“Perhaps the biggest challenge we face on the planet,” I agreed, swishing my feet in the cool water.
“It’s at the root of a lot of disease too, isn’t it,” he inquired.
“If someone is experiencing a health crisis chances are, anger is lurking nearby,” I replied.
“Why is it so pervasive?”
“I think it’s because it’s easier to feel anger than to feel grief or guilt or shame.”
“That makes sense,” he agreed.
“Why the interest in anger,” I inquired.
“Because I’ve been experiencing it a lot lately,”
“You have?” I asked, quite surprised. “I haven’t seen you get angry.”
“Oh, I do,” he admitted. “I keep it to myself.”
“Would you like to talk about it? I asked.
“Yes, I would,” he replied, looking very grateful.
“How long have you been experiencing anger? I inquired, getting straight to the point..
“All my life,” he replied. “When I was a teenager I drank a lot, got into fights and did a lot of stupid things. mostly out of anger. As an adult, I would yell at my kids, curse at other drivers, lose my temper in traffic jams and get frustrated and freak out trying to fix things. But here’s the thing, I’ve learned how to forgive and I’ve done a lot of healing, but it feels like I’m stuck. I feel like I’ve reached a state of peace and I’m not angry with anybody. I’m living an awesome life, doing what I love, but I’m full of anger and the littlest thing sets me off.”
I thought about it for a few moments. “What does anger represent to you? I asked.
“Funny you should ask that,” he replied smiling. ” I realized a few years ago that when I got angry I would do things and say things that I wouldn’t normally do and say.”
“Like stand up for yourself? I asked.
“Yes,” he said, a look of realization spreading across his face. “I actually grew up feeling like a coward, and I mostly lived in fear, except when I was angry.”
“So feeling angry made you feel empowered?
“Yes, I guess it did!”
“And allowed you to not feel like a coward … for at least a little while.”
“And kept you from having to face those feelings of cowardice?”
He sat quietly for a moment. ” I guess so,” he admitted.
“So it has been a powerful ally, like a real live energy … a living being in a way.”
“It certainly has.”
“And now that anger is on the surface. It wants out.”
“The being wants out,” he echoed.
“And that’s an important distinction to make, that this anger is something you’re experiencing. It’s not you. You don’t need to be adding more guilt and shame to the emotional pain that’s already there,” I implored.
“Right!” he acknowledged.
“Can you imagine anything more humiliating and shameful for a boy, or a man, than feeling like a coward?” I asked, getting back to the coward issue.
“No, I can’t.”
“Especially, to have to admit it, in your male dominated family (he grew up in an aggressively, competitive all male family).”
“That’s for sure.”
“It would make a young boy want to mask it, and what more manly mask than anger.”
“I can see that and I can see why it would be difficult to let the anger go, because in a way, it’s been my saviour … it’s allowed me to survive!”
“I think it has. It’s like you were going to die without it.”
“Makes sense. So I guess I have to admit that I feel fear?”
“I think that would help!”
“But also acknowledge that I no longer need the anger to survive.”
“Absolutely. You can thank it for being there for you. For protecting you.”
“For being my friend.”
“One other thing,” my friend added, “is that I hate confrontation. I’m afraid of it.”
“Why?” I asked.
“I don’t like arguing,” he replied. “It’s like I don’t want people to be angry with me.”
“Perhaps, it’s because when you were young, confrontation meant you were going to get yelled at and there is a little boy inside of you who is still afraid of being yelled at.”
“That makes a lot of sense,” he agreed. “So, I guess I need to talk to that little boy and let him know that he is okay … that I’m okay!”
“What else can I do?” my friend asked.
“Ask God to help you release it, but do it in the form of a thank you … as if it’s already happened.”
“How do I do that?”
“Just say, thank you God for helping me release the anger I’m holding onto, especially the anger that is masking feelings of cowardice.”
“Sounds simple enough. And what about when I’m having a meltdown … when I’m in a rage?”
“Stick your face in a pillow and scream until you feel better!”
“Yes, you have to literally let it out of your body.”
“It is, but it works … and it’s worth it!”
“So, you think that will do it?”
“It will help you get through this layer of anger. There may be other layers.”
“In which case,” he stated emphatically, “I’ll heal them too!”
“Awesome!” I said, giving him a high-five.
Have an awesomely happy day!