This post, my fourth in a series on Hellinger’s model of anger brings us face to face with ourselves – well, rather, our actions. Hellinger describes his fourth type of anger “as a defense against your guilt for having wronged someone.” This anger is a defense against the consequences of your actions; further, you make the other person responsible for your guilt. It is a substitute for appropriate action you owe the other person and yourself. Substituting anger in situations of having wronged another ensures that you will remain inactive, as this anger paralyzes you. It makes you weak for a long time.
To free yourself from the consequences of this anger, I offer the “what” of what you can do. It is beyond the scope of this blog post to detail the “how.” Yet, for many, being reminded of the “what” will be sufficient to clean up your relationships, and dissolve this type of anger. Here is the “what.” Honestly, genuinely, in a time and place that workably allows the person you have wronged to listen, hear and receive what you have to say, tell them: • “I have wronged you.” • “The guilt, burden and weight of my wrong belongs to me and me alone. You are innocent of these circumstances. I am responsible.” • “Please give back, to me, the guilt, burden and weight of this wrong.”(Receive the energy of the wrong.) Then state: • “I offer you my heartfelt remorse.” (Then give it!)
The person you have wronged owes themselves and you the following: They are to receive your acknowledgement, take back the guilt, burden and weight of the wrong, and to take the remorse you offer. They may or may not do this; or may or may not do so immediately. Sometimes a bit of time is involved. Whatever the other’s response, having acknowledged your wrong and taken on its weight, revel (allow yourself to feel the joy of relief and clearing of the former stuck energies), then move on attending to other things in your life.
As those of us who have wronged others appreciate our responsibility; as we remain strong, centered and grounded while cleanly, without blame and judgement, sincerely and genuinely, acknowledge our wrongs, we will not only clean up our relationships, we free ourselves from anger. In addition, we cease to wrong, or wrong others less often.
If saying these statements to someone whom you have wronged seems daunting, feel free to find someone who is competent and compassionately intelligent to assist in doing this process safely, and respectfully, who is also mindful of the dignity of all involved.
Cleaning up wrongs can be this simple. Yet, was it not Albert Einstein who said: “Man [and woman] cannot live by simple means.” So what’s up? There are two things: 1) We have forgotten to remember that we are neither our actions nor our past, and 2) We have been trained to feel discomfort with difference.
Regarding people being “neither our pasts nor our behavior:” This is a belief worth having for it is a model that produces positive results. While contemplatives and behavioral scientists struggle to identify what human beings are, I, in the interest in being practical and doing what works, offer the above model to mark out what we are not: We are neither our actions nor pasts. So, let’s get on with our lives in ways that work.
Whether due to ignorance, naivete, foible or by intent we wrong others. I suggest that it is our behavior that is to be judged rather than who we are. Our human dignity and value as life forms is to remain intact, whole and unsullied. Our actions are at issue rather than our beings, and identities. This model does not absolve us from our need to take responsibility for our actions; nor, of being accountable. Being accountable and responsible is one of the markers of a healthy psychologically individuated adult. We owe this to ourselves; and others benefit as consequence.
We like that which is like us. When meeting another person with whom we share common experiences, values and interests we are comforted: We like them. We may feel relaxed with them. This is normal. It is natural too. Too often, however, when meeting people with whom we share neither experiences, values nor interests, we feel an absence of comfort; an absence of relaxation and ease; we may dislike them, or be indifferent to them, or prefer not being in their company. We have normalized these responses in ourselves.
Yet, our discomfort is unnatural. We need not feel this way. While like likes like, and like orients around like, like can orient around difference without fear or discomfort. We can learn to be okay and relaxed in the face of that which differs from us: to be comfortable.
Something similar applies to relating with ourselves. As we open to knowing that who we are is distinct from our actions and pasts, the acknowledging of our actions concerning our having wronged another will be less angst producing. We will no longer think less of ourselves. Instead, we will see that our actions might need changing, yet who we are is okay.
In closing out this post, I share with you that my intent for this series has nothing to do with enhancing our understanding about anger, although that may happen. The American mythologist Joseph Campbell reminded us that we are not here to find meaning in our lives but rather to experience the rapture of being alive. Five of Hellinger’s seven types of anger are what I refer to as problematic forms of anger. They impede us from “experiencing the rapture of being alive.”
My intent is to provoke our movement into becoming the “I” in the “I-Thou” relationship. (There is the only relationship available to us. Perhaps we best get on with it.)
• How have I wronged myself? • What do I need to change so I can resolve these things in myself? • When will I sit down with myself and with self-respect, strength and clarity resolve these things within myself? • What are the names of those I have wronged this month, and have yet taken the actions you owe them and myself? This year? This decade? In the past? • What do I need to change so I can resolve these things with them? • If needed, who possesses the compassionate intelligence and skill to properly facilitate these processes for me? To help me clean up these wrongs? • How can I open to seeing myself as distinct from my actions and past? • How can I open to seeing others as distinct from their actions and pasts? • How can I be okay with differences? That which differs from what I value, know and prefer? • How can I push back against the forces in my life without attacking others in the process?