How to Leave our Anger & Resentment in the Past.

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Imagine carrying a massive rock on our shoulders—not for 10 minutes, but for our whole life.

We do, in fact, haul such a “boulder” around willingly—believing that it will protect us from struggle. We take it for granted that we have to carry it. Over the years, we strengthen some muscles and strain others. When colleagues or friends become aware of it, some praise us for carrying such a burden, admiring our fortitude.

Others question us: “you might want to put that down?” But feeling like a martyr is part of our identity, now. We wonder what it would actually be like to put down this burden—after all, our life is accustomed and defined by our rock and its weight.

We ponder whether all of the stuff we teach others on the subjects of forgiveness, surrender, reconciliation, healing, miracles and recovery have any meaning or if it is all a bunch of cosmic foo foo.

I had written an article earlier in the year for The Good Men Project called The Mixed Blessings of A Paradoxical Marriage which explained the dynamics that existed in my nearly 12 year union that legally ended when my husband took his last breath on December 21, 1998.

I believe that relationships never do actually end; they just morph into another form.

In  this case, we continued the conversation. Sometimes while going about my daily activities, he would chime in with commentary.

He still shows up in my dreams and not once has he actually acknowledged that he is dead. There were moments when in exasperation with picking up the fragmented pieces his death had left in my life and that of our then 11 year old son, I would scream “Being dead doesn’t let you off the hook, you know!”

I would look at photos of the two of us and wonder what soul contract we had signed that allowed us to do a dance that was sometimes graceful and also had us treading on each others’ toes.

I would celebrate what we had created together in the form of a magazine that launched me on my writing career, even while I complained about the demands it placed on me. Back then, I didn’t have the skills to run a business that I have since acquired.

I marvel at the turn of events that brought us together and the Hansel and Gretel breadcrumb trail that led to much that I have gratefully become as a result of taking on the roles of widow, minister, single parent, bereavement counselor, organ donor educator, free-lance journalist and author, following Michael’s transition.

There are times when I wonder how my life would have turned out had we not met and gone head to head and heart to heart over the years. More introspection than I had ever thought possible.

Because of some of the darker aspects of our relationship, I had harbored bitterness that seared right through my seemingly sweet façade, melting it into putrid puddles of burned rubber. I painted over the pain with glitter and gloss. I became The Bliss Mistress…the living, breathing emanation of unrestrained joy, denying that sometimes even The Bliss Mistress gets the blues.

Wanting to keep up appearances made the rock even heavier. The longer I carried it, the more I fused into it. I also used it as justification for staying single all these years. The fear of re-creating the challenges was stronger than the desire to have a relationship, even though, ironically, the majority of my professional life centers around human interaction.

A myriad of emotions swirled about, calling to mind the game Barrel of Monkeys. You know how it is when you try to pick up one monkey with the tail of the other and you sometimes grab two or three at a time? Love was connected to loss, was linked to pain, was attached to regret, was tethered to fear.

The  ripples continue to impact my life and that of my son who is now 27. He has encouraged letting go and forgiving what I can’t change. He has, in his wisdom, reframed his father’s attitudes and behaviors, attributing them to his childhood experiences that he feels molded him. He does, however, hold me to a higher standard, since my own formative years in no way resembled those of my husband. We are still working on that one.

On December 21st, symbolic as the Winter Solstice, the darkest and longest night of the year, in addition to heralding the return of the light, as well as the 16th anniversary of Michael’s passing, I found myself finally willing to lay it down.

Not only was it becoming far too cumbersome, it was robbing me of my ability to allow love to enter. A certain numbness had settled in and had rendered me unable to feel fully alive. You know how some people say that they are sick and tired of being sick and tired? It was like that.

Most Sunday mornings, I attend services at an interfaith community called Circle of Miracles. I have been going there since 2001 and feel a sense of family among those who walk through the doors. Many people perceive me as the rock itself that others can lean on. They see the shiny mask, because it had become part of my chosen identity.

A precious few have peered behind it.

Yesterday, it came off, melted away by the drenching and cleansing tears that followed my declaring that enough was enough. I asked them for their support in revealing the real and reminding me that self forgiveness needs to precede forgiveness for another. Making either one of us the bad guy for the choices we made all those years ago, only causes further damage.

