My husband and I got married in 2014. Our wedding day is so vivid in my mind. The sun was out, rays streaming through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the observatory we chose for our reception. We could see the lake shimmering just behind us. Our guests smiled at us behind turquoise-clad dinner tables that were covered in rose petals. My husband couldn’t keep his eyes off of me. …And I couldn’t keep my eyes off of the entrance.
I was waiting for my parents to walk through the door. But they never did.
I spent the last two years of my life and the first two years of my marriage seething with a dark rage. The day I got married and my parents didn’t show up was the beginning of a year-long journey into the depths of my own personal hell as I struggled with severe abandonment issues and alternating bouts of rage and depression. My husband did what he could to help me, but for several months I really could not be helped.
My healing began when I learned that trying to control my anger only drove it down long enough to incubate and resurface in more destructive behaviours, actions and habits. When we are angry, we are usually so focused on the situation that angered us that we don’t realize that a boundary has been violated.
When I began to use my anger as a portal to self-study and examination, I began to learn more about my deepest values and needs. In fact, I continue to learn that, in most cases, I am not just angry at whoever wronged me, I am also angry at myself. Because I regularly violate my own boundaries, and because I regularly allow others to violate them too.
It is so easy to have our boundaries violated when we don’t know what they are. A lot of
our anger comes from boundaries crossed in our childhood. So, even though my parents abandoning me on my wedding day was hurtful, most of my anger came from the fact that, in my youth, I had been such an obedient daughter and yet was often neglected and overlooked. When they didn’t show up on my wedding day, it reinforced my belief that no matter how good a person and daughter I tried to be, I wouldn’t be seen and I wouldn’t be appreciated. Their actions violated my need to be appreciated.
Before I saw the need at the heart of my anger, I kept blaming my husband for “doing what my parents did,” “abandoning” me to go visit a friend, “ignoring” my needs by not doing the dishes. But really, I was upset that my parents had not fulfilled my need for appreciation and so I was asking him to compensate for their shortcomings. In fact, I was asking him to compensate for my shortcomings, because my self-deprecation and self-pity meant there was no reservoir of appreciation in my own self from which to draw.
As you can probably tell, unaddressed anger can be toxic and very much destructive both to ourselves and those we love. But if we can use our anger as a gateway to understand what boundaries we need in place and how we can bring ourselves back to a place of security when our boundaries are violated (even by ourselves), then there is no need to “control” anger. Once we can address it, we can release it and we can free it from its chains .
Only after reflection and self-examination can we then approach our oppressors, and that includes ourselves, and be direct about what is really going on-what need is unmet, what boundary had been crossed.
The final step in the process of freeing our anger is to realize we are a part of a greater whole. When we allow the differences between us to melt away and welcome in a heart-opening expansiveness that shows us that we are the world and the world is us, then there is no “I” to defend or “you” to combat. As Rumi puts it:
“Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.”
We can invite such expansiveness in with meditation, prayer or yogic practice directed at integrating us with and reminding us of our larger Self.
In my next post, I will give you a meditative Sufi yoga practice to help engage and release your anger, and open you up to the harmony of the universe. Stay tuned!
May you be filled with peace,