ANGRY GIRL

Forgiveness is an act of commitment.

Forgiveness is psychological, not moral.

I’ve just discovered this incredible blog by Nick Wignall. It has already given me clarity on some of my “life issues”, good lessons in this confusing yet beautiful school of life.

The most recent one I’ve read is about anger, and consequently, forgiveness, both tricky issues to deal with even as an adult. This article wrapped up a lot of confusing emotions and tied ’em up with a beautiful bow. The following is a summary of what struck me hard, but be sure to check out the article as written, too. Because something different might resonate for YOU.

Last year, both of my parents died about 7 months apart, and I made four separate flights back home. One each to say goodbye, and one for their respective memorial services.

I had already done a lot of work surrounding forgiveness. Long story short, there were many times where I was not protected as a young person, and I suffered from not only the damage done to me, but also suffered from the lack of compassion from those who could have done better. There were also times where I was kicked out of the family because I was so vile and despicable. I had to come crawling back, not sure what I had done nor why it had been met with such an extreme response.  And, like so many families, we were never–NEVER–supposed to talk about it, ever.

When a number of years ago, I realized my mother was now living with dementia, I knew I would never hear the words I was so desperate to hear. My work as a hospice volunteer taught me so much.  How to sit with a client who is nearing the end of their journey. To understand the difference between “fixing/curing” and healing.

I realized she could no longer be my mother. But I could still be her daughter. I saw her as a person who deserved my kindness, and compassion, and that helped me deal with both losses without losing my mind.

It also planted the seeds of forgiveness. It took time for me to really understand what true forgiveness is, but it started there.

I was still living with anger, though. Many members of our family had different experiences, due to our ages and…er…experiences. It felt like a contest for ages: Whose version was “right”, and whose was “wrong”.  How do we forgive people who are so sure we are doing it wrong? Especially when they never inquire what our own experience was like? Especially when we DID share those experiences, but remember them differently? Where is the truth when all we have is our own perception to rely on?

Nick covers forgiveness in the same way I finally reached it. Forgiveness does not mean “forgetting what happened” (because it is impossible to forget the pain). And it doesn’t mean the perpetrators are “off the hook”, and you have welcome them wholeheartedly back into your life. It doesn’t mean there has to be reconciliation–we are free to choose to protect ourselves, and we don’t have to accept “excuses” that are often at our expense. (For the record, “I’m sorry you got so upset” is not an apology.)

It’s about recognizing that other people are not under our control. We can only control ourselves, and there’s even a limit to that.

That’s where the anger issue came into play, and I love how he framed it.

Again, lots of quote and part paraphrasing:

Anger is a “positive” emotional feeling–we feel that we’re right and they are wrong. But it’s really an anti-depressant with potentially nasty side effects, and the consequences are often negative. LOVE THIS!

Anger helps eliminate sadness, boredom, feeling helpless, etc. It’s a crutch that makes us passive. It creates “opportunity cost”: Sucking up time and energy we could devote to learning better behaviors. It also reinforces our deep memories of the wrongs done to us. (Yup!)

The right approach, according to Nick, is to validate that anger. But don’t feed it. 

The way there is acceptance–not for that person’s actions/inaction, but to acknowledge and accept we cannot change the past.

Thinking we can change the past helps us feel more in control, but it’s an illusion.

As I read this, I began to understand where my own residual anger comes from:

I hate it when other people diminish my pain. “Oh, that’s not what they meant, get over it!” “I don’t remember it that way, so that means you’re remembering it wrong.” When compatriots agree with me “in theory” but still defend “the group”.

And the reason I ghost them, I now realize, is because it feels like the only thing I can control. I can avoid any further interactions, and avoid the snark, the disbelief, the snide comments, or subtle “betrayal” of not standing with you even though they know exactly what it was like for you

So I’m still learning about forgiveness, and I’m beginning to distrust my anger, especially as it often serves only to feed the flame, or grow the sadness.

The last take-away from this article is, forgiveness is not ONE decision. We have to get there over and over again until the process gets “learned”. And it won’t “feel good” in and of itself. Because not only can we not control other people, we can’t control how we feel. Feelings are part of us, forever.

We may be able to soften the feeling. (The common phrase in a grief support group I attended was about how grief never disappears, but it does “gets softer” as time passed.) But it will always be there. Feelings are us. (Apologies to Toys R Us….)

