By: Alison Reeves
One of the most empowering things I ever learned is how to “own my part”.
In the past few years, I’ve seen repeatedly that when I feel any type of anger, I have a part to play. People aren’t perfect. They do things that are wrong. Some do things that are specifically wrong to ME. But the bottom line is that no one controls my feelings or behavior except for me.
As an extreme example of what I mean: I met a woman, “Sarah”, a few years ago who was sexually abused when she was a child. She was told in therapy that in order to move forward and heal, she would have to work through her resentments, and doing so would mean owning her part. She was livid – how did she, as a child, have any responsibility regarding what happened to her? Sarah’s therapist then told her, “You’re part in it is that you used it as an excuse to get high for the last 20 years and slowly destroy your life”.
Does that make sense? It made sense to me. Here’s another example:
In one particular relationship, I dated a narcissist. A real one, not just figurative. I had a bad feeling from the start, and I told him I wasn’t interested. We then had MANY long arguments about it. Every time he saw me with another male friend, he would pull me aside and we would argue. Somehow, I ended up dating him anyway. He said that he would be totally supportive and give me the space I needed; but he questioned my boundaries at every turn. It was horrible. I never argued so much with anyone in my life, but I had this fantasy that he was some great spiritual leader so I hung on. Eventually things became so bad that I had the gumption to end it (again).
He then told everyone, all my friends, that he broke up with me to protect himself. He told people I was unstable.
Needless to say, I went ape-shit and made insulting comments to two close girlfriends about his man-junk, which made me feel a little better at the time.
What I did NOT do, was go ape-shit to the whole group, tell his friends or the group about his package, or defend my character to ANYONE. I decided it would all come out in the wash. I knew the people who cared about me and really mattered already knew the truth. Eventually, everything was fine and things went back to normal. No one thought differently of me because of what he said, and his character did indeed come out without my needing to defend myself.
Anyway, I was more angry after that relationship than I had ever been. Which was fabulous! Anger is a lot more motivating than self pity. After a few days (or weeks?) of this intense anger, I finally put pen to paper. I remembered a belief that I had that proved true: If I am angry about something, I have a part in it. What was my part ?
My part was that I really was in control of the situation, even if I didn’t feel like it at the time. I let someone question my boundaries instead of walking away. I argued with someone defensively instead of stating my truth and moving on. So, my part and what I would do from then on was to protect myself by following through with my gut feelings and boundaries, rather than ignore them to make someone happy.
Most times when I feel resentment, I have a big part. I was selfish, self centered, dishonest or afraid. In that situation, however, the main person I harmed was myself. It wasn’t until I opened up to a mentor in detail that I realized what my part was: I had abandoned myself.
My point: if I’m angry or resentful about something, I have a part. Period.
And the most empowering part about that…is that it means there is always something I can do to get over the anger, even if the other person never changes. THIS is a very peaceful way to live! I am so much happier now that I don’t try to control or change anyone. I truly am.
I also feel happy for the changes I see in myself, and the potential for more growth. Anything is possible. I can always do something different.
How do you deal with your own anger?