Mom rage doesn’t have to control your life. Use the emotional guidance scale to heal.
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This blog post could honestly be helpful for anyone struggling with rage. I chose to specifically focus on mom rage for an important reason. Moms have the extra burden of society’s unrealistic expectations to contend with. Motherhood is one of the most stressful jobs in the world, and yet moms are supposed to be saints who never falter or struggle.
Anyone else in the world could vent about their job and a slew of people would show them support or commiserate. The moment a mother vocalizes the difficulty of parenting, she is inundated with comments like “you should be grateful, when there are so many people who can’t have children” or “why did you even have kids if you’re just going to complain?”
Moms are already hard enough on themselves. They don’t need family members or strangers on the internet making them feel bad about their perfectly natural reactions to dealing with the tiny tyrants that infest their wombs and houses.
There is absolutely a way to enjoy motherhood, and that’s my goal for anyone reading this post. The answer comes from understanding the purpose of emotions - not from teaching a mother to bury or hide them.
Mom rage needs to be addressed when you’re not feeling rage-y.
The best time to deal with your mom rage is when you’re feeling relatively calm, long before you get angry. I realize this may be difficult when you have dinner to make and you just stepped in something sticky and one of your kids is beating his brother on the head with a Blippi doll and there are at least 17 emails from the school that you haven’t opened yet.
Still, you need to find some time for yourself to just chill out. This is important for multiple reasons. One, you’re less likely to snap when you’ve had sufficient time to fucking breathe for a few seconds in peace and you don’t feel like all your own personal needs aren’t being met. Two, it prepaves your future.
Pick an affirmation and get in the habit of saying it every day. Don’t just recite it though. Feel the truth of the words. Something like one or two of these:
I do love being a mom most of the time.
It feels so good when I’m able to keep my cool in stressful situations.
There are certain aspects of motherhood I definitely enjoy.
It’s possible for me to remain calm. I’ve done it plenty of times.
Focus on the stuff you’re doing right.
As you’re going through your life, pay extra attention to moments when your kids are being sweet to you or each other. Think about times you really nailed it as a mother. Recall memories that make you happy, moments that made you so proud and happy to be a mom. Remind yourself that these are the moments you longed for before you ever had children.
Again, very important, do this at times where you can genuinely conjure fondness. You’re just building a positive habit here and fostering pleasant future experiences. Do not try this when you’re in the middle of an angry spiral. That would be like your husband telling you to calm down and we all know how that never helps anything.
Also, in moments when you’re feeling pretty chill, envision how you could’ve realistically handled a situation better. Likewise, daydream about a version of you who is always loving and kind and keeps her cool. Don’t forget the mind is a powerful thing. Over time, your brain will literally use that as a blueprint and start constructing it for your future.
Now, let’s use a specific example to showcase how the emotional guidance scale can help with mom rage.
Say you have a toddler who is fighting his nap time. His whining is grating on your nerves and you know you’d both benefit from him sleeping. He gets out of bed for the billionth time and asks you for a snack.
You throw the whole fucking box of yogurt pouches across the room. It slams against the wall so hard it leaves dark scuff marks. (This is definitely not a scenario from personal experience or anything… *sheepish laugh*)
You stare at the damage in shock. The situation has been annoying, for sure, but it shouldn’t have evoked such a strong response from you. What the hell is wrong with you?
This is the point where most of us would feel our shoulders droop in shame. Maybe you refuse to even clean the wall for the longest time, leaving it as a reminder of what an evil asshole you are.
Notice that when you let yourself wallow in shame, you’ve now put yourself at the bottom of the emotional guidance scale, right along with guilt and unworthiness. Some people will keep going until they’re at the very very bottom… fear, grief, depression.
What guilt and shame really mean…
We have taught ourselves to believe that feeling guilt and shame will keep us from bad behavior in the future. This is incorrect. I mean, think about it, in your own experiences, has feeling bad about losing your shit ever prevented you from losing it again in the future?
The opposite is more likely to be true. The longer you let yourself feel bad about it, the more often it seems to happen. It seems baffling, until you realize the purpose of negative emotion.
Feeling any negative emotion is really just an alarm bell going off to tell you that the way you’re thinking about yourself in that moment is wrong. For example, after you threw the yogurt, you felt the despair because you were thinking stuff like:
I’m a monster.
I can’t control myself.
Things will never get better.
This is unforgivable.
I’m a terrible mother.
My kid must hate me.
None of those things are constructive or true. You’re not a monster or a bad mother. You’re a glorious soul having a human experience. Name one other person on the whole planet who hasn’t dealt with rage at some moment. Even Jesus himself tossed some temple tables.
