Tag Archive: Relationships


I went into therapy so I could learn to do my own laundry.

English: Wall post with love in different lang...

English: Wall post with love in different languages. Taken in Las Vegas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course it wasn’t just that, but it really was part of it. My mother did everything for us kids. In addition to doing the laundry, she washed our hair for us even into our teenage years and neither my sister nor I learned how to cook because she always chased us out of the kitchen. I was told that I might burn myself.

I guess my sister and I were both lucky that she trusted us with washing the dishes!

One day when I was sixteen I decided I wanted to do my own laundry and asked my mother to show me how to do it. Her reaction was to scream at me and call me “selfish.”

As  with so much of my mother’s behavior, I found that inexplicable and hurtful. I had stored hurt in my heart from my earliest childhood memories. The biggest problem in our family was lack of good communication skills and I was never allowed to speak up for myself and ask my mother to explain her behavior. If there is only one piece of advice I can give to parents, it is to keep the lines of communication open with your children, as it will keep misunderstandings from turning into estrangement.

And that was all this was, a stupid misunderstanding on top of other stupid misunderstandings that at least in part contributed to my first suicidal breakdown at age 16. My thought processes were of course skewed and magnified by my bipolar disorder, but the fact that I had never felt loved by my mother and that I did not feel like I was a good person was the driving force behind it.

My parents got me into therapy, which helped some. The therapist counseled us separately. It certainly helped loosen my mother’s controlling grip on me and after the first appointment with my mother she never called me “spoiled” again. That was her favorite epithet for me.

But the therapist made a big mistake. He never counseled us together. What I needed was not just for my mother to back off, I needed closure. I needed to know why she was so angry with me. Being used to not being able to speak up for myself, I never asked that crucial question from my therapist. He was the authority figure and he ran the show.

The closest he ever came to explaining my mother’s behavior was to say “Your mother loves you but all you feel is her fear.”

The problem was is that it wasn’t fear that I felt from my mother, it was rage and hatred. The statement confused the hell out of me. Again I did not speak up and ask him what he meant by that. If I had he most likely would have told me what I know now, anger is a secondary emotion. It is a cover for hurt and/or fear.

Both emotions were at play in my mother’s behavior.

She did not have a mental illness, I am quite certain of that by comparing my behavior with bipolar disorder with hers. However that does not mean that she wasn’t royally messed up, like 99% of mankind.

It is only at the age of 50 that I have finally gotten a glimpse into my mother’s world with the help of the best therapist I ever had. Unfortunately he has left the county mental health facility that I go to for another job, but I am eternally grateful for what he has given me. I hope someday he may go into private practice and then maybe I can arrange to see him again.

What he told me makes perfect sense. The only way she felt competent as a mother was to do things for us, and when I asked her to show me how to do my laundry what she heard was this: “Mom, I don’t think you are doing a good job, so I want to do it myself. I don’t appreciate anything you do for me.”

Of course that wasn’t what I meant. I was just trying to assert my independence which is normal and healthy. While other kids were doing that by getting into sex and drugs, I just wanted some extra responsibility.

This helps explain many other things she said and did, such as saying to me that she wished she were “like other mothers, who don’t take care of their kids.” Perhaps I was being a bit of a brat, I complained that she was pulling my hair while combing it. After she said that she went to take a bath, and I was so devastated because I thought she meant that she didn’t love me or want me around. That statement seemed to confirm my worst fears. I wanted to walk out of the house and never come back, but I had nowhere to go. I was only 14. Inexplicably, after her bath she was smiling and relaxed, while I was still hurting from the worst thing she had ever said to me.

She passed on in 1997, and I never got to resolve things with her. But I think I finally understand. My therapist referred to the book, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I have not read it yet but he did give me a good run down on it. Literally people have different languages or rather ways of doing things to demonstrate their love for others. It seems that we all have a preferred style. Her language was to take care of us. What I needed was a completely foreign language for her, to praise me and tell me that I was a good daughter. I could not speak her language and she could not speak mine.

I think this is a great lesson for any kind of relationship. We always assume that others know what it is that we need from them and they think the same thing about us. Then we think the other is deliberately withholding what we need from them and vise-versa.

My therapist also explained that she likely had a limited repertoire to draw from. He feels that she felt incompetent as a mother and so this was all she knew how to do.

The fact is of course that if my mother had not loved me she would not have gotten me therapy when I needed it. But to me our relationship was a confused mess of contradictions. She would say the most horrible things to me and then in the next breath say, “I love you.” I couldn’t process it.

