Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Using Our Anger for Good, Not Evil

True power lies in our willingness to question the beliefs we swallowed along with allowing ourselves to feel the rage ... while staying present and not acting on the desire for revenge. It's possible to feel the full range of our feelings, even hatred; we can see where they are lodged in our chests or throats or faces and we can allow them to get so big that we are towering with them and breathing fire. If then we keep sensing, feeling, allowing the effects of the past to unfold in us now, we can take ourselves back.
~from This Messy Magnificent Life by Geneen Roth

It might seem like I'm beating the same drum lately with all my focus on releasing anger, receiving the shattering and getting ourselves unstuck. But clearly I have something to learn about this because every time I open my computer, or stumble onto a book, or have a conversation with a friend, the theme is the same: Unfelt anger is a boulder that holds us in place. We might feel magnanimous for our ability to hold in our rage but it becomes toxic to us. Only by recognizing it and allowing ourselves to feel it are we liberated. 
If we feel rather than repress or act out our rage or hatred, says Roth, the feelings dissolve like a night-monster when you turn on the light. The self-righteous – and righteously felt – fury fuels us toward action. Healthy, positive action that comes from a place of worthiness rather than fear. Action that comes from a place of self-respect and a determination to minimize the damage done to ourselves rather than a desire to inflict damage on others. 
I often reminded my children, when they were younger, of Barbara Coloroso's explanation of the difference between "telling" and "tattling". Telling, she says, is about keeping someone out of trouble (though you might get them into trouble in order to do so. An example is a friend who has begun to use drugs, for instance). Tattling, on the other hand, is about trying to get someone in trouble.
I'm reminded of that as I struggle to outline the difference between anger expressed to keep ourselves safe and anger expressed to make someone else unsafe. It can be hard to care if we jeopardize someone else when that someone has been party to so much pain inflicted on us. And yet... If our sole motivation is to inflict harm on someone else, then our anger becomes a weapon rather than a spark igniting our own power. Weapons can be used against us. 
And that has been my experience with anger. What starts out directed at others ended up consuming me. I would find myself having constant arguments in my head with my imagined foes, I would wake up furious in the middle of the night, I felt brittle.
Freeing myself from that creates so much space in my head, in my heart, in my life. Letting go was like removing a millstone from around my neck. 
It's not like I don't get angry now (just ask my children!). But I am far better at directing my anger at the specific situation responsible and expressing it calmly. Anger, I've learned, is usually my first clue that I'm betraying myself by not enforcing my boundaries. That I'm not keeping myself emotionally safe. It's an important emotion that carries with it valuable information. But it becomes toxic when we simmer in it rather than processing it.
Geneen Roth advises us to pay attention to where the rage shows up in our body. By noticing it, feeling it and then sorting through what to do with it, it makes its way through us, rather than creates a poisonous home in us.
And that's how we take ourselves back.  


  1. Anger - Elle you've talked numerous times on this topic and I remember reading them in the beginning and laughing because ANGER is my comfort emotion. It's the one thing I thought I had control over. Boy ... was I wrong. I'd prided myself on "stuffing it down" but really what I was doing was allowing it to weave its web of control over every aspect of my life.

    I love this from another blog post you made:

    ""[Anger] diverts one’s thoughts from the real problem to something in the past that cannot be changed. It makes one think that progress will have been made if the betrayer suffers, when, in reality, this does nothing to solve the real problem. It eats up the personality..., it impedes useful introspection. It becomes its own project.... Far from being required in order to shore up one’s own self-respect, anger actually impedes the assertion of self-respect in worthwhile actions and a meaningful life.~Martha Nussbaum, philosopher"

    I am angry about the fact that there is not clear line in the sand that he chose me. He didn't end things. He didn't give me the proof I wanted to feel secure in his choice. And you know what ... I will never have that. I will NEVER get that. There is no going back.

    And the longer I hold on to that anger ... the more it becomes in control of me. In control of my sadness, in control of my happiness, in control of everything. Sitting there telling me lies ... and holding me in its power.

    I don't control that anger. It controls me. And maybe, just maybe it's time to let go of that piece of information that cannot be changed.

    Now to find the courage to let go of my security blanket ...

    1. Similarly my anger is around things that can't be changed. It's REALLY hard to let go because there is no way to resolve it. I just have to let it be, no matter how unjust and wrong it feels. I'm good at saying the words...just have to put it into action because I can feel it suffocating me from the inside. I've got so used to it being there I didn't notice it growing.

  2. This is what I need, Elle. Thank you once again!

    I think I am ready to welcome my anger, but it is still hiding deep inside. At least I hope it is. I don't want to think I will never again feel fire in my belly and the great rush of 'action' that comes from positive anger.

