The truly humble person is unable to feel anger.
Sure, we get angry. Who doesn’t? But anger gets in the way of recovery and renewal. It’s all-consuming, a kind of undifferentiated negative energy that gets in our way. Anger colors everything. It immobilizes us. We get stuck in it. Anger is one of the many things that led us to our addiction.
If we can root out each of our addictions, one at a time, we might be able to find out how we got here in the first place. Not only will such a process of self-inquiry help, but without anger, it may no longer hurt.
In recovery, we transform our anger into humility-and bow our heads before God. Stop blaming yourself or those you love. Without humility, we can’t do Step Seven. What’s humility anyway? Simply a recognition that we’re not so great and that God is greater. That’s why we ask God to help us in the process of removing our shortcomings. In working our Twelve Step Program, we are partners with God, only God is a little more so.
When you feel yourself getting angry, look at yourself in a mirror. Think over why others may be angry at you. It’s a humbling experience.
We have struggles being honest with self and others. The concept of false self-image, low self-esteem and lying, is prominent in people with substance use disorders
The following story about myself is a prime example:
Last week I was rejected for a position I coveted. I felt it had the potential to help people recover from addiction and stop the cycle of relapse. It fit perfectly with what I am seeking and my qualifications matched. The interviews went well, I thought. But then I was told I wasn’t the right fit, but possible when they expanded and were hiring again I might fit.
It made me feel disappointed.
Soon after anger and fear were creeping in, but never did I feel like drinking or using. I kept sharing with others in recovery and my sponsor. Being told that it would work out for the best, it probably was not meant to be or maybe I should change my focus.
This advice only made me more determined to find the truth about this obvious mistake. It was making me less accepting and unable to find my part until I started praying to my HP for understanding and acceptance. Within 15 minutes a friend of mine with inside knowledge of what had happened casually mentioned to me he heard what happened and was disappointed for me. Suddenly this little bit of compassion transformed me into an accepting person with many good things to say about everyone involved and how fortunate I felt to know of the program and have met such exceptional people.
I am relieved. I became aware of my need for humility and ability to trust my HP to help me grow, to be resilient and understand it all happens for my good.
My self-esteem is fragile and rejection had fractured it.
I was letting my thinking interfere with my heart, losing touch with it and thinking I was in control with my mind.
Thank you, Sunlight of the Spirit, for energizing my soul, helping me trust and have faith.
In his book “Is Human Forgiveness Possible?” Theologian John Patton examines the New Testament story, in which Peter asks Jesus of Nazareth of forgiveness:
“Lord, when my brother wrongs me, how often must I forgive him? Seven times?” And Jesus answers: “No, not seven times; I say seventy times seven times.” (Matt. 18:21–22)
Patton comments: Peter’s question seems to say, “Please give me a rule so I don’t have to keep dealing with this. How can I know when enough is enough? I want to know what to do instead of having to come to terms with the history of our relationship.” Jesus’ response to the question says in effect, “I am unwilling to give you a way out of a continuing relationship to your brother.”
For the opposite of “resentment” is forgiveness, recognized by centuries of spiritual thinkers as “the endpoint of human life.” Forgiveness is “given,” and not only in English; the French say “par-downer,” the Spanish “per-donar.” That is because, in the words of D. M. Dooling, a student of mythic spirituality: “Forgiveness belongs to the divine. It is God’s act: something other, something that is not ours; and unless we can acknowledge this, the word is only ‘a noise we make with our mouths.’ ”
What became clear to me from this exchange was the following:
When I am making an amends it is not forgiveness that I am seeking, but the act of doing what is right and cleaning my side of the street. If the other person chooses to forgive me, that is a bonus. Forgiveness ultimately is between my Higher Power and me. Just like a wrong I perceive to have been committed against me; I may forgive it, but the real forgiveness is not up to me. It is between the Power of the Universe and the transgressor.
Forgiveness is not ours to give, but ours to receive. We cannot create it; we can be certain only that it is beyond us, in the sense of beyond our control, beyond our ability to will it into existence.
Excerpt From: Ernest Kurtz & Katherine Ketcham. “The Spirituality of Imperfection.”
