Anger lessons 101, 2, 3, 4, and more. When we feel angry, we are perceiving that our boundaries have been violated. Our boundaries are the edges of the containers we create to bind our life in certain ways. Boundaries are intended to create safety and enhance our life experience. Sometimes these boundaries are hard to recognize because they are not seemingly concrete, often connected to our value system. We must allow our minds to loosen, to think in abstraction, to learn to see how we have “created” these edges to us. In understanding that boundaries are self-made, we become empowered to change them according to the changes we undergo as we grow.
If we feel anger, and believe our boundaries have been violated, then in order to heal from this, we must: 1) acknowledge the feelings, 2) acknowledge the situation, 3) notice the way the violation occurred, 4) move the boundaries as required to honor what is important and alleviate further anger and 5) forgive the transgression. All of these steps must be taken in order to avoid trapping ourselves in a web of anger and bitterness.
I write about this because I recently found myself in a trap of my own bitterness. Yet again, as I remained focused on the other person(s) involved, I was unable to see my part in it. As I sorted through this inside myself, I finally made my way slowly through the steps listed above. Not until I reached the final step did I begin to feel some inner resolution.
1) Acknowledge the feelings. In this case I felt indignation. Indignation is anger, but it has a strong thread of judgment running through it. I knew I was stuck in a right-wrong scenario but I was so busy being right, I wasn’t focusing on the anger. But that feeling would not go away. Pop! There it was every time I sat down to be still, up popped the feeling and quickly into my head I went with the story of it all and how I felt right in my position. I knew this was getting me nowhere fast but I seemed stuck there. And I was. I didn’t move on to the other steps. I just kept rerunning through my mind the parts of the situation about the behaviors that were really upsetting to me. And I want it to change, I want them to own their behaviors and I want them to be sorry too. Oh well. I want, I want. Temper tantrum done, hopefully for the last time. 2) Acknowledge the situation. Finally I backed myself up and returned to the whole situation. I traveled back to the beginning where my feelings were hurt, where I perceived boundaries being violated and where I felt helpless to do anything. In my review, I remembered that I chose to do nothing at that time. I had wanted it to be different, I wanted others to act on my behalf, and they did not. So be it. Now I feel the hurt and acknowledge the whole thing. This involves crying and not anger. I feel sad, and disappointed and hurt. I stay with the feelings in their fullness, letting it all wash through, again. It’s not the first time I got to this step and felt all this, but then I got stuck in this step, finally backing up to the anger where I started. And here I stayed in the angry-sad loop. 3) Notice the way the violation occurred. This week I finally got here fully. I had entered this territory but not stayed with it long enough. In acknowledging the way the violation occurred, I notice what my boundary was that felt violated. I notice the values I live by and want others to live by too (oh yeah, those values are mine that I wish others would live by, oops). I notice what expectations I placed on whom and how they “let me down”. I acknowledge that I did not address all this immediately, letting it fester into a bitterness that comes and goes for me around these people. Because I had not forgiven them for what I considered a transgression, the anger remained. I believe these individuals have no awareness that this is my point of view. I will not share all this with them because I do not trust them with my feelings. Because I choose to handle the situation in this manner, it is my healing path to walk alone. And it is my work to get through all these steps and be finished with it. 4) Move the boundaries to honor what is important and alleviate further anger. Although I cannot go back and change the situation, I can acknowledge that my boundaries were in the “wrong” place for me – I know this today but did not then. In my review, I recognize that these relationships were new and I held hope for the best, that others would share my value system and behave in ways that seemed considerate. I had not moved the boundaries with them up to this point because it was important for me to be fully available to whatever might develop, always hoping it would be a reciprocal interest to grow a meaningful relationship. As I accept that this is not what has developed and as I accept my part in my on-going anger about what feels like inconsiderate behavior, I am led to realize the boundaries must change or I have trapped myself in my own web of bitterness. I choose not to live this way. It is my responsibility to change the boundaries. 5) Forgive the transgression. How do I soften my heart and allow a letting go to take place? I must do this gently, again and again, as many times as it takes to release the bitterness and any anger. I must remember that each interaction, each hurt, and each boundary violation are over. What I am forgiving is the past. What I am letting be is done. I hold my part in my heart and soften to this too. I remember what I was struggling with at the time, how I truly wanted to be open to the best for us all. And I acknowledge how my unexpressed anger moved into indignation and bitterness, pulling me into judgment, a place of incredible discomfort for me. I must see it ALL as complete. I allow it all inside; I forgive the lack of consciousness around everyone’s choices. Each time, the anger or bitterness surfaces, I open my heart and remember, it is all in the past. I accept each individual’s part in it, I allow it all, and I forgive us for not being kinder, more aware, more forthright, whatever else comes up that feels like it fell short in those situations. And I remember it is done. I forgive. And I will again, as long as I need to, until the bitterness and anger are finally washed away.
Today is a new day. I am setting new boundaries. I don’t know how it will all go. I don’t know if my new behavior will seem strange to others. I don’t know if my new behavior will hurt anyone. I don’t want it too. All I can do is set boundaries that honor my values, that tell the world, I can or cannot be a part of certain situations according to what feels honorable and true to me. I can keep my boundaries flexible, allowing more change and remaining open to how anything can happen as things change. I can move and respond in a fluid way, allowing, accepting and caring deeply for myself as well as others. As I live in this world, setting healthy boundaries, my boundaries tell everyone I want the highest good for us all.