Tag Archives: anger

Critical Thoughts and Anger

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Angry woman on the phoneAre you a critical person?  Do you have a tendency to look at others – and life – with a “glass half empty” attitude?  Are you someone who is never happy because you always find things to fault about the people and situations in your life, including yourself?

How do you feel about anger?  Are you someone who readily expresses your anger and sometimes has a hard time controlling it?  Or are you a person who is very uncomfortable with anger, such that you can’t really remember being angry at anyone?  Do you confine your angry feelings only toward yourself because that feels more safe and comfortable?

Our Critical Thoughts…

I recently completed the exercises in Chapter 5 of the “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book.”  This chapter is titled, “Critical Thinking” and explores the tendency we all have to be judgmental and critical toward others and ourselves.  The exercises focus on our beliefs and practices related to critical thoughts and the acknowledgment and expression of emotions, including the often controversial feeling of anger.

I’ve decided to focus this week’s post on the topics of criticism and anger.  I will share some of Louise Hay’s thoughts on these topics, as well as my reactions and insights from the Chapter 5 exercises.

Louise Hay on Criticism

Most of us have such a strong tendency to judge and criticize that we often don’t even realize when we’re doing it. Louise Hay believes that we will never be able to really love ourselves until we go beyond the need to make others, ourselves and life itself wrong.  Since loving ourselves is the key to overcoming all of the problems in our lives according to Louise’s philosophy, releasing the need to criticize is a very important step in the healing process.

Criticism breaks down the inner spirit and never changes a thing!  In contrast, praise builds up the spirit and can help to bring about positive change.

I Criticize Myself For…

One of the Chapter 5 exercises directs us to write down two ways in which we criticize ourselves related to the area of love and intimacy.  Below is what I wrote…

I criticize myself for _____ :

  1. …Attracting narcissistic and needy people for whom it’s “all about them.”  In these relationships, I feel like I am there for them, but they are not there for me.
  2. …Not being able to express myself the way I’d like to in relationships.  I want to foster increased intimacy with people, but I find myself unable to communicate in the right way to do this.

I Praise Myself For…

We are then directed to write about two things for which we can praise ourselves in the area of love and intimacy.  My examples were:

I praise myself for ____ :

  1. …Being able to attract a wonderful partner and grow together over the years.  We have a great relationship and I am very proud of that.
  2. …Not settling for sub-par friendships and relationships just so I’m not alone.  While I wish I had more connections in my life, I am glad that I haven’t held on to the needy and narcissistic friendships.

The purpose of the above exercise was to break the habit of criticism and learn to praise ourselves.  Through this simple example, I could definitely see that self-praise was infinitely more empowering than self-criticism. With the criticism, I backed myself into a corner of negativity.  With praise, I created more possibility and power in the present moment and for the future.  I also learned that when you look for something, you can find it.  While my natural tendency has been to look for things to criticize, it is just as easy to find things to praise when that is your focus.  Try it and you’ll see that it’s true!

Louise Hay on Anger

Anger is a natural and normal emotion, yet many of us have learned that it’s not nice, polite, or acceptable to be angry. Consequently, we learn to “swallow” our angry feelings.  These feelings then settle into our bodies and, over time, they can mount into the type of resentment which contributes to aches and pains and even serious diseases.   Some of the conditions which Louise Hay believes stem from anger include bursitis, carpal-tunnel syndrome, cellulite, cold sores, depression, jaw problems, kidney stones, and sore throats.  Long-term unexpressed anger can even lead to illnesses as serious as cancer!

We need to learn to acknowledge and express all of our feelings, including anger, in positive and healthy ways. But first it’s helpful to explore our family patterns around anger and our own history of dealing with angry feelings.  In many families, anger is frowned upon.  Many people either suppress their angry feelings completely or deal with them through addictive or avoidant behaviors.   Some people only express their anger when it builds up to a crescendo and then they explode in an unproductive manner.   They are like a pressure cooker in that they only show their anger when it builds up to the point where they can no longer stand it.

What Me, Angry?

I have never been comfortable with anger, either my own or that of others.  For most of my life, I denied even having any angry feelings toward anyone besides myself.  I often felt angry toward myself, mostly because I was unable to live up to my own high standards, and I expressed that anger by starving myself, binging and purging, and engaging in other destructive behaviors.  I also suffered from depression for much of my life, a condition which has frequently been termed “anger turned inward.”

In recent years, I have become more comfortable with having feelings of anger, yet I continue to struggle with appropriately expressing those feelings.  I now acknowledge that I have a right to be angry, but it still doesn’t feel safe to reveal that emotion to most of the people in my life.  This is an area of growth for me.  I want to increase the level of closeness in my current relationships, as well as develop empowering new connections.  Being “real” and communicating honestly are keys to our experiencing true intimacy in our relationships.

Anger – Not the Bogeyman!

The ability to express all emotions in a direct and mature way can help us to become closer to our loved ones.  Anger is not the bogeyman that many of us have believed it to be.  It is in our best interest to make peace with anger.  To aid in that effort, here are a few closing affirmations from Louise Hay:

  • Anger is normal and natural.”
  • I am safe with all of my emotions.”
  • I allow myself freedom with all my emotions, including anger.”
  • Healthy expressions of anger keep me healthy.”