“A former inmate of a Nazi concentration camp was visiting a friend who had shared the ordeal with him.
“Have you forgiven the Nazis?” he asked his friend.
“Well, I haven’t. I’m still consumed with hatred for them.”
“In that case,” said his friend gently, “they still have you in prison.”
Resentment is the poison of the spiritual life. The word means, literally, “feeling again,” in the sense of “feeling backward”: the emphasis is on a clinging to the past; a harping on it that becomes mired in it. Resentment goes over and over an old injury: revisiting the hurt, the powerlessness, the rage, the fear, the feeling of being wronged. Scraping the scab off the wound, resentment relishes anew its pain; it is the particular kind of memory that reinforces the vision of self-as-victim. This vision is the antithesis of spirituality, for spirituality begins with recognition of our own imperfection. Focusing on the past faults and failings of others blinds us to reality of our own present defects and shortcomings.
It was this peril—the danger of cutting ourselves off from the spiritual resources that offer the only possible healing of our own imperfection—which the desert genius Ponticus cautioned against in explaining the proper use of anger. He noted that resentment—clinging to misdirected anger—stifled spiritual life by stealing the very tools of virtue:
We need to reclaim anger for its proper purpose. It is always a waste of good anger to get annoyed with other human beings…. What the ascetic needs to do is to focus his attention … on the fact that he is annoyed. Instead of seeing some other human being angrily, he tries to see his own anger. He can then begin to fight against it.
Anger can be an important part of the process, the journey that is the construction and discovery of our spiritual home. But resentment has capacity to stop that process, to abort that journey. The anger that metamorphoses into resentment isolates us, creating the illusion that the world has stopped in its tracks and has come to focus entirely upon our hurts, our desires, our victimhood. In resentment there is no chance of release but only imprisonment in a painful past and the gradual stifling of all serenity, indeed, of all humanity. “If a man removes his bitterness, he becomes human; otherwise he becomes an animal,” observed one Sufi teacher”
Resentment unites anger, fear, and sadness in a kind of closed-circle, scissors-paper-rock game. In absence of resentment, anger, fear, and sadness tend to heal each other. Anger can act like a scissors, cutting through fear—the fear that like an enveloping shroud wraps itself around and threatens to smother the rock that is sadness. But that very sadness, which rises from realization of our own transience and the ultimate futility of our human efforts to control, is the only tool we have to blunt anger—to forestall the resentment that anger becomes if nourished even after our fears have been quelled.
Excerpt From: Ernest Kurtz & Katherine Ketcham. “The Spirituality of Imperfection.”
by Steven Stosny, Ph. D.
Anger In The Entitlement Age
After 30 years of work on problems of anger, resentment, anxiety, and stress, and half a dozen books on the subject, I still get sarcastic emails:
“I want to manage anger, anxiety, and stress, but I’m not interested in becoming a ‘better person’.”
Let me be very clear. Your chances of consistently managing anger, anxiety, resentment, and stress, without becoming a better person, are practically zero.
By the time we’re adults, most anger, resentment, anxiety, and reactions to stress are conditioned responses, usually caused by precipitous drops in self-value. That is, we feel devalued. To change conditioned responses, we must develop new conditioned responses, for example, conditioning behaviors that raise self-value to occur automatically when self-value declines. CompassionPower has techniques that, with practice, will build more beneficial conditioned responses. However, those won’t be enough. The only significant and lasting improvement in life and relationships results from becoming “a better person.” We become better persons by staying in touch with basic humanity, the survival-based capacity for interest in the well-being of others.
Basic Humanity and Survival of the Species
Early humans could not have survived competition from more plentiful and powerful predators without banding together in emotionally-bonded social units to defend and hunt collectively. Small, emotionally-bonded, cooperative communities became the natural order of human social organization. We’re so dependent on the consideration and cooperation of others that we condemn even minor deviations from them by other people, while ignoring or rationalizing our own lapse of compassion and cooperation. The “out-group” phenomenon, instrumental in racism, rises from the fear that “they” won’t be compassionate or cooperative.
