Anger is an emotion and like all emotions, it has a purpose.
It helps us survive and motivates us to take action and make important changes. It protects us when life threatens us psychologically or physically.
Left unchecked, however, it becomes toxic and corrosive. And when we react without restraint to its powerful rush of energy or without identifying the problem connected to it, we not only inflict pain on others, but on ourselves.
It is up to us to seek out the meaning behind the anger we may be experiencing and discover its underlying issue or problem.
There are many books I have acquired over my career written by professionals in the field about major issues we all face. The authors of today’s two featured books help us understand a very difficult problem we see all around us today. They help clarify the underlying causes of anger and rage so we can apply constructive and positive solutions.
The first book featured today, “The Dance of Anger, A woman’s guide to changing the patterns of intimate relationships” by Harriet Goldhor Lerner, Ph.D., is one of those books written many years ago, but is timeless in its understanding of a major problem we all face.
Life will give us those Ah-Ha moments where we are able to get a glimpse of a larger truth that can forever alter our thinking. But we need to be ready to recognize them.
I was given such an Ah-Ha moment many years ago that changed my thinking forever.
We were preparing for a summer camping trip with the kids. I was doing loads of laundry in preparation for leaving the next day. But the job was hindered by a water pressure problem that I had been experiencing for several weeks.
For some reason the water filling my laundry tub was so slow it seemed to take forever. It was one of the things on my husband’s to do list to take care of.
In the meantime, I had improvised by using a small hose attached to the faucet next to my washing machine. It was an excellent short term solution as long as I remained close by to shut the faucet off when the washing machine was full. I had been successful up to this day even though there were a few times when I had to run to get the office phone and almost didn’t make it back in time.
As we continue our series on stress, lets review what we know about stress and how we can make it work for us.
Stress is the energy that our bodies use to do things.
We can spend that energy to create and realize our goals, make productive plans for the future, solve problems, play with our kids and enjoy productive and happy lives. Or we can squander it, use it up indiscriminately with little return.
We can compare it to an inheritance we receive. We put it in the bank and determine how we will spend it. We can spend it rapidly on whatever pleases us in the moment, we can maximize its potential by using it in ways where we get the best return, or we can diminish its spending quality and burn it up needlessly through dis-stress.
When we invest our money, we want to get a return of some kind. When we invest the minutes of our day, we want to have some kind of satisfaction and important gains to our lives in return. Those moments with your kids, your spouse, your family pay big dividends. Like any investment, we don’t realize the returns until sometime in the future.
Laughter is not just good for the soul – it is vital for our overall health – mental, psychological, spiritual and physical.
“The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.” Voltaire, French Philosopher
Are there really health benefits to laughter, other than it feels good in the moment? Yes there is and it is confirmed not only through scripture and sages of the past, but also from medical research. Unchecked long held stresses over time contribute to illness.
“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” Proverbs 17:22
Laughter releases the hormones that heal our physical body and strengthens our heart and immune system. Hearty laughter exercises our heart – lowers blood pressure, gives our lungs a workout, releases tension in all parts of our body and releases opiates in our blood system giving us a high – a lift.
Perhaps the greatest gift that humor gives us is to be able to laugh at ourselves.
Laughter, if just for a moment, takes the edge off the seriousness of death and tragedy, expands our world view, and more than anything else allows us to let go of our inflated self-image, our bloated pride and self-importance.
Laughter clears the playing field, reduces levels of stress and gives our body the boost it needs to help fight off the effects of depression and loneliness.
When we take off the rose colored glasses, we stop embellishing or diminishing ourselves through impractical comparisons, and realize that we are all God’s creatures subject to both humor and divine intervention. When we stop taking ourselves so seriously, we are able to laugh at the flawed parts of our nature while celebrating the parts that give rise to creative energy.
Stress is very subjective. Perception is both the creation of stress and what we will do with it. It is both personal and unique. What stresses you out may not stress me at all.
Any life event, major or minor, can become a cause of dis-stress. It can be an on-going source of irritation and even victimization. It can also be the beginning of an off-repeated humorous story. Can we take events and turn them into something we can laugh at for decades?
Years ago in a speech I gave on stress to a group of teachers in the U.K. I shared one of the stories my father-in-law told our kids about when he was a kid. Their much loved Grandpa Bert was an easy-going guy, with seemingly not a care in the world who drove my mother-in-law crazy. As a kid he attended a small, rural school.
Now Bert was not a student of academia – in fact he hated sitting in the classroom. During recess while other kids were busy jumping rope or throwing ball, he was busy exploring the tall grass around the little country school, looking for wonderful things such as bugs, worms, caterpillars, frogs – you name it.
Laughter is not a once-in-a while event – it is a lifestyle – a way to look at life. You not only find the good things every day, but you find those moments when you can take an intolerable situation, one packed with emotions and stress, flip it on its side and tickle its tummy.
“I’m giving so much money to my therapist; they will want to erect a statue in my honor.”
“I’m hanging on so tight, I’m getting rope burn.”
It isn’t laughing at someone – it’s laughing at intolerable situations – its taking the edge off the adversity that is in front of you – it is enlarging the joyous moments – expanding the depth of our love and enjoyment of life. Humor takes the edge off any crisis.
“When we admit our schnozzles, instead of defending them,we begin to laugh and the world laughs with us.” Jimmy Durante
Perhaps the greatest gift we give ourselves is our ability to laugh at ourselves! Don’t take yourself so serious. When we laugh at ourselves nobody can laugh “at us” – they can only laugh “with us….”
“When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. And swing!” Leo Buscaglia
When was the last time you laughed – really laughed – until the tears rolled down your cheeks, your sides hurt and you gasped for air? You laughed and laughed and didn’t want to stop.
Something tickled your funny bone so that in an instant you saw the world differently – your situation was so bad, it was funny – your problem so profound, it was laughable – the ludicrous became the comical. The world had turned upside down and you laughed as you swung in the absurdity of the moment.
“The crisis of today is the joke of tomorrow.” H. G. Wells
What precipitated that laughter? How did it change how you felt about your world, your situation, yourself? How did it change the minutes and hours afterwards?
“Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.” Mark Twain
Every day we have the opportunity to begin again – to start over – to write a new chapter in our life story.
We can choose to find solutions instead of dwelling on the insolvability of problems.
We can focus on all our blessings instead of all the things we think we have to have.
We can focus on love instead of hate – laughter instead of crying. We choose our focus.
Love, Laughter and Grace
Every day we are graced with a new beginning. Within each day we can purposefully look for the grace of God in our pain, make a decision to laugh in the midst of our struggles and accept God’s gift of love and then apply it throughout the day.
“But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Luke 6:27
Love them? Really? Pray for them?
In his book, “Forgive for Good”, Dr. Fred Luskin lists 11 definitions of what forgiveness is and 7 definitions of what forgiveness is not.
In her book, “Forgiving the Unforgivable”, Beverly Flanigan, MSSW, defines how betrayal of people we trust shatter our core beliefs and concept of right and wrong and create unforgivable injuries.
Dr. Klimes in his work on forgiveness has identified 5 steps for “Granting the Gift of Forgiveness.”
There is more and more research and researchers who have written about forgiveness as a necessary ingredient for emotional, physical and spiritual health.
Unforgiveness creates a destructive force in our lives. Within its tenets we find hatred, rage, and revenge – all corrosive and self-destructing emotional reactions to life.
Research studies show that “forgiveness leads to less stress” and fewer health problems. When we fail to forgive, that unforgiveness may be a greater risk factor for heart disease than hostility.