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Righteous Anger and the QL Meter

Righteous Anger and the QL Meter My client had been sick for almost a year. In response to the break-up of her marriage, she had made herself ill with feelings of hopelessness and despair. She kept asking all of the logical why questions about his feelings and behaviours. I challenged her by continually referring to the fact that, by asking the why questions, she was choosing to maintain her focus on the problem instead of moving on and finding a solution to her life in the present. She was angry that her relationship woes had cost her a 20-year career in the run up to the divorce. Because she had become too upset and too emotionally distracted to work, they let her go. She was angry at having lost the life she had known and at having to start over. She was angry with her ex-husband for only occasionally being available to their son. She was one very angry lady who had taken to lashing out at everyone—including me! I bit my tongue for the longest while, but finally, her attitude—one that basically said: “I can dump on everyone because I was treated unfairly by my partner”—was more than I could take. I firmly stated, “Stop it! Just because you were dumped doesn’t give you the right to abuse all the other people in your life. They didn’t dump you and they only want to support you. Besides, staying angry isn’t healthy for you. You need to let go of your anger and get on with your life.” Over the past year, she had refused to hear similar advice from her friends and family, and she certainly didn’t wish to hear it from me. She wasn’t buying my logic and despite several sessions together, she fought the “letting go” and remained stuck in the quagmire of her anger. As humans, there is something about righteous anger and the desire to hold on to that anger until justice and fairness are restored to us. By now, most of us know that the world isn’t fair, and yet we continue to act as though it should be, and end up harbouring a great deal of bitterness when we decide that something or someone hasn’t been fair. We feel we have a right to maintain that angry position because a wrong was committed against us. We often do not realize or stop to reflect on the fact that by maintaining our focus on our right to be angry, we end up harming ourselves. In the course of my career, I have seen three ways in which people deal with righteous anger. One, they refuse to move on until some form of justice has been enforced—but even though there is justice, it will not be enough to restore their sense of well-being. Two, by holding onto their anger, they see that those who are close to them are suffering and so they decide to give up their search for justice. They go back to concentrating on getting supper, painting the porch, getting the kids to soccer practice, and recapturing the life they may have lost. And the third category is those individuals who aren’t focused on justice at all. They are simply stuck in their anger. They remain stuck because they have no perspective except for what was, or what happened. They do not seem to be able to create a new way of seeing things. I have heard them say, “I don’t know what my life would look like if I gave up my anger. I won’t let go of my anger until I have a new vision, and yet I do not seem to be able to create a new vision until I let go of my anger, and so….” Yep, these people really are stuck. The saddest part is that they simply won’t allow themselves to be helped. I would like to invent a Quality of Life (QL) Meter. It would measure a person’s quality of life in the present and help them negate any past failures, disappointments and angers—especially righteous ones! It wouldn’t take people too long to realize that it really didn’t make much sense at all to hold onto thoughts, feelings, values and beliefs that didn’t nourish their minds or hearts. And perhaps seeing the results of the meter would remind them what was really important in life. Or perhaps just coming to realize that letting go of the angers and disappointments of life could be the catalyst needed to allow the healing to begin. In regards to the original, precipitating event that invited the “unfair” label and anger, it no longer matters whose fault it is/was if you: - stay angry—you stay stuck (focused on that event). - release your anger (talk it out or just decide to let it go)—you can take back your life (free to involve yourself with all aspects of your life). “Let go”—let live. Sound familiar?