Thursday, December 29, 2011

Angry Grudges

Day 39 of 365 Tiny Changes

Today’s topic, class, is anger.  Per Wikipedia:

Anger is an automatic response to ill treatment. It is the way a person indicates he or she will not tolerate certain types of behavior. It is a feedback mechanism in which an unpleasant stimulus is met with an unpleasant response.

I’m not sure I agree so much with the “automatic response” part of this definition.  I think that, sometimes, anger is a conscious choice that comes after the incident, at the encouragement of others, who may or may not have been involved in the initial incident.  Riots are a good example of this.

The anger I want to discuss is the anger that is turned inward and carried around in the form of a grudge against someone.  This anger or grudge can be carried around with us for years.  I think that sometimes these grudges become a habit.  One that is no longer based in the emotions of the initial incident, but one that is stoked to be kept alive, because we are comfortable with it, and it gives us the excuse to stay stuck in the past.

I am not one to consciously carry a grudge.  However, I have discovered that I have carried a few unconsciously.  The first one I realized I was tied up in, I mentioned in my Blog entry entitled “My Yellow Kite”.  This was anger at my ex-husband that I had been carrying around for 17 years!  Really, what was the point?  I also discovered this anger was keeping me from building relationships with tall blond men.  Silliness.

I think anger was created to protect us.  In the moment of a threat, anger can cause us to react in a way that may force the provocateur to retreat. 

About 15 years ago, I was backpacking with three children.  The trail took us past a home of someone who owned 3 rottweilers.  These rottweilers came charging at us barking and growling.  I told the kids to keep on walking, calmly and quietly.  I stood my ground, faced the dogs, yelled, “STOP, GO HOME” and wildly waved my arms around.  I was acting like a complete crazy person.  The dogs stopped their charge, probably out of surprise, long enough for me to back away from them and get me and the children out of their territory.

When the dogs charged, I was in instant anger mode.  I had children to protect.  If I had thought about what I was doing, and realized I could have been mauled by 3 rottweilers, I may have acted differently, and the outcome may have been worse.  My anger held the dogs at bay. 

Seventeen years of anger at my ex-husband wasn’t holding him at bay.  He had moved on, and had remarried.  I was in no danger from him, yet I held onto the anger.
I have also held a conscious grudge against another man.  Are you sensing a pattern, here?  I was in a relationship with this man, and became a surrogate mother to his 3 children.  Their mother had died and I was happy to fill in the gap.  After 5 years he ended our relationship.  He let me continue my relationship with the children for another year, but he ended that too, because he just couldn’t move on with me in the picture.  He ripped my heart out.  I had mothered those children for 6 years, they were a part of me.  In my heart, they were my children, too.  Talk about some serious anger!

Eleven years later, he walks into my office.  He had heard my voice while I was speaking on the phone and decided he wanted to see me. 

I knew this day would come.  I knew he would find me, some day.  I was taunting fate by working in a bank branch in his neighborhood.  I had played the scenario out in my mind.  I was ready for him.  I was really going to give him a piece of my mind when he showed his face.

Reality?  Surprise.  I was surprised to see him.  After the surprise wore off, I felt nothing, but idle curiosity.  It was as if he were any other customer whom had dropped into my office to ask a random question.

I had been harboring this anger toward him for 11 years, out of habit.  It had absolutely no affect on him, he had moved on with his life.  

When I realized my anger was only a habit, I felt this sense of freedom.  To the best of my knowledge I am not harboring any other grudges against any one else.

I truly believe any harm I have suffered through the actions of someone else was not due to any vindictiveness on their part.    Sometimes I have been in the wrong situation with the wrong person and have suffered the consequences.  I may have just gotten in their way, or been a handy scapegoat.  Whatever the reason, I have discovered it was more about them and what they felt they needed to do to survive, than it was about me and my anger.  We are all just trying to find our own way in this world,sometimes at the detriment of those around us.

I’m not, yet, in perfect control of my anger.  Sometimes I get irritated and fly off the handle, but I am finding that age and life experience have helped to quell it.  I have also discovered that physical action, such as taking a nice long, fast paced walk, helps to control the urge to anger. 

I hope to eventually only anger in cases of an emergency, such as the dog incident, when I can channel it into a call to immediate action. 

Meeting life in a calm, less intense, way seems to me a better, more fulfilling option and it makes the opportunity for me to carry around unconscious grudges much less likely.

Tiny Change 39:  Take 5 minutes while preparing for bed to review the day, and any situations that may have caused me to react in anger.  Consider a better way to handle the situation in the future.

What unfounded grudges are you still carrying around with you? 

Best regards,


Tiny Blessing of the Day:  I am blessed to have heat to warm my home as the days turn colder.

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