I wish she were around so I could ask her about these things, but I am certain that this is the truth. She wasn’t a bad mother, she was a confused mother.

I hope I have given people some food for thought. There are other things about my mother’s behavior that my insightful therapist has helped me with and I will share those in future posts,

After many years of being in therapy off and on I am so happy that I have found such a good therapist. He has been helping me clarify my relationship problems and I am seeing things in a new light. I have also been spending a great deal of time thinking about things (one thing that being disabled gives you is plenty of time to think! That can be good or bad).

The fact is that people scare the crap out of me. I don’t make friends easily. You see I think I am going to ruin their lives. From an early age I was always “making” my mother cry or get mad, but I never knew quite what I did that would cause that extreme reaction.  Mostly what I did was simply talk at the wrong time.

I also have an almost clear memory of her putting me and my sister to bed, and I was talking to her while she tucked me in. I don’t remember what I said, but she got this shocked look on her face and started crying and ran out of the room. My sister said “See what you did!”

Perhaps guilt is why I do not remember what I said, I have blocked out some childhood memories where I only remember parts of what happened. All I know is that I wasn’t saying anything with an intent to upset her and her reaction mystified me.

My mother obviously had problems, but having gone through bipolar depression myself I do not believe that she suffered from depression. Overall her moods were okay, except when it came to dealing with me.

When I started school I would not talk to anyone because I figured that they would hate me, because if I was not good enough for my family how could I be good enough for anyone else? Of course that was a self-fulfilling prophecy and I got the label “retard.”

My fear of people is now 100% worse because of having bipolar disorder. I have created my share of havoc with it although I am dealing with it better now.

It doesn’t help when my brother-in-law chimes in “No wonder you have no friends!”

Ironically when he said that I had done nothing to him but that is a story for another day. The point is that it hurt, badly.

The reason I have few friends is not because I don’t care about others, as he implied. It is just the opposite. I often feel like all I have to offer to others is pain and misery. And that is also why I have not dated in years. And now I am  disabled with fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue so somehow I doubt that I would be a fun date.

I know, at least intellectually, that I am more than my illness and more than my worst qualities. But that has not reached my heart yet.

My therapist says that I remind him of a sun-burnt person who is always desperately trying to make sure no one touches her in a crowd of people.

However he is helping me to understand what went on in my family and the ironic fact that my mother actually loved me, but did not know how to show it. I will write about that in another post. The point is that hopefully I can learn to let go of the shame that I have accumulated. Shame is actually different from guilt in a very subtle way. Guilt says “I did a bad thing but I can correct it”. Shame says “I am a bad person and nothing I can do will ever change that.”

It is the shame that leads me into suicidal ideation, although I have promised myself to not go down that road again, mainly for my father’s sake. He spent so much time listening and helping me during the bad times and it would be a betrayal to him to do myself in. He is also proof that I am lovable, even when I don’t feel it myself. His love has sustained me.

I wonder how many of you identify will what I have said. Please share. 🙂

 

I am at a point in my life where there are some things I can’t tolerate anymore, especially while dealing with the stress of having both physical and mental problems. As much as I know spiritually that everyone has good within them there are those that simply can’t be trusted. In many ways I am naïve in that I think certain people will change if I just give them the chance or if I conform to what they want from me. The way I am with people is that I bounce between being totally wide open to being totally shut down. Neither side is healthy but I think a good start for me to fix this problem is to figure out what kinds of behaviors are warning signs that I need to pay attention to.

That brings me back to my family problems but instead of talking about my sister and my problems with her as I have done a lot, I will focus on my brother-in-law. In fact I am beginning to understand that some of my sister’s antagonism towards me stems from his behavior and the fact that he is a master manipulator and a liar.

I do realize that there is no point in trying to change him but I am using him as an example of what I need to watch out for. Perhaps this is karma, except that as I frame it (in my better moods) it has less to do with punishment and more to do with second chances. The Universe keeps sending me messages that I cannot afford to ignore.

I will start with an example of how he has set me up to fail.

When we as a family went out for dinner my brother-in-law would pay for everyone. I would have my debit card out to pay and he would tell me to not worry about it since he would get it. I asked him “Are you sure?” He always said yes and I thanked him. It was a break for me as I am on disability.

Later on when my sister and I had a falling-out he sent me a very nasty e-mail and made the charge “Every time I see you, you pick my pocket!” What the hell???

