Is it time for you, or someone you love, to let go of long held anger? In the second show of Oprah’s Life Class she and her guests reveal how the ego holds on to anger and the past. Many have allowed this emotion to take over their lives. Join me as I delve into anger, its ability to control us, and how to move past this anger and take back our lives.
What Oprah Knows for Sure:
“If you allow the past to define your present, you never get to the life you were meant to live. Because you are always holding on to what was and defining yourself by what was…should have been…could have been.”
Although the tales told here are fictional they represent true stories. We will tackle how to move past the anger that has taken over these character’s lives and learn how to get through it. I challenge you to take each step with the character’s using your own experiences and share with us what you have found.
A Tale of Two Sisters: The ego has predetermined expectations about how others are supposed to respond to you, how they should treat you. When they don’t meet these expectations the ego gets in the way of common sense and deter you from moving forward. The ego does not reason and instead reacts defensively. Two sisters, like Cheryl and Kathy, raised apart grow into two individuals with different sets of morals, goals, and interests. This is usually due to the differences in their rearing. The two have expectations as to how the other is supposed to respond to events in their life because they are sisters. When one does not respond appropriately this usually ends up in arguments where all past grievances come out and grudges become set.
A Perfect Life: The ego also holds on to titles and how things once were and “should be”. Maria has been married to the Rob for over twenty years and wakes to find that he no longer wants to be married. Everyone handles this kind of news differently. Some grieve and find a way to move on, barely scathed, to find a better life for themselves. Others don’t handle it…at all. They sit stuck in that place and live wounded by the hurt. Determined never to be hurt again, Cheryl shut down and let the anger lead her through the days.
A Baller’s fall: Not everyone makes it to the pros. The ego had been building Jeff’s dreams up all through high school and college. Coaches, family, and even sports agents have all but assured him that he would surely become a star. After being drafted, he doesn’t make the cut at training camp. He wasn’t the first to experience this. Some who have simply appreciate how high the odds are against even the best players making it into the NFL and move on to be as successful in life as they once were on the field in their college days. Then there is Jeff who lives stuck in what should, and could, have been.
What Iyanla Vanzant Shared
The author of “Peace from Broken Pieces” says that this book is about the peace we find once we are able to let go of the anger. Vanzant explains that the ego “can’t stand being vulnerable.” Vulnerability, to the ego, equates to weakness.
How Iyanla Explains Anger
Anger manifests itself because of one of four reasons:
- 1. Losing someone you love or being rejected.
- 2. Feeling powerless, helpless, and unsafe (vulnerable).
- 3. Loss of Control – of yourself, others, and situations.
- Not feeling valuable and necessary.
She takes it a step further, “You’re never angry for the reason you think you are.” Something happened in the past that left an impression on your soul. “Anything that sounds, feels, or looks like that first impression” triggers your anger.
This rings true when we compare them to the tales I’ve presented:
A Tale of Two Sisters: All four reasons prompt the anger. At some point growing up the two sisters felt slighted by the other, they felt vulnerable to the others judgment, had no control of their sister or their familial situation, and they may not feel valuable and necessary in the life of the other.
A Perfect Life: Over at Maria’s the anger is building up for much of the same reasons. Losing Rob’s love and the feeling of being rejected by her partner and the feeling of being powerless to stop the changes happening in her life. The thought that it was fruitless to have been vulnerable and open to someone for twenty years only to have them leave with all of your secrets and feelings in tow. The loss of control of her marriage – realizing that Rob can, in fact, simply walk away if that is what he chooses. To top it off, she feels less valuable in the eyes of her spouse.
A Baller’s fall: His dreams of playing in the Super Bowl being squashed fuels Jeff’s anger. He has been rejected by the entire National Football League. He is feeling helpless to control his change of fate. And Jeff’s image as an unstoppable powerhouse has been tarnished and he feels that he is not as valuable to others as he once was.
Triggers & Sources: They are not usually one in the same. Let’s see what our characters have found.
A Tale of Two Sisters: Cheryl & Kathy are both upset over Cheryl’s upcoming nuptials. Cheryl is holding on to the anger she feels over Kathy pulling out of her wedding at the last minute. Kathy has decided against being in the wedding due to her anger over being left out of all of the planning and festivities that led up to the big event, although she lives in another state. The events surrounding the wedding was not what either were fundamentally angry about, these events were simply the triggers.
A Perfect Life: Maria was angry that Rob has decided that he was through with their marriage. After two decades her identity was tied into who she was as a mother and homemaker. Her beautiful home, place in the church, and friends the couple shared are a part of that identity. Losing all of this only deepens her fears – increasing her anger. The marriage coming to an end is not the source, but the trigger for her anger.
