I’ve always been an angry person, but over the past few years I’ve gotten even angrier. I’ve dealt with a lot over the last few years. I had some family losses, my pain and my ability to walk got worse, I’ve had to give up jobs for health reasons, and then school for financial reasons.
I’ve had a lot on my plate. So I’ve been angry.
Lately, I’ve been taking a look at that anger and where it comes from. I’ve been bitter and negative and frankly, quite resentful. And the truth is, that anger comes from all the struggling that I’ve done. I have a right to all this anger, I’ve earned this anger. But it’s not always aimed at the right places.
I call it misplaced resentment.
Where does misplaced resentment come from?
Misplaced resentment isn’t a new feeling for me, but it’s one that I’m only just starting to understand. I first began to realize why it was so harmful when I started to face my issues with mental health discourse.
As someone who went over twenty years without a diagnosis for ADHD and the likelihood I might have been somewhere along the autism spectrum with no information or resources, mental health discourse has been difficult for me. It’s dominated by conversations about anxiety and depression, mental illnesses I’ve been living with for over 16 years.
I learned how to live with depression and anxiety while I was still in elementary school. I had to learn how to live with it without shame or stigma at the same time I was learning about puberty. Now that all these years have passed by, I’ve learned that my mental illnesses were just symptomatic of bigger issues with neurodivergence.
Now I have to learn how to live with neurodivergence instead of trying to mold myself into a normative brain. So when I read about mental health and all I read are about anxiety and depression, I get frustrated and angry. And then I get angry at those people who are talking about their anxiety and depression.
But the truth is, that being angry at people with anxiety or depression doesn’t solve my problem. Sure I can be angry at them for taking up space, but before I learned how to deal with own anxiety and depression, I needed those same people to help me get where I am now.
This resentment shouldn’t be aimed at those people who are talking about their experiences, but at the platforms that erase all other types of experiences. I shouldn’t be angry with people who are struggling the way I used to just because they don’t have my other issues to struggle with as well.
How can I tell when my anger is misplaced?
It can get a little complicated when we talk about different intersections. It’s different to be angry at someone because they weren’t forced to learn coping tools on their own than it is to be angry at someone for assuming that everyone has the resources to have someone else teach them their coping tools.
The difference is in knowing why we’re angry. It can be easy to become angry about the wrong thing. Imagine there was a white man who got their ADHD diagnosed in their childhood and were given accommodations while I had to grow up wondering why I couldn’t be normal. It would be easy to be angry and feel as though because he didn’t have to struggle as hard that his problems in that area aren’t legitimate.
But it’s not the accommodations or diagnosis I am angry at. It’s the fact that medical institutions often neglect women and racialized people. I’m angry at the fact that his experience will be seen as universal while erasing how racism, sexism, transmisia, class, and so many other intersections make already-difficult problems into worse ones.
I shouldn’t be angry with that man for having resources. I should be angry if he doesn’t advocate for those who don’t have them too. I should be angry if he talks over people who don’t have the same experiences as he does. I shouldn’t be angry that he accessed resources, because if it were anyone else, I’d be proud of them. So it’s important to know what you’re really angry about.
Now when I find myself getting angry with people within my own communities, I try to think about why. Is it just because they haven’t suffered the way I have? Or is it because they are perpetuating the suffering I’m already undergoing?
To figure out the answers to those questions, I have to sit with my anger and interrogate it. I have to ask myself uncomfortable questions. But most importantly, I have to be ready to accept that I’m not being fair in my anger. If I’m not ready, then I can slip into finding reasons to be angry that maybe don’t even really exist.
We all need to understand that sometimes even though our anger is valid, it’s not always fair.
What do I do with my anger if it’s misplaced?
You can’t always stop yourself from being angry. Even when you know you’re not being fair, your emotions aren’t something that you can control like a switch. You can’t always just shut it off and move on. So what do you do with it?
You can’t force people to understand or live your complex issues. You can’t take away someone’s accommodations just because you didn’t have access to them. Even if you did, it still wouldn’t change the pain you’ve already been through. The anger won’t go away even if they were suffering.
It’s a matter of redirection. If you know your anger is pointed in the wrong direction, just change your aim. Figure out exactly what you’re angry about. What is the solution for it? What would you change? Use your anger to figure out what would make it better.
And then we have to fight for it. Because that anger won’t go away until the systems and institutions that are hurting us are changed. The anger won’t go away until we stop seeing people living through the same pain while others reap the benefits of our changing times.
We can’t let that anger tear our communities apart instead.