I mentioned this bizarre charge to my father and he clarified what was going on. My father asked my brother-in-law to put my meals on his credit card without my knowledge.. The reason why is simple, my father pays off his credit card and in fact all his bills since he does not have a job. My father was the one who was paying for my meal, not my brother-in-law. He just found it convenient to do it this way.

Now I have tried to blow this off as a simple misunderstanding, but I am wondering if it is more than that. Because how could he possibly think that I put my father up to this when I had my debit card out to pay? And surely he is intelligent enough to figure out the reason why my father asked him to do this. How could I be “picking his pocket” when it was not his money in the first place???

If he had a problem with what my dad asked him to do then he should have addressed it with him. But now I have the reputation with him and my sister of being “a thief.”

Later on my sister told me that he sometimes puts the meals on his business account, which is still funded by my father because it is not successful. In fact the reason why my father is paying their bills is because he refuses to get an outside job as my father has repeatedly told him to do.

How the hell does he expect me or my father to know that he is doing that, especially when it is only “sometimes”?

The irony here is that in actuality he is picking my father’s pocket and mine indirectly because it would be nice if I had an inheritance., especially since I am disabled. But even more important is that my father needs the money for himself. He is 86 years old and retired. He worked hard to save his money, but my brother=in-law has not made a serious attempt to get a job in three years, since he lost his last job.

Because of stuff like this it is becoming more and more clear to me that with all this going on that having a relationship with them at this point would be an exercise in futility. I do realize that I have made mistakes in our relationship but in some cases it is obvious that I am being set up. And my brother-in-law lies about me all the time to make me look bad. He has done it with my father, who doesn’t buy it for a second but he has told me about it. I am sure he is doing the same with my sister.

I once had a dream where I was so mad at my sister I was literally at her throat in anger and then the scene changed to my brother-in-law flying a model airplane with a smirk on his face. While I am not an expert in dream interpretation I wonder if this was a warning about him playing games behind the scenes to intensify the problems with my sister. Flying a model airplane could symbolize manipulation.

This is just one example of many of where I simply cannot trust him and by extension my sister as well. It is a hard lesson for me to realize that not all people I encounter have good intentions. On the surface he is a very nice and pleasant person. And he has done some good things as well for me. But that does not mean that I can trust him. Sad but true.

Pain

Pain (Photo credit: Michelle Brea)

One of my favorite websites is Tiny Buddha. Here is a reblog of one of their recent articles. This resonates with me because I often have trouble figuring out what feelings to pay attention to and what feelings I should not pay attention to because of my confusion between normal feelings and abnormal feelings due to my bipolar disorder. Yet I am finding more and more that there is often a kernal of truth in even my abnormal emotions. Rather than them not being valid at all, they are overblown reactions to a real problem that I need to deal with. So therefore it is important for me to pay attention to my feelings, even if I am not entirely sure whether I have a good reason for them. Pain is a warning sign that is meant to protect us, after all if we touch a hot stove it teaches us to not touch it again! The key is to work with our emotions, examine them and dissect them to separate the false feelings of bipolar from our healthy feelings. This can take time and it is good to ask the advice of people that you trust or even a therapist. Having said all this, I have certainly not perfected this, but I am learning.

Enjoy!

Mary

 

Allowing Yourself to Feel Pain Instead of Hiding from It

By Lauren Cucinotta

I used to run from pain.

My father died suddenly when I was six. For years I stuffed it down, never letting anyone know my emotions, how I was feeling, and I ran from situations that could cause me to lose, to feel pain.

My heart would jump and feel fear every time I received a “bad” email from a boss, or bad news. I only wanted to feel good things. I stayed out of relationships for fear of the eventual loss and bad feelings, not realizing that I was missing out on all the beauty in between. Read more..

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Drive-By Snarking

Sam saves Emily from drowning herself (2006).

Sam saves Emily from drowning herself (2006). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, it finally happened. I had my first “snark attack” on my blog. Frankly I am surprised that it has taken so long for this to happen since I do post on some controversial topics. Even though it was an unpleasant experience it did spark some thinking on my part. In essence, how do you explain your illness to someone without making it sound like you are making excuses for bad behavior?

In the article in question I made it very clear that having bipolar disorder does not give you a free pass. However what I was focusing on was that there are people who have bipolar disorder who experience a break with reality, including me. Any court in the land would not consider that person to be responsible for her behavior. Now the area gets a little fuzzy when it comes to medication compliance, someone who is not getting treatment may bear some responsibility for getting into the situation in the first place. Unfortunately, I lost a good friendship with a man who has schizophrenia because he stopped taking his medication. I ended up in a very co-dependent relationship with him, which ended badly.

