Reproduced with permission by Sally Brampton; Expanded slightly by Deanne
Have you been really hurt by someone who should have known better? Do you have a client who has been emotionally abused and cannot move on? Do you know someone who wants revenge and retribution, and it is justified? Is there a person who is going to make you angry for the rest of your life and you are sick and tired of it?
Here are some thoughts.
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intention of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets bunt”
“Resentment is like swallowing poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
We know all that, which is why so many of us want to be rid of our anger but it keeps coming back and talking about it makes it even worse not better. It brings back all those old memories.
If we have bad feelings, we are often also guilty about our rage, and guilt leads to shame which in turn feed the anger and resentment. It is a never ending cycle. Grief sets in and becomes well rehearsed when we realize what we have lost. At one time or another we are all familiar with it.
Let’s begin with the guilt, which is often misplaced. You do not have to like the person who violated your values. You can even dislike them very much whoever they are, a parent even or someone who used to be your friend. What we do have to do is learn how to tolerate them in our head and be at peace with our own feelings. We cannot change people, all we can do is to learn how to change our response to them. It can be very hard.
Some people are emotionally flawed when we are engaged with them either through our choice or an accident of birth. Perhaps we have moved on while they have not. We might accept an apology but we will never get it and that hurts more than the behaviour we were subjected to which may have broken our heart at the time. Some people never grow up and accept what they have done. Perhaps this person has hurt someone close to you like your parent or your children and the person who feels the pain most of all is you.
The bottom line about such people is: they are what they are. We can call them names, they are cruel, mad, psychopathic or ill, the damage they can do is much the same whatever the explanation you foist on them to try and make yourself feel better, to reduce the confusion you face. It is normal to try and explain the confusion you feel about what you have suffered.
They are what they are, and repeatedly asking them for help or trying to remake a relationship with them on better terms is like banging you r head on a brick wall and all that will do is give you brain damage. You might as well shout at a tree and expect it to respond; it is not going to happen. If you can rid yourself of expectations, you rid yourself of disappointment and its bedfellow, resentment., one baby step at a time.
As for the rest of the time, if you have to continue with some sort of relationship with someone who gives you pain, you run the risk of experiencing continuous corrosive anger. How can you deal with this? No easy answer, try letting it go, dropping the hot coal and not swallowing its poison. Each time you clutch at the hot coal or ingest the poison you taint the relationships you have right now as well as the one you wish you didn’t have. Oh, this is easier said than done. It doesn’t mean that you accept the person and do not judge their actions. It might take all kinds of practice, such as taking a deep breath when the heat comes up and saying to yourself “I am really truly OK, I let the anger go for now.” It might be as simple as going to put on your favourite perfume or listening to music which makes you smile.
If we can let it be, rather than roll snowballs of anger and grief around in our memory stores, we can feel stronger and move toward a sense of peace.
There is a method of acceptance practiced by Buddhists that you might find helpful. It is called the art of loving kindness. This HAS to start with yourself; too many angry, grieving people take our their rage upon themselves, with drink, drugs, overeating, purging or self starvation. It is only when we find compassion for ourselves that we can extend it to others. We can forgive people one per cent at a time. Here is one of the many Buddhist sayings- repeat it daily or whenever anger raises its ugly head.
“May I be held in compassion. May my pain and sorrow be ceased. May I be at peace.”
It may feel awkward and foolish at first but after a while it becomes familiar. Once it feels natural, extend it to those you love. The final step is to extend it to the one you find difficult. It helps.
Read: The Art of Forgiveness, Loving Kindness and Peace. Jack Kornfield, Bantam Press.