One of the steps to a fulfilled life (and a happy marriage) is learning how to handle anger. There may be times when anger is appropriate. But fundamentally, whether it lurks quietly in the background of our consciousness feeding happily on our natural joy -- or emerges in a rage from its lair -- anger is destructive. And devastating.
I was a young, idealistic 15-year-old when I experienced the devastating effect of anger at the lunch table one day with my mum and dad. Dad had many wonderful qualities. But until his death at 95 he was never able to free himself from the anger that was always present in him like a dragon just waiting to lash out and destroy its enemy.
I was trying to explain to my father how important truth was to me -- how I wanted to give my life to finding truth – when suddenly he exploded and hit me a violent blow on the side of my head. I still remember the gasp of anguish from my mother. And the bitterness I felt as I sat in stunned silence for a moment, then quickly left the room without a word.
A trust was broken that day, I believe, that never really healed.
How to let go of anger
Where I'm coming from here is that I received an e-mail from a member of the Happy Seeker community the other day in which she said, “I truly enjoy reading your blog ... the simplicity and directness of it. Would you write on anger and letting go of it?"
Been thinking about this and talking with JoAnn a bit about it. I decided to share as accurately as I can our experience of anger since we married 14 years ago. And how we have learned to let go of our anger and find a new level of harmony and balance which is the joy of our lives.
I used to simply get up and leave
Anger is a symptom of our pain. So in this regard, I can remember quite clearly what would happen between JoAnn and me when something triggered our pain and anger flared between us.
My, how quickly it happened. Often it seemed as if the anger came out of nowhere. Things might have been going very well between us -- we had had a good day for instance visiting Chataqua Park in Boulder -- when suddenly the dragon came out of his lair and began spitting fire.
The way we each reacted when this happened was very different for both of us, and yet in a way the same. We both knew there was no alternative but to let ourselves feel the pain we were feeling. We just went about it in a little different way.
I would feel a sudden uprising of anger so strong the only way I knew how to deal with it was to make a quick exit -- from the room and probably from the house.
This of course made things even harder for JoAnn, because in addition to her own woes she would feel frightened and concerned for me – hoping I wouldn’t drive the car into a tree or whatever.
JoAnn used to retire to her room
JoAnn, on the other hand, liked to retire to her room. The door would close -- and it might stay closed for the rest of the day, or even the next day. It was very frustrating for me – very essential for her.
"She doesn’t love me anymore," I would mutter to myself. But with the gift of time, I came to realize that it wasn't that she didn't love me anymore. She just needed space so she could get a handle on what had happened, and find her way back to a place of balance and harmony.
We realized we each processed anger (pain) in our own way, but it seemed to pass me more quickly through me than it did through JoAnn.
We both value inner peace
One thing that has helped us in our journey toward a more fulfilling life together is the simple fact that we share similar values. We both value inner peace, for example, and this has helped motivate us to let go of our anger as quickly as possible.
Another thing that helps, by the way, is not to hold a grudge. Holding a grudge is deadly. It destroys our life and makes us old before our time.
The last step was talking together
After our anger subsided a bit, the last step in this process I’m describing was this. No matter how uncomfortable it might be, we would come together and look clearly and objectively at what had really been going on in us and between us.
We would do our best to clear the deck, so to speak, before we moved forward.
Ultimately, we learned and are still learning that the only way to handle anger or fear or any other difficult emotion effectively is to feel it – and keep on feeling it no matter how painful that may be. We learned that anger is like a storm or a strong wind. If we are patient, and love the truth at the core of our existence more than anything else, it will surely pass.
I appreciate very much the question my reader sent to me. I hope that the above is at least a bit useful and would welcome any other ideas for articles you may have. I send you love and blessings and would love to hear any thoughts or ideas you'd like to add to the above.
Picture by Egon Philipp