I’ve been spring housecleaning–physically. And I’ve let that pull me from my Spiritual Organization pages, specifically “Put Out the Garbage!” It’s high time I continue these writings. The topic at hand: dealing with the anger-makers, those emotions which, though innocent in themselves, deteriorate into the soul garbage of buried, festering anger.

Here I personally encounter a problem:

To deal with the anger-makers (emotional hurt, fear, and frustration), I first have to recognize their presence. For some women, maybe that’s easy. But not for this woman who’s writing. I’m (unfortunately) a master of the delayed reaction, best exemplified by the following incident:

The Gritty Nitty-Gritty

Auto races captured my first husband’s interest. But me? I didn’t like noise, dirt, or fumes—and I especially didn’t like car crashes or the thought of seeing someone dripping blood and jutting broken bones. And I felt sure if I ever went, I’d witness some such gory spectacle.

But one day he convinced me and three friends to accompany him.

Dust. Grit. Fumes. Drunken spectators. And noise. Crash! Bang! Slam! Crunch! Roaring round and round in an insane circle, cars collided repeatedly. “See!” I said. “I knew I’d see an accident.”

“Oh, that happens all the time,” Husband declared. “Those aren’t accidents…”

You could have fooled me. If that happened with me driving the family car…? But admittedly, I’d feared witnessing worse—and still did.

Sure enough, a moment later, one car raging toward our curve crashed smack into the wall before us, flipped into the air and over the “protective” fence, and landed upside down only yards from us.

Reaction Gallery

As I watched the whole slow-motion event with frozen fascination, one bunch of folks nearby jumped up and rushed toward the overturned car (to get the driver out? or just drawn by some strange moth-to-flame attraction?) Another bunch, unattracted to going up in flames, did the flight response (fleeing, alas, to the top of the bleachers, where they’d be trapped on high, should the car ignite).

I did neither. While people all around me were racing in a dither one way or the other, I sat calmly, thinking (in slow motion to match the car flip), “We should… get out…of here. We should… head over… to that exit. That car…could explode…or… something…”

Cool and Calm?

It didn’t. And the driver got out all right. But the race officials cleared our part of the stands, and off we tripped to our car, the whole bunch of us. Though barely started, that was enough of our day at the races.

Amid everyone’s chatter in the car about the incident, I congratulated myself on my coolness: No panic-and-run. No plunging toward the wreck to impede rescuers and driver. I hadn’t known I had such calm rationality in me.

It was a bit of a self-deceit, however, for if I’d thought still more rationally, I would have recognized the evidence of… shock. The way that car floated up and over in that amazingly slow-mo flip, then glided downward, even to land and bounce in slow motion, was a dead giveaway. But I was convincing myself I was not at all rattled.

How I Really Tick

The next morning brought home the truth. As we sat, drinking coffee, my husband began recounting the night before. And suddenly, before I even knew I was doing it, I exploded with a short, sharp “I don’t want to talk about it!” and abruptly got up and stomped away from the table.

Sure sign of buried emotion. In this case, fear.

Since then I’ve realized I tend to respond this way. I can sometimes seem so calm and unaffected by the hurt, the loss, the death, the calamity at the time. But later some little word or incident  triggers the unfinished response: sudden tears, perhaps—or a surprising eruption of pique like on that post-race day.

Burying and Re-exposing

Even those of us who immediately react with scalp-tingling fright or howling grief can later bury its reality, convincing ourselves we’re “over it now.” Especially when others have wronged us we can tend to deny the hurt, fear, or frustration—to avoid dealing with the issue that caused it.

So, what to do? I really make an honest effort to be more aware of what I might be burying. And a few scriptural tools really help me—best if I use them together. One is Psalms. Another is appropriate prayer. A third is transparent conversation with a trusted friend.

More about how in this new addition to the Put Out the Garbage! pages.