Saturday, September 10, 2016

Defusing One's Anger

While many of my posts include a “consider this” component, this one doesn’t as it’s a piece of my own journey in struggling with anger. I write it in the hopes that some may find it useful and to hear how others have coped with similar situations.

For almost a year, my husband and I have been dealing with a tenant who has not only done considerable damage to our property but has been the source of significant loss of income at a time when we could ill afford it. Because of  proximity of the rental to our home, I’m reminded of it each and every day. More than the money, the toll it’s taking on us emotionally is far worse. The anger at something we have no control over (Vermont laws are written with tenants’ rights first and foremost) was literally making me sick

While friends, neighbors and others commiserated with us, none of their “let it go,” “try not to stress over something you can’t control” just wasn’t helping. In the midst of this swirling vortex of negative emotions, I happened to read something a friend posted about the difference between successful and unsuccessful people.

Successful people                                         Unsuccessful
Have a sense of gratitude                                Have a sense of entitlement
Forgive others                                                 Hold a grudge
Give others credit for their victories               Take all the credit for their victories
Accept responsibility for failure                     Blame others for their failures
Compliment                                                    Criticize
Talk about ideas                                              Talk about people
Want others to succeed                                   Secretly hope others fail
Share information                                            Horde information
Exude joy                                                        Exude anger
Continually learn                                            Think they know it all
Embrace change                                               Fear Change   

As I read this, I realized two things- the “unsuccessful list” described the tenant to a T and my negative thinking about the situation was leading me down the same path.  That thought alone helped be see things in a new way.

I have certainly faced adversity and anger before and in looking back could see how those situations had a number of positive outcomes. What good could come from this situation? That answer was simple-my husband has agreed to no longer rent, something I’ve been trying to get him to do for years. I don’t enjoy cleaning up my own messes, let alone someone else’s.

The third component of healing was including the tenants in my daily Loving Kindness Mediation or metta, a tradition that dates back thousands of years. If you’ve never tried it, check out Sylvia Boorstein’s short video. Over the years of doing this, I have modified the phrasing to the following:
May you be safe and secure
May you be strong and healthy
May you be content and centered
May you live with ease knowing joy, love, peace and purpose

Again there were two things about this that I noticed-when I thought about getting “pay back” for what they have done, and continue to do,  it didn’t result in my being a calmer or saner in fact it made me feel crazier. However, by listening to the words in my daily metta, I could easily see that if these components were part of the tenants’ life they would be in the “successful column” and wouldn’t need to be so destructive to themselves and others around them.

A friend made an interesting comment about the metta. Maybe when doing metta, if including whoever is causing us anger etc. gets us in too many knots - try more simply "May you do no harm to those around you" as opposed to the other well wishes. And, which you probably know, doing some empathetic joy practice can really help - envisioning them as a young child innocent and joyful. That's been working pretty well for me. It sort of opens me up. Also suggested, was doing spacious, open awareness practices. Isn't it a drag that whatever works, takes time. Sigh... The “May you do no harm” definitely seemed like a very good phrase to include.

Ultimately, it’s their work to get from living an “unsuccessful” life to a “successful” one. It’s my responsibility to make sure that I don’t allow them to drag me into their “un success.”

Rest assured that I’m not always calm about this situation, but I’m handling it a lot better than I was a few weeks ago.

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