Getting back to this comment she basically was angry with her bipolar husband and so all people who have bipolar disorder are evil and don’t take responsibility for their actions. Furthermore mental illness is not a serious disease, like cancer, so I should just suck it up.

I won’t get into my reply here, but you can read it for yourself.

What she missed was that this article was intended to help those who are perplexed by their loved one’s behavior. To let people know that the strange behavior has nothing to do with them. In other words, I was trying to comfort people who have been deeply hurt to help them understand that they are not at fault and also that most likely the person does not intend to hurt them or anyone else.

One of my deepest regrets is that I have hurt others through my suicide attempts. However I was not doing that to manipulate and punish them, it was to punish me. I felt everyone would be happier without me and that I didn’t deserve to live. At one point I was delusional and I thought God wanted me to kill myself.

When I have told some people this it has been because I want then to feel better, to let them know that I don’t blame them and to ease their minds. While my dad gets that, I have gotten a very negative response from some other people. They just see my well-intended words as excuses and that I had some evil intent to hurt them. I have even been accused of lying about my symptoms in order to get medications, even though they do not make me high and they are non-addictive.

When I get accused of not taking responsibility for my actions, that is not true. I have made changes in my life and I no longer act destructively towards myself or others. I have not made a suicide attempt in 14 years. I think this is the best apology that I can give, which is doing things differently. I didn’t have the skills to manage my illness in the past, now I do.

But I will not admit to having evil motives when I did not. I’ll take responsibility for my actions, but I am not going to roll over and be beaten up for the mistakes I made in my past. The fact is that I want very deeply to reassure them that I do not blame them for my illness, but they won’t accept it.  That means that I am not responsible for their misery, because they are the ones who are choosing to hold onto it.

So what do you guys think? Do people react badly when you try to explain your illness to them? At what point do you think that maybe you were not responsible for your actions? At what point do you think you were? Please share.

To Play Or Not To Play

Cover of "Bad (Aerial Fiction)"

Cover of Bad (Aerial Fiction)

 

A relative is coming to visit next week and I am invited.  My sister is upset that I have not gotten back to her yet. The reason why is that I don’t know if I want to come. considering my sister’s behavior. However if I do not go, then I miss seeing a relative that I haven’t seen for a long time.

When there was a get-together on Easter I told my sister that I would come as long as she treated me with the same respect that she would give any guest in her home. She promptly “un-invited” me.

The problem is that she and her husband treat me like I am a child that needs disciplining. I am forty-eight years old.

Actually they treat me worse than that. I am treated like a dog that pooped on their floor. Last time I saw them I was literally tossed out of their house. It’s as if I were a puppy-dog that was thrown into the back yard because I did a “no-no.”

Now if I had been tossed out because I had actually metaphorically taken a dump on their floor, then their behavior would make sense. However, what really happened was that I didn’t perform the right “trick” for them.

Now they want “doggie” to come back in because the punishment is over and “doggie” is being unreasonable by not coming to their beck and call.

The reality is that all “doggie” did was give her nephew a birthday gift rather than pay for his birthday meal.

Woof, woof! BAD, BAD DOGGIE!!!

“Doggie” didn’t even know that that was what they wanted.

Well, you get the picture.

I have tried to talk with them and they don’t want to because I am being “unreasonable.” The problem is solved in their eyes so why should I be so presumptuous as to bring it up again?

This is a pattern that has gone on a long, long time where they do not respect my decisions. In their eyes I am “abusive” if I disagree with them. Because, you know, I am bipolar, so of course nothing I have to say is worthwhile listening to.

Never mind the fact that I have not been in the hospital for ten years!  Never mind that I have gotten my life together while they have not gotten theirs together!

The truth is that usually people who are that controlling have tremendous problems in their personal lives (which they definitely do) that they don’t want to face. Since they can’t find anything real to blame me for then they just make up stuff to suit them.

Ironically they call me petty for objecting to that sort of treatment! Maybe ten or more years ago they might have had some reason to object to my behavior, but not now. Other people in my life recognize that but not them. The fact is that the problem lies with the fact that they haven’t changed. Actually that is not entirely true. In the case of my brother-in-law he has changed for the worse.

He demands that everyone has to cater to him. If I were the problem then why are there others who object to his behavior also? He has expected my dad to support his family for YEARS.

This is clearly a situation of how people in glass houses should not throw stones.

When I try to talk with them about anything their reaction to me is always that I am “just making excuses.”  Not that they ever do that!