The Frustration Rabbit Hole

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Very Frustrated and Angry ManEarlier today, I had to call the phone company about an error they had made regarding changes to my service plan.  I dread making these types of calls because I invariably end up being transferred to multiple service reps before my issues are resolved.  I find myself becoming angry and frustrated at how long these calls take and how inefficiently the company handles what should be a very easy and straight-forward request.

Worse Than Usual

Today’s call was far worse than any other such call I’ve made in recent memory.  I was transferred to no fewer than five service representatives and was on the phone for close to an hour.  It didn’t take long before I felt my heart racing and my blood pressure rising.  I ended up losing my cool during this call and expressing my anger and frustration toward the person on the other end of the phone.

When I got off the phone, I felt shaky and uncomfortable.  I wasn’t proud of the way I had behaved during the call.  While it’s perfectly reasonable to get upset at inefficiencies and wasted time, I didn’t feel good at how angry I had become.  I allowed myself to get “rattled” by what had transpired and I had let these events disrupt my well-being.

What Can I Learn From This?

As I like to do, I decided to look at what I could learn from my phone company experience and how I could react differently in the future.   “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz quickly came to mind, and in particular the second agreement, “Don’t Take Anything Personally.”  In short, this agreement states that what others say and do is a projection of their own reality; it is not about us.  When we are immune to the actions and opinions of others, we won’t be the victim of needless suffering.  Although this agreement has myriad implications for all of our interactions with others, I will focus primarily on my experiences of earlier today.

I Took Things Personally…

I took the behavior of the phone company representatives personally.  When they told me that they needed to transfer my call to yet another representative, instead of merely acknowledging that the company has disorganized processes which impact all of their customers, I made it be about me.  I allowed myself to feel offended and persecuted by the failure of any given individual to help me.

As I was transferred to each successive person, I became angrier and angrier because I felt I was being treated unfairly.  I didn’t feel “heard” or understood by any of the representatives, so I spoke more loudly and injected anger and frustration into my voice.   In the process, I made things more difficult for myself instead of easier.  Instead of working on my service issue, the representatives were instead apologizing for my inconvenience and telling me they understood my frustration.  Such platitudes only served to stir up more ire in me because I doubted the sincerity of the words.  I was taking things more and more personally and becoming increasingly more upset.

How To Do Better Next Time

What could I do differently moving forward?  Here are some thoughts… First, I could set an intention for the call before making it.  My intention could be for the call to go smoothly and for me to behave calmly and kindly throughout.  This strategy definitely works!  Before a recent interaction with someone I find challenging, I set an intention for kindness to govern my behavior with this person.  Instead of acting impatient and frustrated as I had in the past, I was much more loving and kind and managed to keep my cool instead of lose my temper.

In future difficult situations, I can take a mental “time out” as needed to help re-center myself.  This can be as simple as taking a deep breath and gently reminding myself of my intention to maintain a calm disposition.  I can also reflect upon the powerful agreement to not take anything personally.  If necessary, I can pause the interaction and revisit it at a time when I am more ready to handle it.  In terms of my phone company call, I could ask for the direct number for the new department and contact them later instead of being transferred to them in the midst of my upset.  Even a few minutes of “breathing room” before speaking with the next representative could have allowed me the space and time to calm down and get into a better mental and emotional state for the call.

We Control Our Reactions

Today’s interaction reminded me of a very powerful principle.  Although we cannot control everything that happens in our lives, we are in charge of our reactions.  There will always be companies with poor customer service practices and people who treat us in an unfair or unkind manner.  We have the choice as to whether these situations cause us to come unglued and if we will react with anger or emotional upset.  Every action we take in life is a choice and it is important to remember that.  I chose today to get upset and angry during my customer service call.  Next time, I can choose to stay calm and centered while the chaos of a disorganized company unfolds around me.  Then I can get off the phone and get on with my day!  I trust that I will feel much more empowered and confident with the latter choice.

Implications for the Healing Project

How is all of this relevant to my healing project?  Healing happens on all levels – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.   The more “zen” I display in emotionally trying situations, the less my upset will impact my health and well-being.  If I can remember to not take anything personally in life, I will be a much calmer and happier person.

Don’t Take Anything Personally

I close with some words of wisdom from Don Miguel Ruiz related to his Second Agreement, “Don’t Take Anything Personally.”

You are never responsible for the actions of others; you are only responsible for you.  When you truly understand this, and refuse to take things personally, you can hardly be hurt by the careless comments or actions of others.  You can travel around the world with your heart completely open.  You can say, “I love you,” without fear of being rejected.  You can ask for what you need without guilt or self-judgment.  You can choose to follow your heart always, and live with inner peace and happiness.”

My Week of Silence

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Woman with Her Finger on Her LipsI just spent over a week without speaking.  No, I didn’t go to an ashram or a silent retreat; I simply had no voice for nine days.

My laryngitis was related to the flu virus that I mentioned in my last post and although it wasn’t unexpected, I never thought it would last so long.  However, since I am a big believer in the messages of our physical ailments, I decided to look for the meaning and lessons of my “week of silence.”

