Last night I was watching Riders Upon the Storm: Walter Presents, Channel Four (in UK). It’s a spiritual themed drama about a religious family and community set in Sweden.
So one of the sons goes off to the Himalayas and ends up in a Buddhist monastery after getting his stuff nicked and falling down a hill. The youngish monk he hangs out with, who nurses him back to health, calls him “Angry Man”. The monk tells him to breathe and chop firewood.
The monk tells “Angry Man” he needs to forgive his father, amongst other people (like his ex). He needs to forgive so he can move on and be free. So, his time in the monastery is transformative and then he goes back to his life in Sweden a changed man. He starts giving lectures and writes a book, but this is all done in a humble and small way, which I liked.
This theme in the show, which I was anyway enjoying, got me thinking about forgiveness and anger again.
For years, as part of my 12 step recovery work I have been told that resentments are the “number one offender”. Anger and resentment (which I think is like old anger, returning again and again) leads to relapse. I’ve also been tutored along the lines of: If you’re angry with someone it’s probably you who’s at fault. I’ve always found this a bit confusing. To me it seems to mean one of three possibilities:
Firstly, I am at fault because I’m rather unconscious in some way. Like if I’m angry about not feeling valued, perhaps it is in fact me who’s not doing the valuing. So my rage is like a mirror. I’m PROJECTING the fault that is mine onto other people and probably owe amends in some form. This is obviously a bit of a head trip. Like, where do I begin and ‘they’ end?
Then another take on the anger about not feeling valued is that I am not being valued: the anger is pointing to an infringement of my boundaries, integrity, self esteem. I’m being shat on, so why would I not feel angry? In this scenario the anger is my friend, wanting better things for me.
Then, and I think perhaps this is the true 12 step position, there’s this: I realise I’m angry and then I have to work out exactly why I’m angry. In this case I’m angry because I feel that my contribution, experiences, recovery, and voice are not being heard. I’m being dismissed. All of this is happening because I am not being valued. And whether or not this is exactly the truth about how others are weighing me up, it’s certainly how I feel. It might take a while to even get to this point and work out what is going on. Why am I angry? It may not be self evident. So that’s the inventory process.
Once I have accomplished that bit I need to ask myself what my part in this state of affairs is. I may not be able to really work this out, but I can at least try. So, what have I done, either to lead to not being valued, or to feeling worthless?
The answer is that I don’t feel I’ve done anything. I’m simply not part of the ‘crew’. Well, how has that come about? It’s come about because I don’t especially want to be part of the crew. I find them dogmatic, competitive, bitchy, and superior. I do see that they have some good things too, but I don’t want to be a part of the gang. Perhaps they have twigged that I’m not especially keen on them? Well, yes. That would make a lot of sense. So why would I expect them to be nice to me? This is where I am at fault. I’m expecting people who are controlling and judgemental to be kind and accepting. I’m expecting people who are ill to be healthy. I’m expecting people to be other than they are. That is my insanity and my ‘defect of character’. So what do I do?
I can pray for them, as a spiritual practice. I’ve been doing this and I must admit, it hasn’t shifted my anger. I can take inventory — which is what I have just done. Actually this has helped, because it’s helped me to understand. Gain clarity. So rather than pray for them, I can pray for myself: pray to accept other people as I find them. I can stand back. “Don’t go into battle” an ex sponsor of mine used to say. “Avoid them” she told me.
In this instance I actually can’t avoid them. But I can adopt strategies that are like avoiding them, within the arena I find myself in, with them. Take a back seat. Protect myself. Lay low. Taking a back seat, protecting myself and laying low are not really my forte to be quite honest. So, I can pray for help with these tactics. Pray for strength not ordinarily available to me.
I wonder why I tend to put myself on the firing line and make life more difficult than it needs to be. I don’t know the answer to that right now. If I stay clean, then maybe I will find out. Maybe I won’t find out, but one thing is certain. One thing I do know is that THIS TOO SHALL PASS. Maybe I will look back on this difficulty in a few months and it will all make sense.