Since trying to talk this out with them had no effect then at Easter I simply told them that they needed to treat me with the same dignity and respect that they would treat anyone in their home.  That was my condition for coming and it wasn’t an unreasonable one since I was not asking for special treatment.

That went over like a lead balloon!

How do you reason with people who always think they are right 100% of the time? I certainly do not make that claim for myself but I do know that I am not wrong 100% of the time either.

I get the feeling that they are waiting for the time when I accept the “obvious fact” that they are morally superior to me.

That is never going to happen.

My choices seem to be limited when it comes to the get-together.  My dad has offered to pay for everyone in hopes of preventing any problems however since I do not consider that to be the cause of the problems with my sister and brother-in-law then I have very little confidence that they won’t find some other reason to get mad at me.

Telling them that they need to respect my decisions hasn’t worked either.

So what I am left with is the hope that they will not act badly in front of their guests. There is no guarantee of course that they won’t get mad later.

While I have felt like cutting my sister and brother-in-law out of my life forever I just don’t know how practical that is in the long-run. Maybe I should just focus on limiting contact with them instead.

I am at my wit’s end because I know that they really don’t have any motivation to change. If they really cared at all about my feelings then they would be willing to talk. They have had three months in which to calm down and be reasonable with me.  The fact is that they are set in their ways and they think that the only person who needs to change is me. They won’t even acknowledge that I have changed. Apparently their definition of change has nothing to do with handling my illness and emotions in a constructive manner that does not affect others in a negative way, as they like to claim, because I am already doing that and have been for a long time.

No, their definition of change is for me to always do what they want. Period.

Many, many years ago, before my sister was married and before my most spectacular nervous breakdowns had happened we took a trip to Nevada together. We were getting along very well at that point. At a particular tourist place, she realized that she had no money and there was no ATM around. Neither one of us had a credit card. She and I and another friend of hers had decided to get a tintype photo done. But her friend had to leave so my sister decided she didn’t want to do it with just the two of us. I had given my sister forty dollars to pay for it but since we weren’t going to get it done I asked for her to return my money to me. I saw something that I wanted to buy but she refused to give me my money back, because she thought I was “spending too much money”. Now mind you, she didn’t think it was too much money when it was going towards what she wanted. But when it was going to go towards what I wanted then it was a problem. The fact was that I had a full-time job, I was not in the habit of spending massive amounts of money and this was my vacation!  I saw a lovely piece of Native American Zuni pottery that I could not have found at home so I wanted to buy it.

When we returned to the motel she was still upset, as was I, so she went for a drive. When she came back she had a rock from the desert that she thought I might like and she apologized. I accepted.

For the life of me I never figured out her thought process as to why she thought that she had the right to decide how I was going to spend my money in the first place, because that is so completely beyond anything that I would ever think of doing to someone else. But I accepted her apology and left it alone.

Fast forward some twenty-five years and she apparently has lost the ability for self-reflection to realize that there are times when she is just plain wrong, no doubt about it.  Because I am bipolar so nothing I do is right, ever. And bipolar disorder is a moral issue, not a mental illness. And even though I haven’t been hospitalized for ten years I am obligated to make up to her every little mistake I have made until she is finished punishing me. Which means never. I guess I keep thinking that I am dealing with the person that she was back then, so I try to reason with her even when it feels like my brain is bleeding trying to follow her convoluted “logic.”

Despite all this though, I do want to visit with a relative that I have not seen in several years. So I guess I will just have to bite the bullet and hope that my sister behaves herself.  But I am damn well not going to apologize for spending my money the way that I choose. I did nothing wrong in buying my nephew a gift, rather than  paying for his meal. It was his birthday, not theirs and besides who ever heard of someone dictating what kind of gift to give?  My nephew was happy, why can’t they be happy too?

The fact is that they are responsible for their own happiness, not me. If they want to get bent out of shape over non-issues then that is not my problem at all.

We’ll see how this experiment goes…

bizarro world

bizarro world (Photo credit: purplepix)

Despite my resolve to stick to my principles, my sister got to me again. This time she pulled out the abandonment card, “When Dad dies we will be the only close family you will have. I will always love you.”

I am not saying that she is a complete liar. I think she does love me on some level. But not enough for it to show in her actions. Love is first and foremost a verb, as I explained in my last article.

