A client of mine—I’ll call her Anna—shared this tidbit by Garrison Keillor:
“When you’re angry at people, you make them part of your life.”
That’s so true! Prolonged anger usually has a focus, and that focus usually involves a particular person. I can’t imagine being angry at my printer for two weeks—20 minutes yes, but not for two weeks. On the other hand, I can imagine—at an earlier point in my life—being angry at another human being for two weeks. And that encrusted anger didn’t free me in any way. It kept me mentally fused to that other person.
So the lesson is clear: If we don’t want bothersome people in our life, we have to give up the anger. How do we do that? By making a decision to either walk away—as Anna chose to do with an unkind friend—or by changing the way we think about that person.
This is what Sophia, another client, did. She doesn’t have the luxury of merely walking away because the unkind person in her life happens to be her brother.
“His nasty comments just leave my blood boiling,” she said. “How do you see him?” I asked. “As a jerk!” she said. I commented saying “As long as you see him that way, you’ll feel tortured by him.” I went on to suggest she view him as a younger version of what he’s becoming. “If he were fully evolved, he would treat you with more sensitivity and respect.”
Ever notice that our well-being is never at risk in our encounters with advanced souls?
This way of thinking doesn’t excuse her brother’s behaviors. Disrespectful and rude behavior is never okay. I made sure Sophia understood that and advised her to be protective of herself. “It’s just that this different way of viewing him takes the sting out of it,” I said. “You suffer less.”
After Sophia and I talked back and forth about it all, she had an illumination: “Ahhh. That’s why forgiveness is important. It has more to do with what it does for us—not the other person.”
She’s got it!
I think this quote by Carrie Fisher, the actress, expresses what being stuck in anger does to us:
“Resentment is like drinking a poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
Names are changed to honor client confidentiality