It’s like having a hot coal hurled in your direction, catching it and then clutching it to your chest and saying to another “See what you’ve done to me?,” rather than just getting the hell out of the way, when you see it heading in your direction.

Not only were they not shocked by my confession, but many expressed gratitude that I had finally come clean and that it gave them permission to embrace authenticity in their own lives. As I am typing these words, I know that what I call my Holy Shift moment has already opened doors that I may now more easily fit through, absent the cumbersome, bulky boulder.

I am grateful that the rock is crumbling and can be sculpted into an exquisite work of art, rather than an impediment to my happiness.

~

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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: lisadragon/Flickr

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anonymous Dec 28, 2014 5:39pm

Do you have family, friends and/or professional support to help you move through the remnants of the trauma? Does your husband acknowledge his choices? Even if someone has a diagnosis, they still need to be accountable for their actions. Does he understand the role that the Asperger's played? Wondering what you came to believe about yourself as a result of the interactions between the two of you. What would you like to believe is true about you? We are all a mix of emotions; all acceptable. It is what we do with the feelings we have that can make or break a relationship. Has communication improved between you?

Wishing you peace,

Edie

anonymous Dec 28, 2014 12:31pm

Dear Edie

For 12½ years my marriage was a HUGE mystery to me.

I was NOT allowed to be unhappy about ANYthing, show ANY negative emotion, or feel hopeless at times… I had to hear a thousand times "look how you behave", He even planted a camera in the fluorescent light or numerous times put a recorder in my face when I tried desperately to talk to him about ANYthing.

I felt abused, neglected and emotionally raped (with that thing in my face).

18 Months ago I discovered he has Asperger syndrome. EVERYTHING we fought about was ALL the symptoms of Asperger's.

Years and years of abuse, neglect and misunderstandings has caused MAJOR stress in my life and I am literally sick of it… arthritis, depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc…

Since the discovery of AS things have totally calmed, down but the damage is done…

I am still battling to come to terms with it! 🙁

Can you please help me?

anonymous Dec 27, 2014 9:24pm

Barbara:

I am sending peace to your weary heart and mind. Anger, when left to fester and boil over can feel toxic. I know it. I lived with it, as you read in the article. What I learned both during and since the experience, is that I am not the cause of someone else's anger. It is an inside job. I can neither control or cure someone else's affliction/addiction. Some people really are addicted to angry emotions. It fuels them. Who would your husband be without the anger? So many folks justify their anger. "Of course, I'm angry, because I didn't get what I wanted." Some people even pre-plan anger. "If this happens, then I'm going to be pissed." Those who do so, are at the mercy of someone else's actions. My wise father used to say "Your life is in the hands of any one who makes you lose your temper." What angers us, controls us. Most people wouldn't want someone else to tell them what to do, or run their lives, and yet, when anger takes over, that person or event is in charge. You know how kids sometimes say to each other defiantly, "You're not the boss of me!"? Guess what? When someone loses it over whatever ….. that becomes the boss of them.

When he is happy, what prompts it? Happiness too is an inside job. Some people live with "I'll be happy if …. I'll be happy when …" That too puts them in victim mode. Are there times when you can speak to each other calmly and with mutual love and respect?

So, what will it take to get out of the way of the hot coal? Do you have supports? Are you prepared to deal with these feelings within you? Is he willing to recognize his role? Relationships are not 50/50. They are 100/100 with each partner bringing all of who they are to the table.

I invite you to take care of yourself in this. No one ought to walk on eggshells.

Blessings,
Edie

    anonymous Dec 28, 2014 11:52am

    Unpacking what you've said.
    Thank you for responding. I haven't really encountered another who gets this.
    Peace to you as well.

      anonymous Dec 28, 2014 5:40pm

      It may take awhile to unpack and integrate your new insights. May you put them to good use.

anonymous Dec 27, 2014 5:20pm

Reading this article, sitting here in my home, where my husband lives with so much anger that it's a surprise when he is happy.
Sometimes I feel so unappreciated that I find myself wishing he was alone, and that I just can't love him because he is always angry at the world.
"It’s like having a hot coal hurled in your direction, catching it and then clutching it to your chest and saying to another “See what you’ve done to me?,” rather than just getting the hell out of the way, when you see it heading in your direction."
This is me.
I'm not being physically abused, but I walk on emotional eggshells.