The past week has been very confusing for me to deal with in regards to my sister. She was nice to me when our dad got sick and landed in the emergency room. Fortunately he was not in serious condition and was released with a prescription. Despite the fact that this wasn’t the best of circumstances I thought this might be a good time to try to work things out with her. It ended in a disaster when her husband once again accused me of being unworthy of any love and respect. She did not respond at all.

Three days later my sister sent an e-mail to our dad and I saying in a cheerful tone with a smiley face next to her name that a cousin wanted to get together for Easter and “who’s up for it?”

Ugh! Does she live in some bizzaro world where context doesn’t matter?

Her position is that I am being unfair to her because she has made an effort to be “nice.” She wants to put everything behind us and can’t understand why I can’t do that either.

She does not get it that I can’t do that because this is a pattern of abusive behavior that goes back years and years. We have tried sweeping it under the rug and it hasn’t worked.

The other problem with her rational is that it is very condescending. She still believes that everything that happened was my fault but has decided not to let that get in the way of our “relationship.”

Gee thanks, sis, that makes me feel a WHOLE lot better!

This is just another attempt to get out of her responsibilities towards me and our relationship.

I sent her an e-mail telling her that I would not come to any get-together unless she promised to treat me with the same respect and dignity that she would treat any guest in her house. She accused me of trying to bring up “that old argument” and banned me from coming.

It was a simple yes or no question. If she really wanted me in her life she would agree to these terms. I ask nothing more from her than she asks from me, which is RESPECT.

Again she framed it in a very insulting way, “My husband and I feel that since you are so upset that you are not ready to participate in a family get-together. Maybe some time in the future we can reconsider our position.”

WHAT???

I told her that I want no further invitations for family get-togethers and that I don’t want any contact unless it involves a family emergency, such as our Dad becoming ill.

That is what prompted the heart-rending appeal that I mentioned at the top of my post.

I gave her one last chance by telling her that it was not my desire to cut them off, but that I had no choice because of their behavior towards me. I said that if she was willing to treat me with the same respect she expects from me, and is willing to talk through our misunderstandings instead of assuming that I have done something to her on purpose and getting mad at me for it, then I could reconsider. I told that I am not asking for anything more than what she would do with a friend, which is to listen to my side of the story and work through conflicts in a mature manner.

I have had no response from her. So I guess I have my answer. She really does not want a relationship with me at all.

It is time for me to leave this behind and move forward. I am still sad about this but I am working on letting this go. I wish things were different, but as my dad always says, “Things are as they are.”

Read more about abusive behavior in my blog post Characteristics of Emotional Abusers.

Deutsch: Phrenologie

Deutsch: Phrenologie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been reading about Jungian psychology and I was thinking about the fact that there is nothing inherently evil or bad in the psyche because everything you will find there can be transformed by the Light once it is made conscious. This fits in with my belief that there is no “original sin”. Evil simply does not exist unless we let our unconscious drives take over. Light and darkness cannot co-exist.

For instance, we see anger manifested as violence (physical and/or emotional) and we think how terrible anger is. So we repress it deep into the unconscious because we believe that it is “bad”. Then something triggers it and we react (as opposed to act) exactly in the same way that we abhor, with verbal and/or physical violence. Why? Because we refuse to acknowledge the power of the subconscious mind and therefore it simply takes over, creating havoc in our personal lives. We blame others for our outbursts, but in fact the cause is within our own unconscious psyche.

My point here is that once you’ve acknowledged your anger, and take a look at where it comes from, changes start to happen. You are now able to bring up unconscious material and expose it to the light. But acknowledging your anger and looking at it are only the first steps. Honest self-examination is crucial to the process. So what I am trying to say is that anger can be transformed into something positive, if we acknowledge and accept it as it is. What was a previously negative manifestation can turn into something positive, like learning to be more in touch with your needs and being assertive with others. It can also point to old wounds that need to be healed. In my case, much of my anger has to do with the past being projected onto the present. I have to differentiate between what is going on right now as opposed to what happened in the past. For instance, I know that my anger about feeling like others are putting me down (whether they are or not) comes from my childhood. I am only just coming to grips with that. My automatic (unconscious) reaction to someone being angry with me (or even just disagreeing with me) is that they hate me. Now that I am aware of my false projections, I can work out a more rational and spiritual attitude.

This process of shedding light on my anger has transformed it from something negative to a tool that helps further my emotional and spiritual growth. I still have much more work to do, but at least I have begun. Nowadays, when I get angry my reaction is more likely to be (but not always, still learning), “What’s going on with me?”, rather than “What is wrong with him?”

See also my article When Chronic Anger Takes the Place of Healthy Boundaries.