What Does Louise Hay Say?

As a first step in my search for answers, I referenced “You Can Heal Your Life” to see what Louise Hay had to say about laryngitis.  While I generally recognize myself and my situation in her remarks, I was left with a huge question mark on this one.  Louise Hay’s probable causes for laryngitis are:

  • So mad you can’t speak
  • Fear of speaking up
  • Resentment of authority

I am not an angry person. In fact, I rarely feel much anger at all.  I do experience a fair amount of frustration, but the thought of my being so angry I cannot speak is highly foreign to me. I do sometimes fear speaking up for myself, but this was not an issue for me around the time I lost my voice.  I also resent authority at times, but my rebellious streak has been tempered by age and I don’t feel this is a prominent issue for me any longer.

Could Louise Be Wrong This Time?

Could it be that the great Louise Hay is wrong in this instance? Possibly… She has stated that her probable causes ring true approximately 95% of the time.  Perhaps I’m i n that other 5%.  If I am angry at all, it’s about some of my life circumstances, such as my health issues and my career woes.  I have some anger toward myself for my role in these issues, particularly my failure to stick with a single career path long enough to become an expert in a certain profession.  But I would have to say that these are more frustrations than anger and are so long-standing that I would doubt they would lead to an acute bout of laryngitis in July 2010.

Worse Before It Gets Better?

One possibility that I have entertained is that my Healing Project has increased my focus on issues and feelings which had previously simmered more deeply beneath my conscious awareness.   In some respects, it feels as if things have gotten worse instead of better since I began this journey – and this blog – five months ago.  Sometimes things do get worse before they get better, but I am still optimistic that I can and will heal myself and my life in one year.

Great Communicator

Although Louise Hay may not be spot on regarding the probable causes for my laryngitis, I have derived a number of personal insights concerning losing my voice.  First, a bit of background information… I love to talk and am known to be a very talkative and animated person.  I have been a member of Toastmasters International for over six years and have been working on further honing my verbal communication skills through that venue.  I believe that one of my greatest strengths is my ability to communicate well through both writing and speaking.

Taking Our Blessings For Granted

We often take our gifts and our blessings for granted; it’s human nature to reflect more on what’s missing than on what’s present in our lives. I never really thought twice about being able to vocalize my thoughts and feelings whenever I desired to do so.  However, in my “week of silence,” the only sounds which were emitted from my lips were quiet whispers.  I was unable to speak on the phone or even verbalize a food order in a restaurant.  When a passerby said hello to me, I could only nod or wave in response.

Unable to Speak

It was difficult for me not to be able to talk, not just logistically but emotionally as well. I was rendered much more dependent upon my husband to do things for me and to be my “voice.”  I reflected upon those who are physically unable to speak for long periods of time and felt great empathy for them.  I wondered if they needed to carry a sign around wherever they went to alert the world of their handicap and if they were perpetually armed with a notepad and pen so that they could communicate even the most basic of ideas to others.

I also thought about Roger Ebert, the film critic rendered unable to speak as a result of throat and mouth cancer.  I saw him on Oprah earlier this year and marveled at how he has adapted to the changes in his life.  I saw his happiness at simply being alive and his gratitude toward his wife for how much she has helped him through his years of illness.

The Importance of Listening

What were my lessons from my week of silence?  I can think of a few… First, I am profoundly grateful for my gift for speaking and the ease with which I generally communicate through the spoken word.  Second, I realized that I need to spend more time in silence; that I need to listen and reflect more than I usually do.

I remember an old saying which expresses that we were given two ears and one mouth because we should listen twice as much as we speak.  I became aware last week that I don’t listen enough, as I am too preoccupied with talking.  When my husband and I go on long walks, I generally do most of the talking, but last week I ended up listening more to what he had to say.  When I’m not clamoring for “air time,” I get to learn more about others, including my wonderful husband, who is my best friend in the world.

Focus on What’s Right, Not What’s Wrong

Finally, I learned to appreciate the health that I do have instead of dwelling upon my niggling health complaints.  I was reminded that what we focus upon grows, so I should focus on my physical blessings instead of on my defects.  Of course, I will continue to pursue solutions to that which ails me, but my main focus should be on what’s right instead of what’s wrong.

It’s true that I still experience many migraines, but I also have excellent vision and hearing, as well as a strong and resonant voice most of the time.  That voice is gradually re-emerging after my week of silence.  It sounds hoarse and raspy now, but I am ever so grateful to be able to talk to my husband in more than a whisper.

A Closing Affirmation – I Love My Voice!

I close with the powerful affirmations on the voice from Louise Hay’s “Love Your Body”:

“I voice my opinions.  I speak up for myself.  I sing the praises of love and joy.  My words are the music of life.  I choose the thoughts that express beauty and gratitude.  I proclaim my oneness with all of life.  I love and appreciate my beautiful voice!”

I am so grateful to be able to speak! I am so grateful to be well after almost two weeks of being sick.  I am grateful for the many health blessings I have, including my wonderful voice. I am grateful for this day, and for every day of my life, and I wish you all a wonderful week!