In two seconds, your kid will happily hug you. Maybe in that moment it frightened him and he needs the hug for reassurance. Or maybe he shrugs it off because it’s not much different from when he throws a toy across the room, but he’s willing to hug you to give you reassurance. Either way, he doesn’t hate you.
Wallowing in shame or guilt does nothing for you. You’re gonna have to learn how to move back up the scale.
How do you move up the emotional guidance scale from mom rage?
Instead of dropping lower on the emotional guidance scale, when you feel that mom rage coming on, I want you to reach for just a notch or two higher on the scale. It will feel weird at first. Keep trying.
It’s worth noting that one of the biggest differences in rage and anger is the intensity of it. Once you get to that point, you’ve got so much negative momentum going it’s virtually impossible to simply stop.
Even in the dictionary, rage is described as “violent anger.” Rage makes you feel out of control. That’s what’s so scary about it. In the moment you feel it, there may not be much you can do to prevent yourself from acting out.
However, if you feel it coming on, there are things you can do to slow it down. And worse case, if you do have a super rage-y moment, there are things you can do right afterward that will help you keep it happening again in the future.
Also, please keep in mind that the reason you feel rage is because it feels better than powerlessness. Anger is a self-preservation thing. This is why people sometimes go from weeping over an ex-lover to wanting revenge on the person they once loved. It’s just their Inner Being trying to pull them out of a hole, so they don’t stay in that despair stage.
Applaud yourself for feeling angry sometimes. It’s good to be little feisty when it comes to your own needs. It means you love yourself.
Slow the mom rage by giving yourself permission to be angry.
So, first things first, when you feel the agitation start rising, don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s not wrong to feel negative emotion. It’s just a message. (In another blog post, I talk about the purpose of complaining and I use the analogy of why it’s important that you feel physical pain to let you know something’s wrong.)
Take a moment to address the fact that you’re feeling irritated and remind yourself that negative emotion is a sign to pay attention to your thoughts. So pause and examine what you’re thinking.
There’s probably a whole monologue in your head going on that you don’t even realize, and in those moments you’re accidentally mis-creating. It could be anything from I want to jump out a window if it will give me away from here to I hate motherhood to my kid will never sleep again and I’ll never get a moment of peace.
All of that is bullshit, of course, but it feels very legit in the moment. Sometimes doing that alone, seeing your ridiculous thoughts for what they are, is enough to make you laugh at how extreme your inner monologue is and it breaks the tension.
But… It probably won’t be enough, though. After all you’ve still got a whiny kid standing in front of you who refuses to sleep and give you the mental break you desperately need.
Figure out exactly where you are on the emotional guidance scale. Are you frustrated but you can reach for the hopefulness that maybe he will finally fall asleep in a few minutes or that if he doesn’t he will at least play quietly in the play room while you get stuff done?
Or on you in full blown anger, on the very cusp of losing it? Then reach for a single thought that makes you feel better. That thought might simply be I have every right to be extremely pissed off in this moment! This sucks! That single act of internal validation might be enough to keep you from unleashing rage.
But if it doesn’t…
What if you give in to the mom rage?
You will probably give in to the mom rage a few more times before you’re able to fully overcome it. That’s just the momentum you’ve built up so far. After all, imagine standing at the bottom of a hill with a boulder rolling toward you. Good luck stopping that thing.
Don’t. Beat. Yourself. Up. If you’re tempted to be mean to yourself, remember that it actually makes the situation worse. It doesn’t help diminish your mom rage at all. And your self flagellation doesn’t help your kid either.
The best thing you can do immediately after losing it is reach for another emotion slightly above rage. It will probably still be negative like blame or discouragement or overwhelment, but all of those things feel better than rage.
However, there is one special thing about rage that sets it apart from anger in a good way. It has such an intensity that once the event is over, it can leave you with such a strong desire to feel better that you can zoom up the scale to love.
You know those stories about how a mother can lift a car off her child because her desire to save him is so strong it overcomes any physical limitations? Once the outburst is over you have the opportunity to have a raw, honest moment with your kid.
You can apologize for your behavior, embrace him, and lean into the love you feel for each other. Who knows? Maybe you’ll both be exhausted and fall asleep for that much needed nap.
A little side note:
While these are my own words and my own interpretations, I am heavily influenced by Abraham Hicks and Seth/Jane Roberts, and I always highly recommend their materials. You can see a list of books by clicking here. If you want further information, feel free to reach out.
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