  3. Healing in ProgressJune 12, 2018 at 12:29 PM

    Again, thanks for this post Elle. I am having a bit of a dilemma and would like to hear others' opinions. One of the things that I am still so furious about and it's hard for me to let go of, is knowing that my H took the OW on a weekend getaway to Cabo (I thought he was on a business trip in Texas). They flew first class and he booked one of the best hotels in the city...which is where we always stayed at! Just the thought of it makes my blood boil. Anyways, this is something I have really struggled with. It romanticizes the entire relationship in my mind...I keep reminding myself these are the lies I make up. He was already sleeping with her, why make it special? Was she special? Did she deserve the same trips we took together? The worst thing is, I know that hotel, so I can picture them in the room. So...yes...horrible feelings. I feel like I have dealt well with so many other things, but not this. I've contemplated the idea of going with my H on a short trip to Cabo...different hotel though. I feel like I need to confront my demons to get past this. I feel I need to have time there with him...Like I need to take this back. He says he will do whatever I need, but he thinks it's probably a bad idea. Does this make sense? Or will I just be setting myself up for something horrible? Should I just pick a different place to spend a nice weekend together? Has anyone else had this issue? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks.

    1. DDay for me was about 6 weeks before our 25 wedding anniversary. We still went away for a long weekend and she was all I thought about day in and day out. My husband did everything right trying to make me happy. We went wine tasting and out for boat rides on the St Lawrence seaway. But I couldn’t enjoy myself and relax. All I could see was them together.

      Now almost 3 years out. I look back at that memory and the pictures with sadness. That’s not how we were supposed to be celebrating that milestone. I hated the OW and her friends for along time, and then I hated a whole race people for what a few had done to me. It was very hard to get past and it ate at me everyday. Now, the last few months I’ve been able to let go of the hate and replace it with pity for her and all the women who gave her sympathy cards for not destroying my marriage. I admit that the pain is still there at times but the hate that consumed me has lifted and I feel joy again. Something that I found strange at first but I am embracing every moment of it and hope it last along long time.

    2. I have this same issue. My husband took the ow to our cabin up north. It is his favorite place in the world. The first place he took me to when we started dating and where we had our honeymoon.
      His kids are there almost every weekend so he goes often to be with them. He wants me to go there with him again but I just can't do it.
      Like you said it romanticizes the relationship and it went on for a year and a half.
      Any suggestions to help from similar situations would be appreciated.

    3. Healing in Progress,
      My husband didn’t take the OW on any trips, but I’m not sure I could handle going to the same place if he did. My husband’s affair consisted of parking lot sex (always in his truck), a few lunches, and meeting for drinks one time when I was out of town. I did make him drive me to every parking lot he had sex with her in and show me where he parked. That was in the early days after discovery and I think it just made things worse. After nearly three years we did finally get rid of the truck he had sex with her in and that was a huge relief. Had it not been so expensive i would probably have keyed it or shattered a window. I just wasn’t willing to lose any money over her. We discussed the possibility of going to the restaurants where he had lunch with her to “ reclaim” them but they weren’t places we frequentled and we decided it was better to create new experiences.
      I think i would lean more toward going somewhere new where you can make new memories.

  4. Mindfulness saved my life and my sanity within months of D-day and I venture to say the same for my spouse. Here is a link to the practice that we both learned and a practice that continues to serve us well today. I have taken three classes in Mindfulness Meditation and will continue to do so till I die. I find the tools so helpful. I hope some of you find this helpful also.

    If this link does not work please check out mindful.org for many other great articles.

  5. Healing in progress (I love this)
    Yes, his ow convinced him to take her on one more romantic business trip and after their last night of passionate sex...he spent the entire trip back telling her why it was over and how he wouldn’t do it again. Broke her heart but it kept her from telling me about them for 6 months. That said he had already cheated and yet that trip triggered so much anger in me. I have been on many trips with my h that combined work with pleasure but she used that trip to tell me about how she and he had passionate sex all over our town and several states. Yes it caused me much anger...I have not yet been on a business trip that involved a hotel but only the ones that include our happy place on the lake. I don’t have to be his ‘fuck buddie’, I’m his wife! We each reclaimed everything we thought he gave away!

  6. My friend had a terrible time with her Husband on weekend to celebrate valentines and he left abruptly to tend to a work issue. He left, killed the romantic spirit and she never wanted to go back, cause he left her there alone. He wanted to make it up to her and take her back and she referred to it as “returning to the scene of a crime” I have always found that so funny. No affair or shady stuff, he was just a dick and decided work was more important. In the end it was not urgent to head back that night and he realized his stupid decision. Anyhoo, my h had his affair on a work trip to Florida. I don’t plan to ever go to Florida ever again. The state is off limits for me and he sure as hell isnt goung on a work trip there again.
    While you like the idea of Cabo and recreating you moment, I would opt for a new adventure. It’s tainted. You don’t need to prove anything. This is your moment to lock in on s new special location and make all yours. Don’t get hung up on her and what happened in Cabo. Let it die like her history. Just my 2 cents

  7. Did anyone listen to the Dear Sugar Podcast "Rage is A Red Lesson?" It was so powerful and a good companion to what Elle says here. I am still dealing with my rage but I understand it. And my H tries to make my rage (which is not actually out of control, just real, felt and acknowledged) the problem, rather than his behavior. But I won't back down and let him treat me like I have a problem by being so furious. I am claiming it and understanding it and respecting it.