All we can control is our actions.

This was exactly what I needed to hear.

For years now, I’ve written about the power of our choices. 

We all have a lizard brain (aka “monkey mind”, “reptilian brain”, etc.) But when we learned to recognize those instinctive responses (anger?) to perceived danger (a rude customer, a snide family member), we can choose how we respond. We can choose “better”.

I am grateful that I found the way to continue the work of true forgiveness. I am grateful to find a better understanding of how my anger does not serve me, but I can never make it go away. I can choose to truly understand that in the short run, righteous indignation feels really good, but does not serve me in the long run.

And whether I have decades yet to live, or only a few hours, this is who I want to be.

This is who I can choose to be in the world.

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

16 thoughts on “ANGRY GIRL”

  1. My Near Death Experience showed me, explicitly, that my mission here would be not to judge and to forgive. So, naturally, I have been slammed with opportunities not to judge and to forgive. I would like to share a technique that I came up with two years ago that helped me and one of my brothers forgive a terrible hurt. Our brother with Down Syndrome died and another brother and my sister decided that they would keep his death and funeral secret until afterwards. They left out me, my forgiveness brother and about 50 cousins who loved my dead brother. My co-excluded brother and I decided, the very first day that we learned of this, that we would forgive them. That we would begin the journey of forgiveness. Here is what we came up with: because all we grew up together, we knew a lot about their wounds. We decided to create a story that would explain what brokenness in them had caused their action. The purpose of the story was to evoke compassion for them in us. We knew it didn’t have to be THE story, just a reasonable, believable story based on the truly terrible things that had happened to each of them. It worked. We have been able to forgive them. My choice has been to ghost them, as there was considerable savagery way beyond the exclusion mentioned. I choose to protect myself from them. In my belief system, I will see them in heaven, remember my NDE, I’ve been there, and when we see them there, they will be healed of the hurts of this world.

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    1. Susan, once again, you blew me away with your insights, your wisdom, and your story. What you did reminded me of a writing prompt my social worker supervisor and I came up with for the grief writing program I created. It might add to your healing. You have done so much to help me move forward, I want to share it with you. I’ll write it up for tomorrow’s post. And thank you for sharing, I know other people will appreciate the plan you and your brother came up with. Thank you!!!!

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    1. Carla, I’m so glad this echoed your own story! Years ago, in the above-mentioned grief writing program, one of the participants, realizing we were echoing the same thoughts as we listened to each person share their story, exclaimed, “I get it! It’s like we’re all on the same lake, in a different boat!” And when you let me know this resonated with you, I remember that. Now, go sign up for Nick’s newsletter. It is amazing!

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  2. I am not sure “Angry Girl” captures this post accurately, I almost passed it by…and just before I hit delete something caught my eye. It is an outstanding column not about anger, but massive hurt. It’s like you grabbed my thots and put them on paper with the answers I had been seeking but didn’t know I was missing. Thank you.

    Carol Larsen http://www.riversedgefiberArts.com Providing the finest of fibers, yarns, knitting & spinning equipment. Sent from my iPhone

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    1. First, I love what you say, and I’m glad this article crossed your path just when you needed it. And second, I think your blog title fits my article title beautifully! ;^) I also love how you found a way to blort (my word for letting out all those reactive emotions inside me) without creating havoc in other people’s lives, especially those who didn’t mean to. (Does NOT mean we can’t challenge those folks who are failing PROFESSIONALLY to do what they are trained to do.) So from one Angry Girl to another, I hope we both find ways to keep our own inner spirit raised high, and we both find ways to keep on being a force for good in this crazy, frustrating world. Big, big hugs to you!

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  3. It is also okay to limit our time with “toxic people”,even if they are family members . We can move on even if they don’t. Elizabeth conley

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10

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    1. It took me a loooooong time to get there, Emma, and we can never give up putting this into practice. But even so, I’m a lot happier and at peace than I was before. I’m glad you’re nearest and dearest has you suppport, and love, and sympathetic ear.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. perfect. I’m sorry you had to experience hurt to learn this, but thank you for sharing it. Often people don’t understand that one can have forgiven, but still not want to give the person the opportunity to repeat the hurt. Sending best wishes.

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