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"I'm angry and I feel guilty about it"


By Phillis A. DeLaricheliere, MS
Weymouth – Anger, the unacceptable and misunderstood emotion.  Like all the feelings on the wheel of emotion it is a necessary one and it too has its place.  If it was not for anger, then in some instances we would not know anything is wrong. Anger is in most situations an automatic reaction when a situation occurs that makes us feel threatened, rejected or experience a loss.  It is a natural response to pain whether emotional or physical [1].
So how many of us feel angry at our loved one with Dementia?  Mad at them for altering your journey, changing life plans, or not emotionally being there for you anymore?  Angry that you are now having to do it all.  Angry that after raising children, and working all these years, it’s not what you signed up for.  Angry that you feel obligated, mandated, trapped. These are all honest responses, but we feel so guilty if we express it.  So alternatively, we suppress it which can be unhealthy and lead to depression. Feeling anger isan acceptable response.  Your feelings are real, and acknowledgement is so important.  Anger is neither negative nor positive, and if we feel guilty about being angry it’s more than likely you have been conditioned to feel that way.
Anger is often a smoke screen emotion covering up something underneath.  It can be a substitution for emotional pain.  It’s easier to be angry than feel the pain of knowing our loved one has Dementia. It provides a distraction.  If you are angry, you don’t have to focus on the real feelings that lie underneath.  It empowers you.  If you are angry, you feel more in control and you find an enemy.  Finally anger covers up vulnerability. The emotions of sadness, fear, anxiety can be masked by this focus shifter.
Feeling guilty denies you the right to express and cope with Anger.
Here are some things to try:[2]

  • Acknowledge your feelings and accept it’s ok to have all of them.
  • Don’t use anger as a mask. If you are feeling sadness, hopelessness and fear – share those feelings so you attract what you need and not scare it away
  • Allow yourself to be angry at the cause not the person. So, get angry with dementia!  Resent it, plot its demise! But take the person out of it, they are simply a victim.  Trust me, then did NOT sign up for it and are just as angry.
  • Express your anger in safe ways
    1. Discuss with a family member, friend, or support group you trust
    2. Beat up a pillow
    3. Yelling – express anger loudly and with conviction – release it
    4. Physical exercise to destress and allow the anger to dispense
    5. Meditation, massage therapy or other holistic approaches

Whatever works for you, learn to express your anger in a healthy way.  As Caregivers you face a journey of unknown, with no compass, map or directions. Allow yourself to feel the wheel of emotions and find the avenues that are healthy for YOU to express them.  You are NOT alone.
2016-new-headshot1About the Author
Phyllis A. DeLaricheliere, MS is a sought-after speaker/educator and award-winning writer. Her first book “Embracing the Journey: Knowing your Inner Hippie” comes out in 2019.  Her passion for finding solutions to the Dementia epidemic has turned into a crusade and she is humbled to be able to touch so many caregivers out there that she respects so much. To book her for a lecture or get on her pre-published waitlist for her book, email her at knowyourhippie@gmail.com or call 802-999-7503.
[1]Harry Mills, PH.D., Psychology of Anger (Mentalhelp.net, 2017)
[2]Oliver JR Cooper, Anger: Why do Some People Feel Guilty for Being Angry (Selfgrowth, 2015)
Reprinted from the January 2019 edition of the South Shore Senior News.
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