Basic Humanity as Motivation
More important as a motivation than a feeling, basic humanity motivates respectful, helpful, valuing, nurturing, protective, and altruistic behaviors. In adversity it motivates sacrifice. In emergency it motivates rescue.
A Condition for Personal Growth
Basic humanity allows us to grow beyond the limitations of personal experience and prejudice. If out of touch with basic humanity for too long, we become locked in a prison of the self. The sense of self grows fragile, in constant need of validation by others, intolerant of differences, resentful, anxious, or angry. Other people matter only to the extent that they validate our (inherently biased) experience. We feel less humane.
In touch with basic humanity, we become smarter about the world around us and our relationship to it. There’s an intrinsic reward for this increase in vision; the more in touch with basic humanity, the more humane we feel.
The Prominent Emotions of Basic Humanity
Compassion – motivation to help relieve pain, suffering, discomfort, or hardship.
Kindness – motivation to help others be well.
Guilt – motivation to be true to personal values and community standards.
Shame – motivation to succeed or compensate.
Anxiety – motivation to avoid exposure to guilt or shame.
Violations of basic humanity automatically stimulate guilt, shame, or anxiety, to motivate humane behavior. But that natural motivation is subverted by the toddler coping mechanisms:
Blame, denial, avoidance.
Yes, these ways of coping begin in toddlerhood. Ask a two-year-old how the toy came to be broken, you’ll likely hear:
“He/she did it.” Or, “I don’t know.” Or the kid is preoccupied, ignoring you, or hiding.
Toddler coping mechanisms invoke the anger-resentment formula:
Anger = vulnerable feeling (guilt, shame, anxiety, sadness) + blame
Resentment = vulnerable feeling + blame, denial, or avoidance.
Blame, denial, and avoidance cut us off from basic humanity, which is why, to consistently manage anger, resentment, anxiety, and stress, we must become better persons.
The Modern Paradox of Basic Humanity
In general, cultures are more humane now than ever before in human history. (For example, see Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.) So why is it so hard for individuals to stay in touch with basic humanity?
The answer is simple: there are so many of us, and we’re all different. Basic humanity is easier for individuals to maintain in smaller communities of people who seem to be alike. The mammalian brain, a better safe-than-sorry organism, distrusts differences. The human bias is to distrust people who look different, believe different things, have different values. Yet our lives are clearly enriched by differences; sameness is boring, while appreciation of differences yields intellectual, emotional, and spiritual growth.
How to Maintain Basic Humanity in Diverse Cultures
• Accept the complexity of human beings. When you’re sure you understand someone, you’re most likely oversimplifying, based on superficial observations through inherently biased lenses.
• Appreciate as many differences as you can; tolerate the ones you can’t appreciate.
• Focus on categories of values rather than specific values.
We tend to make invidious, largely error-prone judgments about people whose values are different. To obviate this unfortunate tendency, we must appreciate what we share with most others, value categories. The major value categories, which anthropological evidence suggests have been important to humans since our earliest time on the planet, are:
• The ability to form and maintain emotional bonds
• A sense of spirituality (desire for connection with something larger than the self)
• A sense of community (identification with or connection to a group of people)
• Appreciation of natural and creative beauty.
What makes me like myself better?
In general, feelings are not a good guide for becoming a better person, as they are always derived from past experience and acting on them runs the risk of repeating the same mistakes over and over. An exception lies in which behaviors or attitudes produce more positive feelings about the self.
Will I like myself better focused on:
How my values differ from someone else’s?
How the categories of our values are similar?
Do I like myself better:
When I’m devaluing other people?
When I’m in touch with basic humanity?
About the Author
Steven Stosny, Ph.D., treats people for anger and relationship problems. His recent books include How to Improve your Marriage without Talking about It and Love Without Hurt.
Soar Above: How to Use the Most Profound Part of Your Brain Under Any Kind of Stress
by Kristin Meekhof* EDITED
After a loss in your life because of death, a breakup or even giving up your addiction there is pain. Your level, including anxiety, may actually increase as time passes because you are coming to terms with all that is broken. Unfortunately, a reboot isn’t available. The life you once had no longer exists. It is important to feel self compassion – heal yourself.
