“I feel frustrated with my marriage. I am done with it! I don’t want to deal with his anger and resentment anymore…”
“What would the absence of his anger and resentment bring you?”
“A sense of peace. Someone who is available to me, someone who is willing and able to listen and support me. Maybe just enjoying life… You know, I am 43 and I don’t want to spend the second half of my life with someone who is constantly dissatisfied with life. That was not my vision when I married him.”
When you are married to someone who struggles to hold his unmet needs in a way that respects your needs, you might take it personally. You might start losing your self-respect and self-worth, and think you are at least partly responsible for his anger and resentment.
If so, Steven Stosny suggests four choices to reconnect to your own basic goodness, your core value as a human being:
- Appreciate. When you appreciate what brings you joy, a sunset, the flowers of the plant you carefully nurtured, the smile of delight of your baby, you reinforce your values, your sense of self. You reinforce your inner goodness by appreciating outer goodness.
- Connect. When you connect to people who stand by your side no matter what, you realize you are lovable enough to receive love, acceptance and belonging. Even if your husband doesn’t meet those needs. It doesn’t really matter whether your friend is a human being, your pet, the nurturing part within yourself, God or nature. Any connection with someone who has an unconditional, positive regard for you helps you connect to the place of positive regard within yourself.
- Improve. When you improve your life, you restore your sense of self-agency. You are not in control of how your husband feels, thinks or acts. You are in control of improving your own life, whatever he does. It might be cleaning up your room, finishing chores, weightlifting, taking a class in ceramics: anything that makes your life a bit better. It doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to get better.
- Protect. Protecting what you care for, something that is vulnerable and precious, calls upon your inner warrior. The one that protects and defends. Not against anyone, but for someone. It is not reactionary, it is pro-active: “This is important to me and I won’t let you contribute to harm, because I care for this and for you.” You appeal to the compassionate core value of your husband. You call upon him to be more than his unmet needs and act from the place within himself that wants to contribute and protect.
Try these strategies out and see if they help. I also suggest you read “Love without Hurt” by Steven Stosny. I find it highly valuable to maintain your core value.
I’m feeling angry. I’ gonna practice holding my anger with compassion and rehearse the lines Thich Nhat Hanh gives us: “Dear Anger, I know you’re there…. I’ll take good… F*ck… I… hate you being here!”
Hum. Not exactly it. Let’s try again.
“Dear Anger, I know you’re there… I’ll take good… You know what!!! I’m gonna ignore you. I’m gonna pretend you’re not here and continue doing what I planned to do, even though I’m shaking.”
Hum. Okay. That didn’t work either. Third try.
“Dear Anger, I know you’re there… And you know what!!!… I’m gonna lash out and yell!… Commitments and mindfulness practices, get out of my way, and let me go on my rant!”
My goodness, holding my anger with compassion and mindfulness is much harder than I thought. I feel shame that I have anger. I think I am a lesser person, because I don’t receive every remark, every action with insight and love, see them as an opportunity to deepen intimacy and learning. Oh my goodness, I think I am a failure on the path of mindfulness and Nonviolence.
Gosh, after all those years of practicing with my Sangha, and learning -even teaching- Nonviolent Communication, I still struggle to say: “Dear Anger, I know you’re there and I will take good care of you.”
I resist my anger, I don’t want to have it. Stephen Hayes has an exercise to work with anger ànd your resistance to it.
- Scan your physical sensations and put your hand on the spot, where your anger lives.
- Invite your anger to sit with you. In front of you, or next of you, far or close. Whatever you feel comfortable with it.
- Observe your anger: the smell, sound, taste, form, touch. Maybe it has an age, a name.
- Ask two set of questions. 1. What is the important message you have for me? What is it you want me to know about you? 2. What do you want me to do for you, so that you can relax and calm down, and let me live my life grounded in my values, dreams, and aspirations?
- When you are ready, do the same thing with your resistance, and ask the same two questions.
- As soon as you have a sense of completeness, bring your feelings back into your body and put your hand on your heart. Ask your heart which step brings you closer to your aspired future self.
I have always found this process helpful being more at peace and whole within myself, and getting unstuck. I hope it helps you too.
You want help embracing your anger and your resistance to it with compassion and understanding? Contact me to schedule a free discovery session, 512-589-0482.
Listening to your anger
My client suffers from road rage. Her rides turn into anger, yelling and frustration. She arrives upset and disturbed.
