Letting Go: Anger

letting-go-of-angerFor a long, long time, I was very angry with my mother for being an alcoholic. I didn’t understand why she would treat me so terribly and then act like nothing had ever happened. We clashed a lot during my middle school and especially my high school years when I began to understand that it was the alcohol that was making her such a monster.

I was rude to her because I didn’t care. She was rude to me, so what difference did it make? We often got into screaming matches which usually ended up with me either leaving the house or barricading myself in my room. She no longer could physically abuse me because I had put my foot down in that regard, but the verbal and emotional abuse continued until I left the house.

And even then, I was mad. I was mad at her for being so two-faced, for denying she had a problem, for all of the unhealed wounds that still hurt me mentally. I was mad at my father for not taking her to rehab, no matter how many times I begged him to take her. I was mad at whatever higher power there was (if there even was one) because how could a “loving god” allow such things to happen to children? I was mad at the world for not seeing past my facade, for letting me suffer alone for so many years.

For a while, I went no-contact (not contacting my parents at all or accepting their attempts to contact me) save for extremely important matters, but those conversations were short and cold from both sides. I made no attempt to try to mend the relationship and to be fair, neither did she.

For several years, it was a really rough ride. Every so often we made a bit of headway until another bump in the road popped another tire. It was exhausting, emotionally draining, and a very difficult time in my life. I was very isolated then save for a few friends that I am forever grateful for.

It took me a long time to understand that the reason she was treating me in such a way wasn’t because she didn’t love me, or because she didn’t care about me, or any reason that I could come up with. It was because she is who she is. It wouldn’t have mattered if I were me or you or any other child, she would have treated them the exact same way.

I think that one of the reasons she denies that any of the abuse ever happened is because she honestly doesn’t remember. She isn’t trying to be malicious or dishonest; she just doesn’t remember.

And here’s the thing: even if she does remember, that isn’t something I need to deal with. That is on her conscience. It can weigh her down. By holding onto that rope of blame, I only hurt myself.

For so many years, I’d been taking it personally, but in actuality, it wasn’t personal at all. It’s just who she is, and I have come to understand that after a long, long time. One of my good friends once told me a story to illustrate this very point.

There is a deer in a nice, lush forest. He is munching on grass, drinking from the stream, and generally enjoying being a deer. Suddenly, from the underbrush bursts a bear! The bear lunges at the deer, but the deer is quick and manages to bound away, leaving the bear behind.

Now, as the deer is running away, he isn’t thinking about why the bear picked him specifically. He isn’t thinking, “Man, that bear is such an asshole.” He simply acknowledges that a bear is a bear, and a bear is going to inevitably try to hunt deer. The attack isn’t personal, or trying to be mean {however much it might feel that way in the moment). The bear is going to do what a bear does, and that is hunt deer.

So, should we be mad at the bear for trying to hunt the deer? I mean, you can be, but it would be a waste of energy and emotion. The bear is not likely to stop hunting deer; it is simply in the bear’s nature.

For a long time, I was like a deer that took the bear’s attack personally. After much time, reflection, and support, I have come to understand that holding onto that anger, that resentment, was only hurting myself.

You may have heard the saying: “Resentment is like drinking from a poisoned chalice and expecting the other person to die.” I have finally been able to put the poisoned chalice down for good, and you can learn to do that, too. It isn’t easy, it isn’t fun, but it is most certainly worth it for your own peace of mind.

 

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