In understanding grief or loss, it is important to understand that healing doesn’t occur in one fell swoop. For some, there is much that waits to be healed. In addition, it is not unusual to feel anxiety, fear, doubt, anger and frustration. When working with these feelings associated with loss, practicing self compassion can assuage some of the emotional pain. For the purpose of this piece, I am defining self compassion as this: the act of practicing loving kindness both in words and actions with the intent to heal one’s pain.
Five Ways To Practice Self Compassion After Loss:
1. Journal Writing: This technique allows you to become transparent with yourself and show your deepest fears. It is difficult to heal that which you hide from yourself. Keeping a journal allows you to write the unspeakable. When you look over your journal entries, see the words you use to describe yourself. Take notice if you are overly critical with yourself.
2. Soften The Critical Inner Voice: Speaking to yourself with a harsh and cruel tone shapes the way you think and feel. Your grief can be overwhelming at times, so be gentle with your words. You don’t heal any faster with negative thinking.
3. Forgive Yourself: Mistakes both big and small happen. Beating yourself up isn’t going to change the past or help you cope better. And if you can’t forgive yourself for everything, then try with a small piece and forgive yourself for this.
4. Make Modifications: After a loss, you are not 100 percent. Instead of trying to do everything as you did before, go ahead and make small changes to your daily tasks and schedule. For example, you may still go to a work event, but instead of being the last one to leave you decide to leave early. It is okay to make other adjustments as well. You may not have the energy to clean your entire home at once, so you decide to break it down into small tasks and do it over a period.
5. Reach out: Grief is not a D.I.Y (do-it-yourself) situation. This means that you may need to swallow your pride and ask for help with plumbing, childcare. While you might think others should be at your doorstep volunteering to pitch in, this may not happen. Asking for help can save you a great deal of extra stress and frustration. You may also need to seek professional mental health treatment to help you cope with your bereavement.
Remember that practicing self compassion isn’t natural post loss. Unfortunately, there is not a set time frame for recovery. Your life sustained a severe complex fracture. Give yourself permission to be sympathetic to your own pain. Give yourself grace.
I used to believe I was not worthy of happiness. I believed the first person that told me that. It became a subconscious mantra to myself. It defined the young woman I was I hid behind a mask pretending I was in control and I was “OK”. I ran from even looking at myself in the mirror because I had defined myself as less than. It was one of the most exhausting, debilitating, saddest times in my life. Using and drinking made me feel numb and gave me liquid courage, which was actually more, fear and pain. I didn’t know it at the time I just thought it was a fast and easy remedy. It was until it almost became my demise. It was then I decided I could no longer feel this way again. I didn’t know if I could recover but I had never gave it a true shot. I was truly scared to find out who I was. The REAL ME!. I must wholeheartedly say I’m grateful not only that I have given myself a chance at a beautiful life but I too was beautiful with every imperfection. I forgave my pain and what wreckage that came with. We all deserve to recover! I’m recovering and I’m the Best person I can be in a daily basis. Not perfect but better than yesterday
Just as God had instructed Moses, the Israelites had done all the work… Exodus 39:42
These are the accounts of the Tabernacle… Exodus 38:21
…a hundred sockets for hundred talents, a talent for a socket.
This is the last chapter of the Book of Exodus. God has forgiven the Israelites their transgressions and in binding the covenant insuring a lasting relationship based on prayer, community and willingness to have no other God.
It is not a coincidence that the instructions for building the Tabernacle include a specific number of sockets for the exact same number of talents. These refer to measures of silver and support beams for the structure. But more importantly Jewish law asks us to recite one hundred blessings every day, reminding us of the foundation of our spiritual renewal.
Creating a new structure requires starting with the base putting together new pieces connected with proper fasteners, wire, pipe and cement. It will not hold together if we simply patch the old. It is the same with our spiritual renewal; we must create it from the beginning.
Thanking the Sunlight of the Spirit one hundred times each day is an expression of our gratitude connecting us with God’s Power so that we may understand what we should do: the next right thing. Our mind is shifted from what is missing in our life to what we have to be thankful for.
Seeking the spiritual depth to recite one hundred blessings every day is progress on our path, and we seek progress not perfection. At the very least we are thankful every day to have today.