About anger and healing

People have an amazing range of behavior. Unlike other animals who act out of instinct, we have the ability not only to to choose among a number of goals but to plan our behavior in an attempt to achieve them.

What surprises me, though, is how often people use this ability to sabotage themselves and actually make life worse for themselves. For example, there are people who choose to be angry for long periods of time– sometimes for their whole life. They may legitimately have been done wrong or they may feel themselves wronged. What they do with the anger and frustration they feel determines what their lives will be like. If they choose to remain angry, they are embarking on a lifetime of unhappiness. They may feel as if their anger is punishing the other person or persons who have wronged them. They may feel justified and righteous about the anger. They may choose to act angry, talk angry, and be angry– all in an attempt to set the record straight. After a while, their anger becomes their close friend, their identity. It feels right- familiar if not comfortable. But, in fact, they are harming themselves and the people they love.

Anger makes people look harsh. It make them age prematurely. It takes away the joy from their lives. It hurts the ones they love the most.

So what is one to do? Well, if there is hurt, then something has to happen to make it go away. If the person who did the hurting did it maliciously, then there really isn’t the possibility of talking it over. So what we need to do as healthy adults is to find a way to let go of the anger. Sometimes physical activity works to dissipate the tension. Sometimes talking with a friend who can be a sounding board is helpful. Sometimes sitting and writing about it helps to get the hurt out. But ultimately, to live a good life, it’s important to let the anger go.

People can choose to have a good life. They can choose to transform negative experiences into growing experiences that sensitize them to others’ hurts and enable them to bring kindness and healing to others.

A number of years ago a young woman, Shoshana Greenbaum, was murdered in the Sbarro’s bombing in Jerusalem. Her husband, Shmuel, has turned his pain into a campaign for kindness. Anger, although fully justified, would have achieved nothing. It would have prolonged his pain. His decision to respond with kindness is allowing him to rebuild his life.

If he could make that decision, can’t the rest of us?

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