anonymous Dec 26, 2014 5:40pm

Well, Mistress Bliss, to answer your questions, I have been deeply impacted by anger and resentment. I’ve done a lot of work on letting much of it go, but some of it still haunts me regardless of the meditations, counselling, various physical therapies. Maybe I do feel justified in holding on to the anger and resentment, although I look at some of it and don’t know why, when it led me to a better life. Yes I want to let it go, I have other things I’d like to be doing with my energy. And yes, I need some form of support, more so the energy to make the effort instead of keeping the status quo.

Your article was a good read, thank you for sharing!

    anonymous Dec 26, 2014 7:20pm

    I thought that by holding on to anger and resentment, it would somehow protect me from repeating the same choices. Not so, in my case at least. I can't speak for anyone else, of course. What if you put one down and see how it feels? It never means that someone was justified in causing harm. Letting go, surrendering, forgiving and releasing frees me to enjoy life fully. I have to tell you that since I wrote this, I feel lighter and freer. Wishing the same for you.

anonymous Dec 26, 2014 4:57pm

Dad who beat and belittled me. Kid who kicked me in 2nd grade. Mother who didn’t defend me. Partner who betrayed my love. Roommate who violated boundaries. Family who excommunicated me without explanation. Lovers who misled me or simply refused to communicate. And anger/resentment directed at myself for the poor choices I have made over the years. There are stones in all my pockets, and it’s an understatement to say they’re slowing me down–physically, emotionally, spiritually. People around me seem overly giddy these days, high as kites. They’re not… It’s just that I’ve lost my joy.

I’m involved in the deep work of forgiveness right now and hope it helps me shed this heavy load. I don’t smile like I used to; I don’t know when I last enjoyed a good belly laugh. I know that for healthy sake, I can’t keep holding on to all the ways I’ve been hurt, so I’m working hard to move on. Not easy though, not easy at all!

    anonymous Dec 26, 2014 7:17pm

    Thank you, tg for being courageous enough to share this so publically. No one deserves to be mistreated. I am glad that you are receiving support in healing through the pain. One rock at a time is sometimes how it needs to be done. Once put down, the challenge is to keep from picking the same ones back up or accumulating others. The joy is there. Time in nature, music, babies, being of service, dancing, drumming, writing and reading have all been doorways for me to experience joy. What are yours?

anonymous Dec 26, 2014 4:47pm

Honest anger has a purpose of establishing boundaries for those who violate. This is a brief emotion and should dissipate as the threat is averted. Rage, on the other hand, is a deeper violation often happening to us when we were too young and powerless to defend ourselves. This is undifferentiated anger usually emanating from a deeply regressed, immature place. Anger can be shared as adult communication. Rage, though, is personal and should be handled by a mental health professional in private session. Resentment is more complicated and is our early warning system to the need for change. I discuss this further in my article on the tao of resentment: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/11/the-tao-of

    anonymous Dec 26, 2014 7:14pm

    Yes, John. I agree. For far too long, I kept anger under wraps, afraid that it would ignite out of control. I don't recall more than a few times my parents raised their voices. Who knows how much anger they felt that went unexpressed. I look forward to reading your article. For me, resentment is a seething, bubbling under the surface, like scorching lava. Honest anger can indeed be empowering; a normal human emotion. It is how it is expressed that makes it appropriate or inappropriate, from my perspective.

anonymous Dec 25, 2014 5:42am

Good Morning~

Let's get the conversation started here. How have anger and resentment impacted on your life? Do you feel justified in holding on to them? Do you want to let them go? Do you need support in doing so?

Thank you for reading and responding.

Edie

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Edie Weinstein

Edie Weinstein (Bliss Mistress) is a work in progress who learns daily from all of her relationships, a colorfully creative journalist, dynamic motivational speaker, interfaith minister, licensed social worker, Bliss coach and PR Goddess. She is the author of The Bliss Mistress Guide To Transforming the Ordinary Into the Extraordinary. Connect with Edie at her website.