    1. MBS
      I did listen to this podcast and I really could relate to that rage that I felt when I learned of my sisters death and 3 weeks later my h and his affair! Boy it took me a long time to work through that raw anger/rage. Life is still filled with stress due to the care of my mother but I no longer feel anger towards her for the role she’s played in my past trauma. I’m able to look at her with compassion and just a smidge of pity. Much like I feel for the cow. Sending hugs!

  8. I think that you would probably be triggered constantly which would not make for a good time. Start fresh. Make new memories in a new place. Leave the past in the past and move forward. (Easier said than done, I know )

  9. Healing in Progress, I have read where women make their husbands take them everywhere he took the OW. I started out small like our truck,one restaurant, I went to everywhere he took her eventually except one restaurant they met every Wednesday evening. I knew my limits. My therapist helped me see it is just a truck, chair, restaurant. I have to admit I never really saw it that way. I still hate the truck. I cursed the truck and I swear the hood flies up unexpectedly when he drive it. The engine light comes on for no reason. I tell him well that is OW truck. Anyway think ahead, see yourself as there then decide. Make a reservation then change your mind. At times it didn't matter where we went I had a trigger. It took me 4 years to not trigger when we went somewhere. Are trying to punish him by reminding him? Will that make you feel better? Are you trying to prove your more exciting and better in some way. Think about it then decide and if needed change your mind. I tried to create new memories. Eventually my H got so worn down by the reminders it wasn't worth it to me anymore.

  10. I was never an angry person before D-Day. I would say people would actually describe me as the opposite. After though, I can't seem to stop being angry. Most of my anger is towards my husband and then also towards the other woman. It has taken every single ounce of me to not reach out to her and send her a message telling her how much I pity her and what a sad existence she must live. I know that won't help though. I'm also feeling a lot of anger with my friends. They know I am working through everything and that we are trying to repair our marriage. Yet they have essentially put my husband into exile (even though I have told them that we both need support and that my husband had a drug addiction wrapped up in this) and also have disconnected from me. It's so frustrating when your whole life can feel like it is falling apart from something you did not do. Anger is so powerful. I am trying to focus on the moments of peace that I have. I look forward to the days when the peace outweighs the anger. I hope that I'll be able to look back on this experience and remember that I am strong and that my life is even better than it was before this all happened. Hugs to everyone out there experiencing the same.

  11. Healing in ProgressJune 13, 2018 at 3:02 PM

    Thank you all so very much for your advice and for sharing your stories! How were our H so stupid? LLP, I think in a way I don't want him to be reminded of her when he thinks of Cabo, I want his last memories of everyplace to be with me...and for him to realize how much better I am and how much more fun he has with me...and yes, how stupid he was. He tells me the affair was the biggest mistake of his life and he wishes he never met her. He tells me he never has thoughts about her in a pleasant way. He says I will be torturing myself by going to Cabo and other places they went, and reassures me he is very aware he f... up and that I have nothing to prove. I know you are all right in saying I should really enjoy my time and make new memories. And yes, places our H were with the OW are just locations and objects, we have to stop making them more than that...but it's so hard. I too hate the car he has because I know she was in it many times...he is getting a new one this year...yay! Ok, I will stay away from Cabo...thank you all for your honesty. Let's keep moving forward :)

  12. HIP and all. Just an FYI my shrink after DD1 implored me to “reclaim” all the places that were mine. Anywhere my h had been with his Ho which tainted it for me should not have lasting power over me. I could not at all imagine Avoiding those places for the rest of my life. Places he took her that meant nothing to me rarely triggered me. They weren’t mine and they could have them.

  13. HP, everyone is different in what they can face. He worked in Washington State and I went up to visit. Loved it up there, but once I found out about his whore, I realized I was played the fool and deleted every picture and threw out every souvenir. The place I loved the most became a place I despised.

    My son has since moved there and I went to visit. I was safe with him and felt like I reclaimed a bit of my life. But some of it was hard, like seeing the little church where I thought it would be romantic to renew our vows. He said no and I realized that it was because he loved his whore more than me.

    Maybe take a trip to Cabo with some friends. It won't seem as scary and your friends will support you during a rough moment.

    I guess there will always be triggers and places I can't go or things I can't watch. I will visit my son alone because I know I will freak out if he is with me. I would rather make new memories at a completely different place with my H.

    Take care!



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