When Holding On to Anger Hurts - Taking a Personal Inventory
“When we blame others for the bad stuff that’s happened to us, we also have to blame them for all the good stuff too”.
I remember reading that quote for the first time. I was unprepared for the impact those words would have on me, the emotional bomb that would go off inside me as I thought through what this meant in my experience.
So much of my life has been spent in anger. I have given so much of my time over to hurt and resentment, hoarding my bitterness like it was something precious. I took great care to neither forget nor forgive--I nurtured that anger instead. I would often replay the bad stuff, over and over in my head, lest I forget how much it pained me, lest I start to move on. My “People I Can Blame” list was expansive and valued.
But to blame them for the good stuff, too? To give them credit for what I had achieved? That idea took a lot of time--and therapy--to process.
For many of us, holidays or family gatherings only bring up past hurts and resentments; we may be around people or situations that we’ve tried to avoid, and we now find ourselves faced with unwelcome reminders of the past that cause yet more unwelcome feelings.
What needs to happen for you to let go and heal yourself? The relationship?
“When a deep injury is done us, we never recover until we forgive”.
“Moving on” from anything is a vast and nebulous undertaking, and it’s probably not reasonable to expect that you get there by the end of this article, but we can get started. At the very least, we can try to look past all that hurt and blame, and think of the good that our past hardships have brought.
To start, we need to take all that blame and anger inside of us and put it down on paper instead.
Make a list of names of everyone that:
You are in conflict with
You have been deeply hurt by
Has caused you pain, anxiety or resentment
Beside each name, make a note of what specifically was hurt. Was it:
Pride and self-esteem?
Security and independence?
Employment and finances?
Or something else altogether
Take your list and sit with it for a while. Reflect deeply on each person or situation you’ve recorded, and the actions taken by everyone involved.
Try to see the situation from different perspectives; you know your side of the story, but question:
What the other party might have been thinking or feeling at the time?
How your actions might have come across to the other party?
How an impartial outside observer might have seen things?
You may also wish to consider:
What part did I play in this situation?
If I could have a magic redo, would I behave differently?
What good came from this situation?
What did the hurt teach me?
Confronting the wrongs done to you--and by you--is the first step to clearing up misunderstandings and hurt feelings, and gaining a new perspective.
Changing the Game
As we uncover and rediscover old truths and belief systems that may not serve us anymore we can begin to see things differently.
What do I need to change now?
Why does it need to change?
What happens if it doesn’t change?
Who do I need to forgive to feel as though I can move forward?
Who do I need forgiveness from?
Even a small shift in perspective can teach us as we begin to see our environments differently and become aware of obstacles in our path, relationships and events that may have prevented our momentum moving forward. In order to grow into the future, we have to release what is keeping us in the past.
“It's one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody”.
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