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The Traveler and Anger

Image of old propeller plane in flight. Katherine Broadway, Counselor, Raleigh psychotherapy

Airports are an easy place to lose your temper these days. Between security and lines and delays, stress has become a part of air travel. With that in mind, this story could have happened to any of us.

A seasoned traveler was flying through a major airport after a short trip. She was alone, traveling light, and was well-organized as she went through the security checkpoint. Many of the travelers around her were over-burdened with possessions and took a long time to prepare for their inspections.

THE Incident In Security

The traveler had plenty of time and was not rushed. The TSA agents, on the other hand, were not well-organized and the atmosphere at the checkpoint was tense. When the woman started to push her tray through the X-ray machine, a young security agent came over, gestured at her and said in an aggressive tone, "Stop pushing your stuff."

The woman in the story stepped back and waited, unaware of what she needed to do next. Then, the same security agent used a more aggressive tone to tell her to start pushing her items through, acting as if she was doing something wrong. A conversation ensued that became even more heated, and when the agent saw her frowning, she gave her the head wag – you know the one, where she moves her head from side-to-side.

Now She Was Angry!

In fact, she was so mad, that she informed a supervisor that the agents were very rude; she even suggested it was a job requirement. The supervisor looked at her like this was the first complaint he had ever received.

The Harsh Inner Critic

After the dust had settled and she calmed down she began to feel bad. The good old Harsh Inner Critic came to visit. She began to hear her inner voice asking, “what's is wrong with you?”

The Critic didn't stop there. It went on to say, “that was no big deal, she was only doing her job. You really shouldn't be so touchy. You are just not normal, you get emotional about the dumbest things. Other people do not get upset about these things. You could have gotten into big trouble.”

I disagree. Our traveler was angry for a very good reason. The agent was rude at the very least. It takes no more effort to be civil than to be rude when asking people to do things. The woman telling the story was organized, quietly waiting her turn and doing what needed to be done. The agent needed training in customer service.

Anger As A Tool

Anger is one of the most misunderstood feelings we experience. We try to push it away and ignore it, but it is necessary. Anger is a warning system that something is happening that needs to stop. It creates energy, and if one is in peril, it signals the necessary body and brain chemicals to activate the survival mechanism that we employ to keep ourselves safe.

Certainly in the security line, she was not in danger, but she was being treated in an aggressive way. Her anger was her body's way of telling her that her boundaries were being violated.


So why would her Harsh Inner Critic come out and tell her she was bad?

The Harsh Inner Critic's main job is to protect, and it develops its messages while you are very young. Our traveler came from a family where anger was absolutely unacceptable. Her parents would shame anyone in the family who showed any anger. When she experienced the feeling and acted upon it in a way that was unacceptable in her family, it activated the voice of her Harsh Inner Critic.

Anger is one of many emotions that come with our humanity. Emotions are essential to interpreting how we fit into the world around us. Learning to listen to your anger is important so that you can use it as a tool in your life.

Are you afraid of your anger? Don’t know what to do when you get angry? Does your Harsh Inner Critic try to convince you to ignore your anger when you could use it as a tool? I can help you hear, understand, and use your anger in a constructive fashion. Call me at (919) 881-2001.


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