not automatically be more sleep. I could combat being “tired” by doing something different, going for a walk, calling a friend, or journaling. And all these options brought to you by my thesaurus!
I wonder what you can learn about you life by checking out some emotion or feeling your stuck on? If you try it, let me know!