A Ballers Fall: Jeff was born and bred to be a winner. His friends and family adored him for who he was as a person, but most of their adoration was shown while celebrating his accomplishments on the field. He talked on and on, and dreamed quietly, about what his life as a pro football player would be. It is not just the women, homes, and cars he would collect. He also dreamed of the home he would buy for his parents and the college education his upcoming wealth would afford his nieces and nephews. His identity as a champion and the dreams he held were swept away with the loss of his pro football contract. The loss was devastating but the anger was only triggered by it, it was not the source of the anger.
For the sisters, Maria, and Jeff this anger began to serve a purpose. We, as humans, only do what serves us even if what the anger serves is negative energy. If we hold on to it we come to know it intimately and it becomes a part of who we are. It robs us from what we are meant to truly become.
How it serves & What Could Be:
A Tale of Two Sisters: The “woe is me” and anger between the sisters allows them to keep the distance and retain the “I am right” and “I’ve been wronged” positions they each hold on to. It keeps them from having to acknowledge their failures in the relationship. What they have failed to realize is that this is also keeping them from having the close relationship they admire in other families. If keeps them from knowing the unconditional love of a sister.
A Perfect Life: Maria has held on to the anger for so long that she has become comfortable in that place. She has chosen to stay wounded and rejected so as not to be hurt or rejected again. Boxes are strewn about her new apartment unopened because she refuses to unpack and call another place home. She no longer frequents the salon purportedly in an effort to save money. She does this actually to avoid attention, dating, and being hurt. She has switched into self-preservation mode. All of this effort is keeping her from being the person she truly is. She loves decorating, shopping, and salon visits. She enjoys the company of men and she is missing experiences and new adventures.
A Ballers Fall: Jeff has packed away his awards, ignores the calls from his former college coach who attempts to offer him a job, and avoids televised NFL games. It serves him to discount the importance of football in his life. It lessens the pain. He guards himself against seeing the successes of his former teammates who are now playing in the NFL. Doing all of this takes him away from a sport he loves, an opportunity to coach others, and friendships he once held dear.
All of them continue to feed and serve their anger, which holds them back from a life of happiness. Each of them must decide, once and for all, to find their joy again. We all need to focus on the future by “creating what we want instead of being stuck in what we don’t have”, as Iyanla says.
To get to that place we must get alone, close our eyes, and go back to that moment and feel what it felt like. Recognize that feeling and deal with it once and for all. Then, and only then, can we move into our true selves.
Recognizing the Pain and Moving Past It
A Tale of Two Sisters & Their New Relationship: Cheryl and Kathy separately performed this exercise – feeling, not thinking, their way through. While it was painful it took Cheryl back to the moment her father announced that he and his new wife were having a child. That feeling also popped back up when she thought about her visits to her sister’s two-parent household and the jealousy she felt as she compared all that Kathy had to what her mother was able to provide for her. The same exercise took Kathy back to the times that her sister, as a teen, visited and spent more time with friends back home through long phone conversations than she did with Kathy. They both felt left out and rejected, but at different times and in different ways. These feelings appeared again with the upcoming wedding. The sisters were then able to honestly talk to one another and break down the walls that had been there for so long and move to being true sisters.
A New Happy Life: Maria’s journey took her back to a time long before she had even met Rob. She was standing in her childhood home and nothing was in the right place, beds were unkempt. The surroundings were less than pretty. Her parents argued most times. When they were joining together it was to alienate her. When her home was deemed unfit she spent time in and out of foster homes. She was able to get a taste of nicer living and she vowed that she would one day create a beautiful home and have a husband that would be on her team. She would feel welcome at home and be appreciated for creating it all. By recalling this she was able to understand that her home was where she made it and that she still wanted to be surrounded by that beauty. Maria finally unpacked the boxes. Her children were able to provide that team she needed once she stopped removing herself from their lives. She also got out and made friends and took care of herself. Suddenly she recognized the woman she once was and is getting on with her life, even dating.
A Ballers Come Back: Jeff’s exercise reminded him of his pre-teen years. He was a smart kid with average looks and a major crush on a very pretty classmate who never seemed to notice him. He was on the middle school football team, but hadn’t yet become a major player. When he entered high school he made strides on the field and beyond. He captured a spot among the jocks, got the attention of his middle school crush, and his dad’s pride in his performance was easier to recognize than his love for him ever was. When the blow of being cut from the pro team came it also brought a wave of fear of losing his status, who he had become, and his father’s admiration. When he was able to let go of these fears he became an integral part of his alma mater’s coaching staff, a motivational speaker for young athletes, and was able to reminisce with his father about his accomplishments. He finally saw that the pride his father felt for him as a mentor and respected man was there and not due to his profession.
Myotherapist Bonnie Prudden says, “You can’t turn back the clock. But you can wind it up again.” So what’s your story? What anger are you holding on to? What purpose does it serve in your life? Try the exercise and discover where the source of your anger is, decide to let it go, and share with us what you are looking forward to winding up again.