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October 16, 2023

Are we angry at the watermelon?

A fluffy kitten is sitting on top of a watermelon, looking disgruntled. And the caption reads…

“Never before has anything been so angry at a watermelon.”

How many times have there been situations in which we found ourselves being as angry with/at anything as this small feline is?

Is there an explainable, justifiable reason the kitten is livid with this large fruit?

No, probably not.

The kitten’s probably upset about something else. The little critter is scared, hungry, lonely, cold. Something. It’s not because of a deep-seated hatred of watermelon. It seems ridiculous for us to sign onto the belief that Kitty is reasonably irate over that summertime treat.

So, why is it not ridiculous for us to believe, at face value, that we are simply mad at something or someone, clear cut, pure and simple, without delving any deeper into what’s driving the fury?

So, what’s the deal?

We are stuck in a moment of displaced anger.

It’s a simple statement, but far from simple as a practiced behavior.

We can determine that anyone or anything is the cause of our rage and our maladaptive behavior. That is the villain; that is our enemy.

The focus of our rage is not the real focus.

Being angry solely at the watermelon is not the solution.

We may assent to that logically, but emotionally? That is trickier.

It’s easier to believe we are smarter and better than someone who could lose it as easily as a kitten over a melon.

But our emotions? They typically don’t seem to cooperate with a “rational” or “am appropriate” response.

Instead, we do things like…

We launch into a tirade with a telemarketer or a customer service person…

We not only flip the bird to a person who cuts us off, but we stop the car, get out of the car, and aggressively charge the other driver with yelling, threats, and anything that can work to convey our menacing status…

We set our ex’s clothes on fire after we break up with them… (or sometimes, before we break up with them)…

The anger is displaced.

Yes, it is.

The prospect of change is discouraged?

Part of why it’s displaced is because we have often received the message and the experience that anger was unacceptable and unsafe.

And it that message, change was also forbidden.

No, we weren’t granted permission to have an uncomfortable and unpleasant emotion or response. That includes anger and frustration.

For those things to be allowed, change would also need to be embraced as well.

And many of us were around people and systems that wanted nothing to do with change, from us, or from anyone or anything else.

Well, that’s realistic and healthy, isn’t it?

So, when that has been our daily and regular experience, anger is the response. It is usually in the form of suppressed, chaotic, and dysfunctional expressions of anger, but it’s there. Anger must go somewhere; it needs to be channeled somehow.

And sometimes, that’s on a designated watermelon of our choice: a person, place, or thing. We “take it out” on someone or something because the toxic buildup can only operate in our bodies and minds for so long before it winds up exploding.

What can we learn to generate a better result?

Coping strategies. What are they?

Can they be healthy and constructive instead of our go-to, quick on the trigger, outbursts at our designated melons?

I know the prospect of this can provoke eye rolls and frustrated sighs. The mind, perhaps, is not as gratified at thoughts of employing hobbies, like knitting or journaling. Is it realistic to believe that these options can work for us?

But many of us, in various ways, have learned how destructively displayed anger has not worked for us. We have suffered the consequences. We have lost relationships, marriages, careers, reputations, money, and self-respect, taking it out on our chosen watermelons.

We now have numerous regrets about those life choices.

Once upon a time, we “learned” to be angry at the melon. Therefore, it’s possible to learn other things as well.

Hobbies. Activities. Therapy. Self-reflection tools. Radical acceptance of truth.

We can learn those things.

The why question replaces the watermelon.

That education often begins once we ask, “Why.”

Why did we choose the watermelon as our watermelon of unleashed anger?

What purpose did that melon serve?

What need were we trying to meet?

What were we trying to avoid?

Instead of just emotionally and mentally checking out, we can confront the melon for what it represented to us.

How was it a pacifier? How was it an acceptable release valve? How was it nourishment?

The watermelon fed us somehow. What was that?

It is about imperfect substitution. Yes, we exchange one for another.

And the “why question” often replaces our lack of awareness, and our habit of choosing the numb approach, instead of “feeling the feelings.”

Choosing other things than our familiar watermelons take commitment and work.

We can be angry, in our real lives, and have that anger be healthier.

Let the watermelons simply be watermelons.

Copyright © 2023 by Sheryle Cruse

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