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Gail Silver: Books

Anh's Anger, Story Behind The Book

(Gail Silver)
September 1, 2009
A Children's Book for The Whole family

bookcover_.jpeg           A Synopsis and Story Behind the Book 

The first in a series of three books to suggest a mindful and meditative approach to anger resolution among children. Children experience anger on a regular basis, but can lack the skills to guide them through these difficult moments. In Anh's Anger, five-year-old Anh becomes enraged when his grandfather interrupts playtime with a summons to the dinner table. When Anh's grandfather takes the time to help Anh fully experience his anger by suggesting he go to his room and "sit with his anger," Anh musters the courage to talk with his anger and discovers a positive method by which to work through his feelings. This book teaches children to both acknowledge and resolve their difficult emotions, making it an invaluable tool for parents and teachers alike.

The Story Behind This book:

This story was written during the year of 2006 while I nursed our third child, Chelsea Lane. These peaceful, frequent sittings  provided the space for me to express on my laptop this story that had been growing inside of me for many years.

When our second child, Anabel,born in 2001,turned three she became quite versed at having long and exhausting temper tantrums. These took my husband and me by surprise because we had not experienced them with our first child, Ben. As we worked through this challenging period with Anabel, it became essential for me to examine my own relationship with anger, both as an adult and as a child. Without subjecting you to years of reflection,  psychotherapy and Buddhist Philosophy I can summarize by sharing that I discovered three tenets which I had not practiced in my childhood but would come to practice in my adult relationship with anger.

1)It is okay to feel angry

2)Anger will come and given the proper attention, it will go.

3)Verbally expressing  anger in a way that is not emotionally or physically hurtful to yourself nor emotionally or physically hurtful to the person to whom you are speaking is an essential part of anger resolution.

Once able to accept and honor these three tenets I became more comfortable and more skilled at managing my own anger and helping my daughter to work through hers.

Many of you may be familiar with these concepts already. But for me, it was like learning a new language and then teaching that language to Anabel. Intellectually these are simple statements, but putting them into action was and continues to be an entirely different matter. Of great help to me on this journey was my consistent reading of any Thich Nhat Hanh book I could digest.

For anger resolution, Thich Nhat Hanh tells us to acknowledge the presence of anger, to imagine cradling anger as if it were a small baby, and to delay discussing your anger with the person with whom you are angry until you have felt a diminishing of the anger. This produces a gentling effect on the emotion and allows compassion to work its way into the equation. In time we feel calm enough to express ourselves without using unkind words and we can avoid causing pain to our loved ones.

With time and patience this worked for me, but it was not easy. In fact it was very very hard. I failed often. But when I wasn't failing, I was succeeding, and the success felt fantastic.

When steaming mad with my husband, I wouldn't lash, I wouldn't leave and I wouldn't pout. Instead I would pause, I would listen to my breath and I would say, "I'm really angry right now. I'd like to talk about this later." And we would. Later we would talk. I had walked through a door into an entirely different land, a land where I could safely and contentedly co-exist with anger. And to think, this was available to me my whole life, and I didn't even know it.

Like any modern working mother, I am frequently tired and depleted, and am often angered. Managing my anger in this healthy new way was requiring constant grooming and attention, an effort I often could not muster. (Let's put it this way. We have had a cat for over one year and I have never brushed his teeth. We moved into our house two years ago and there are still no interior doors. In order for our children to flush their toilet they actually have to put their finger into a whole in the wall, and the five of us share one working shower because we have been unable to manage repairing our children's shower which broke one month after installation). I share the above with you only to demonstrate that while I am the kind of woman who would like everything to be perfect, I often feel that it is far beyond my capability to direct my attention to getting everything on the daily to do list done. My motto is, if there is something that can go undone, perhaps it can remain undone. There might be better place to direct my energy and a better use for what little time I have on my hands. With all of these things unattended to you would think that I would be a pro at working on my anger, but not so.

I found myself getting lazy with my anger and wishing that mindful anger management came easier to me. 'If only it had been taught to me at a young age,' I would think, 'then it wouldn't be so hard now. I would be practiced. It would be accessible. I would be like June Cleaver.' That's it, blame my parents. It's their fault!

My wish inspired me to write a story which would teach children how to mindfully manage their anger from a young age. Children have an easier time appreciating a conceptual lesson if it can be depicted with something they can see, can like, and can easily recall. When angry, we can feel monster like, so depicting the emotion as a monster like version of the main character became the chosen path for this story.