Anger impacts her relationships too.
She wants my help to deal with her anger more mindfully.
In a visualization exercise she asks her anger what it is about, and what it wants from her, so that it can relax and let her live her life grounded in her values. She asks her resistance against the anger the same questions.
She cries when she opens her eyes. “I need an outlet. I have so much anger in me. My childhood was drenched in anger and yelling. It was the only communication in my family.”
“Did anyone ever walk up to you, when you were angry? Did anyone ever stretch out their arms to you, when you were throwing a fit, and tell you ‘I’m here for you. I see how angry you are. I won’t go away. You matter to me.’ Did anyone ever just sit with you, creating a safe space where you could experience your anger and maintain connection?
She looks at me bewildered. “No! I was punished and sent to my room.”
Even now she thinks that that is the only reasonable response to anger. To express your anger with yelling and throwing a fit is childish.
“It is not childish. It is your child. It is the little child within you that cannot think of any other way to be heard. It is your inner child that desperately wants help for her suffering and longing.”
She looks at me bewildered, again. She had never even thought about her anger this way.
“When you think of yourself as this little child, maybe two years old, ‘throwing a fit to get her way’, what do you think she actually wanted?” “Attention.” “And if she would get attention, what precious need would be fulfilled?” “Belonging”, she says, with tears in her eyes.
We just want to belong
Just to know that you belong. That you matter. That someone cares about you, and wants to include you.
Such a beautiful, simple need.
How can we be angry with ourselves when we scream and yell in our despair, because we don’t know any other way to ask for help? How can we judge ourselves because we so desperately want to belong, to be seen, to matter?
We don’t need labels, judgments,punishment when we scream and yell. We need compassion. We need someone to stretch out their arms to us and tell us “I’m here to help. I’ll stay as long as you need. You matter. To me.”
That is the only way to heal. Ourselves. The world. Let us stretch out our arms to each other and say “I’m here for you. How can I help?”
Contact me if you want my help to deal with your anger more mindfully 512-589-0482.
Nine steps to deal unmindfully with your anger
- Start by being angry. Preferably with someone close, someone you deeply care about. Your partner, your best friend, your mom.
- Stimulate blame and thoughts of wrongness about the other person. “They don’t care about me.” “They don’t give a shit.” “They take me for granted.” Be creative!! There are so many choices! So pick any thought that ignites your anger even more.
- DON’T connect with the pain underneath your thoughts. DON’T feel your hurt, your shame, the old wound of thinking you’re not good enough, you’re not worthy, you don’t belong. For crying out loud, stay angry and work yourself up into more anger!
- DON’T talk to the person you’re struggling with. DON’T ask for help. Stop any impulse to practice going back to your breath. Forget Thich Nhat Hanh‘s suggestions to be gentle with your anger, to take good care of it, holding it like a crying baby. Run after the one you think put your house on fire, and DON’T try to quench the fire. You carry a slip of Thich-Nhat-Hanh’s-mindfulness-anger-steps? [1. I breathe in, I breathe out. Say “Darling, I suffer, I’m angry.”, 2. Breathe in, breathe out. Say “I’m trying, I’m really trying.” 3. Breathe in, breathe out. Say “I need your help and support.”??] This is THE time to tear it up and THROW it away! Remember you’re trying to do something unmindfully with your anger, not something beneficial.
- Disconnect from the person you blame. Make sure they know you’re angry, but DON’T engage with them.
- Pick up a big, sharp knife. Start cutting something hard and slippery. A butternut squash will do.
- Start cutting. Fast. Put all your anger in the cutting. Fire up thoughts about the wrongness of your loved one.
- DON’T pay attention to what you’re doing. Be absorbed by your angry thoughts. Drown in them. DON’T watch how the knife slips away and chops off your finger top.
- Watch the bleeding. Blame your husband. Blame yourself.
- Stop. Embrace yourself with compassion. See how strong and habitual your anger patterns are. You failed to hold your anger mindfully. You failed. You contributed to harm. Don’t make it worse by blaming and being angry. Use this experience as a wake-up call to interrupt these habitual, unconscious patterns. Glue the scraps of the slip of Thich-Nhat-Hanh’s-mindfulness-anger-steps together. Bring your attention to your breath. Apologize. Tell your husband you’re suffering. Tell him you’re trying, really trying. Tell him you need help and support. And if you’re lucky, REALLY lucky he will rush to your rescue and heal your bleeding finger.