So I took my 16 year old son shopping the other day…yes, you heard me right, I purposely took my teenage son to a clothing store to buy a shirt and tie for an important event. I know it was a set up, but it had to be done. It was after school and he was really tired and a little (maybe a lot) cranky. He fussed and complained and told me repeatedly that he wanted to go home. Eventually we found him a very nice looking shirt and tie and as we left the store he said to me sweetly and sincerely, “Thank you, Mom.” I smiled and said back to the boy who is used to having a mother who is a psychologist, “So I am wondering, does it feel better when you are annoyed and upset with me, or does it feel better when you are thankful and appreciative of me?” He got into the car, and answered with a little smile on his face, “…the better one…”
We forget, you know. We get so caught up in our right to feel angry and annoyed, that we forget that it makes us feel bad when we hold on to it for too long. Now I am not advocating for disallowing anger, shoving it down or denying it. I am talking about recognizing it, looking at it for what it is, and letting it move through; especially when we are talking about frustration and upset at the people we love the most. Are you happier when you are stuck in the resentment you are feeling when someone you care about hurts your feelings inadvertently, or do you feel better when you breathe, let it go, and remember why you love them in the first place?
One of my favorite quotes, often attributed to Buddha, is, “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” No matter who said it, it’s true. We are the ones who are hurt by hanging on to feelings of anger, frustration and victimization. It disempowers us, it makes us sick, it causes us emotional, physical and spiritual harm.
So how do we do it? How do we let go of something that makes us really upset and angry? How do we put down something that we have a real reason to be mad about? We have to ask ourselves…”is this constant anger hurting me? Is it holding me back? Is it preventing me from moving forward in my life? Is it making me feel bad or sick?“ If the answer is “yes”, and often it is when we’ve been nursing an old hurt, we need to begin to look for a new story to tell ourselves. Even if the story is, “I can’t be held back and hurt by this any more. I need to let go and move forward in my life. I am going to stop making the case for my anger.”
Ask yourself what I asked my son. What makes you feel better? To feel angry or to feel grateful? There is always something to be grateful for if we look around us. Feel what you feel, don’t deny it, but allow yourself to move through the difficult stuff. You have a choice. You are nobody’s victim. When you remember that you have a choice in how you look at a situation and what you say to yourself about it, you step into your power.
Will you choose “the better one”?
Be happy and well,
Sari Roth-Roemer, Ph.D.