Thinking Out Loud: Facing Your Anger Can Help!
The way the medical community treated your loved one has caused you to become angry, and it is eating you up! Perhaps, you are annoyed with those who should have helped you in the last days of your loved one’s life but were nowhere to be found! Did a family member or a friend say something inappropriate? How can you reduce the intensity of your rage and then eventually let it go? There are many possibilities that have worked for others, and they can work for you. Mourners can be angry with the funeral director, friends, family members, neighbors, ministers or priests, the deceased, God, and yes, even with self.
Sometimes anger is fully justified. Often, it is part of a complex web of previous experiences in life. In any event, it can be dealt with in a calm and sensible fashion. Face your anger because, whether fully recognized—or camouflaged in sarcasm, intolerance, jealousy, withdrawal, or fear—it takes a severe physical as well as emotional toll on the body. Here are several approaches to consider.
First, don’t suppress your anger! Tell someone you trust about it. Choosing to keep it within is not only physically damaging but also very emotionally disturbing. Finding a suitable way to gradually release its energy is the primary challenge. Talking about it is the first big step in healing and wholeness. Suppression can do nothing but build your inner rage that seeks to come out in various areas of your life.
Secondly, remember that anger is an ordinary human response! You are not unusual nor should you feel you are a bad person in any way if you are angry. So don’t beat yourself up for being normal.
Next, don’t feed your anger! There is one surefire way to keep your anger burning and allow it to take its deadly toll: keep playing it over and over again in your mind and keep repeating the worst of the causes to yourself. Change your angry self-talk by substituting an image where you feel connected, accepted, and loved.
Then be gentle with your self-esteem! Ask yourself why you are holding on to it so tightly. If you let go of it, is there anything you will lose or have to give up? Are you using anger as a way to cover up fear, pride, or guilt? Is it directed at or due to the excessive dependency you had on the deceased—-and that’s why it is difficult for you to talk about it? Do you feel deserted or abandoned?
Also try to uncover the root cause of your anger! This is especially important because we need to find a reason to forgive. For example, realizing human weakness and reasoning as to why certain things were said or done can be useful. You could be angry at your own lack of control over the situation and/or your dependency. And, it may mean forgiving yourself. Also, there could be more than one cause, and you need to address each.
It’s always good to pray about what you are feeling! In your belief system, you can be sure that your Heavenly Father can fully understand, and your faith can lead you to doing the right thing to ease your feelings. Meditate on whether you have any responsibility for the cause of your anger. Ask yourself “What needs to be restored or protected for me to let it go?” Then listen.
A sweet release is to create the intention of working out your anger! Some form of appropriate expression will be helpful. One universal mode is exercise (jogging, bicycling, kickboxing, square dancing, rollerblading, swimming, and a hundred and one other activities). Choose a form you like with the intent of reducing the intensity of feelings. Say to yourself, “Release–I want to slowly release these feelings so I don’t pay a heavy physical and emotional price.” Look at your anger as a form of energy to use in building something good. It may be helpful to write about it, then burn, throw it away, or let go of the anger in some symbolic way.
Finally make forgiveness a goal! The wisdom of almost any tradition you study says this about anger: In the final analysis, the person who is angry always suffers more than the object of anger. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself as you let yourself out of a self-made prison. It demands courage and more than merely saying, “I forgive,” because it takes much longer for that statement to ring true in your heart.
In summary, keep the focus on self-care and what letting go of anger will do for you and those around you. Moving past it is a choice. Make every effort not to see yourself as a victim that will hurt even more and isolate. You can deal with your anger by finding the right person to accompany you through it. Don’t hesitate to seek a professional to help you sort it out.
John T. Catrett, III
Scissortail Hospice Chaplain
306 North Main St., suite E
Bristow, OK 74010