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What you need to know about anger

The surprising way that giving my anger an external voice stopped the rage and triggered forgiveness.

I was sitting in a car with a younger man, trying not to scream.

He and I had spent the day gathering information about how we could create a book together – him doing the graphics and me doing the writing. After a long and marvelously fun day, he drove me home. Asked if he could talk to me about something.

“I don’t know why I feel attracted to you,” he said, “because you’re not my type. And you’re too old for me. I’m not really attracted to you…but I am, but don’t want anything to happen, and I don’t know what to do. I don’t know why this is happening!”

So why tell me? and I ain’t your mama! played out in my head. What came out of my mouth was the truth, “But I thought you were gay!”

He continued to be torn apart by his feelings and compelled, it would seem, to make me tell him what to do. I felt embarrassed, enraged, and confused.

The conversation had an adverse effect on me. I felt old, even though I was only about 46, and all of my insecurities and self-doubts roared to the surface. I felt as though I was being shown a treat – potential love – and being told for the millionth time that I couldn’t have it – before I’d even been given a chance to see if I even wanted it! (I really, really wanted a relationship and this seemed like one of God’s cruel jokes.) By the time I got out of the car, I was barely holding on. So when I got up to my apartment, I started yelling. I was furious.

I have a picture of my spiritual teacher, and I started yelling at her! “How could you let this happen??? Don’t you see how much I’m trying to find someone to love??? This is so insulting – I’m too old for him??? Jesus!!!” This tirade went on and on – including tears – for about five minutes…

…and the oddest and most powerful thing happened.

The rage went away. Not the anger. I had never known there was a delineating line, but apparently there is. The white-hot self-defensive rage I had felt…it just dissipated, leaving me with the far more comfortable anger of, “That young moron! What an idiot.” He was only in his late 20’s or very early 30’s.

Not a day later, I had forgiven him. Let it go. Poof! For me, this was an incredible event.

When I saw him again about a year and a half later, he looked sheepish. He was approaching me with a shamed look on his face when I saw him and jumped up and gave him a hug. He was astonished. “I was coming over to apologize,” he said. “Oh, it’s okay,” I replied, “I’m fine…” “But that was so rude,” he said, “and I felt so bad!” So I acknowledged it and said, basically, yes you were an idiot, but no damage done.

He was incredibly moved. He told me I was his “example” for forgiveness. I told him, “Oh no, no I’m no one’s model. I went home and yelled at our teacher, and I think she had a lot to do with it!” But he would not be swayed.

Somewhere out there is a man who thinks I am a model of forgiveness. That’s a remarkable thing too, no?

What I learned about anger that day surprised me a lot.

  • It can be dissipated by expressing it out loud, and hearing the pain from more of what yogi’s call a “witness” state.
  • It’s multi-colored, and multi-layered, and worthy of exploration instead of fearing.
  • If I can hear it in all of its modes, I can respond to it creatively.
  • If I listen to it in all of its modes, respond to it creatively and then see what emerges, I’m far less likely to avoid my normal and natural feelings and far more likely to know how to handle them. That makes me more masterful in my responses when I am triggered into that feeling again!
  • It’s a helluva freedom fighter! It says, “Nope! None of this!” and if I listen with the intent to allow something to shift, I get a temporary Superpower – in this case: Forgiveness Ninja!

For someone who was raised to hold back her anger and then implode, even a temporary Superpower that frees me from losing weeks or months spent brooding on a hurt…well, I’ll take it!

Wouldn’t you?

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