Defusing Anger

As you’re probably aware if you’re reading this, I am quite active in addiction recovery circles both in service and as a practicing recoverer myself.  I realized quite early on that many of the practices and tools used there translate well to day to day life for “normal people” too.  As Russell Brand, a recovering addict himself, put it:

The instinct that drives compulsion is universal. It is an attempt to solve the problem of disconnection, alienation, tepid despair… the problem is ultimately ‘being human’ in an environment that is curiously ill-equipped to deal with the challenges that entails.

What he means is that we’re all addicts in our own way (aside: if you haven’t checked out his book on the subject, Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions, do yourself a favor and pick it up now).  This society we’ve built on fear and separation breeds…well…fear and separation, and that leads to people looking for escape by any means necessary.  Some use drugs, some use sex, some use television or religion or gambling or food or money.  The problem and the result are the same — a self defeating cycle of isolation and shame.

In the spirit of giving back what was so freely given to me when I so sorely needed it, I’m going to share with you here one of the most powerful tools we use in combatting the addict’s number one foe: fear masked as anger, or as we like to call it “resentment.”  Resentment has indirectly killed more people than any other singular disease.  It is the cause of so much suffering that addiction, suicide, homicide and literal disease follow it everywhere it gains a foothold.

I’ve heard it said that anger is the dubious luxury of normal men.  I maintain that there is no such thing as a normal man, and that anger is a virus of separation intending to kill all that it infects.   I take no credit for this exercise as being my own, although I have slightly changed some wording for relevance to a wider audience than it was originally written.  This is more or less how it was taught to me, how I did it when my life depended on it, and how it continues to be used to this day with addicts seeking recovery.

I will warn you that when done properly, it can cause some uncomfortable side effects during the release.  Symptoms can include intense dreams, lightheadedness, irritability and even skin irritations.  Don’t be afraid of these things — this is the natural effect of dense, nasty, gunky, vile feelings you’ve been holding in your body finally being expelled.  Revel in it as a purification and you’ll feel the lightness follow.

Follow the steps below for each and every source of anger you hold in your body.  Be thorough about it.  State the portions in quotes aloud or (even better) write them down.  Replace the portions in parenthesis with the actual name or description or the thing you hold resentment toward.  You will notice the word “God” is used an awful lot.  I’ve not changed it here, as, again, this is how it was taught to me.  This is done with the understanding that you may replace “God” with any higher power of your own choosing — the important thing here is that it is something you acknowledge as having a much higher authority than you do.  I used the word “interconnectedness” the first time I did this exercise, just as an example.

Finish what you start!  Complete THE exercise for each resentment you begin in order to see the benefits.
Part One: The Source of our Discontent
Lies Constrict
Lies Constrict.
  1. “God (or a higher power of your choosing), I am angry at (person, place, thing, situation or idea), because (what they did).”
    Be as specific as possible.  Visualize yourself getting uncomfortable and describe what they’re doing or saying.
  2. “God, this has threatened or impacted my (self esteem, security, ambitions, personal/sexual relations).”
    1. Self Esteem: are they treating me like they value me?
    2. Security: is this happening in my home or workplace? Can I escape? Is this a threat to my survival, safety, food or shelter?
    3. Ambitions: does this impact my long term goals, career or education?
    4. Personal/Sexual Relations: is this threatening or insulting to someone close to me, or someone I hold in esteem?  Is their reputation or the way I think about them being attacked?
  3. “God, Thy will, not (person, place, thing, situation or idea)’s be done.”
    This is already happening and is already the truth.  God’s will is already being done here.  God is in control of what happens, including what they say and do.
  4. “God, save me from being angry.”
    I do not see God’s will or God’s world clearly when I’m angry.  Anger separates me from the Truth.
  5. “God, let me show them the same tolerance and patience that I would cheerfully grant a sick friend. ”
    If a sick friend said that to me, I wouldn’t be so angry, and less angry is what I WANT to be.  Underline cheerfully!  This is the state in which we are to go about this business.
Part Two: Here We Go, Friends…

This is as far as the majority of even the most well intentioned people ever get.  Congratulations.  Now the magic starts as we admit our role in this.  If these next few parts smell like bullshit, trigger you, or make you angrier…congratulations once more.  You’re over the target — time to dig deeper and get even more honest.

Compass
True North
  1. “God, my part in this is (inaction and fear).”
    1. Inaction: What is it that I didn’t do?  When I got angry, what insult did I hold back?  What punch didn’t I throw?  What window didn’t I smash?
    2. Fear: I worried about disapproval, punishment and retaliation.
      1. Disapproval: I worry that they or others will think ill of me.
      2. Punishment: I worry that an authority will take action against me or arrest me.
      3. Retaliation: I worry that they will take matters into their own hands and that they, or their friends, will harm me.
  2. “God, where have I been selfish?”
    I am trying to hold onto something that I already have.  What will I lose if I act against them?  If I act against them, I will no longer right.  “I am holding on to being right.” 
  3. “God, where have I been dishonest?”
    What is the lie I tell myself that enables this selfishness?  If God really is in control, then I have blamed them for what God has done.  That is a lie: “I have blamed them for what God is doing.”
  4. “God, where have I been self-seeking?”
    I am trying to get something that I don’t already have.  Each resentment is a self esteem fundraiser — what is the pay off for blaming them for what God has done?  “I get self esteem from a false sense of superiority at the expense of others.”
  5. “God, where have I been frightened?”
    What fear or worry is motivating me to steal self esteem?  I worry that the True me is not enough.  I worry that I am not Lovable as I am.
  6. “I am neither greater nor lesser than any other human being.  We are all of God.  Only the small self has a need to be special and outside of God.  This is why any life run by the small self cannot succeed in attaining its goal.”
Part Three: The Payoff Goes Boom
  1. Boom.
    Boom.

    “With God, I am enough today.”
    By this time we may feel disappointment in ourselves for having lied, but we must remember that we too are of God and in this world playing precisely to role He has assigned us.

  2. “God, how can I be helpful in this situation?”
    I can be a living example of my own beliefs and behave the way I wish they would have.
  3. “God, thank you for this obstacle to practice on.”
    This person/place/situation/idea is not the problem; my discomfort is.  I want to learn how to be more comfortable in all conditions, regardless of circumstances.  If I can help others as I have been helped here, then my past darkness becomes my greatest asset in bringing light to the world.