Anger: Chapter 2
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Anger: Chapter 3

Anger Is A Mistake

Virtually everyone gets angry.  Nobodyís perfect.  Actually, one study found the average, college-educated American man gets visibly angry in some small way about three to four times a week around his home.  This might be expressed by a raised and angry voice, by slamming the door, by cursing when finding his childís bicycle blocking the driveway, by talking unkindly to his wife, or by yelling at the dog (Gorney, 1977).  Several studies have found similar rates of anger for both men and women in America (Averill, 1982). 

The most careful observational study of normal families with children found that mothers express irritated verbal comments to their children about once every two or three minutes when they are in the same room with no television playing.  The same average mothers hit, push, or spank their children once every 200 minutes they spend together in this fashion (Patterson, 1982). 

Some people get angry several times a day and even stew in anger for hours at a time.  A few lucky people hardly ever get angry, maybe getting a little irritated once a month or a couple of times a year.  Some husbands and wives get angry with each other almost everyday, while others go for years without getting angry at each other even once.  Actually, according to research surveys, the frequency of angry feelings in a marriage is one of the best predictors of problems in a marriage.  The more one or both partners in a marriage get angry, the more likely that the marriage is an unhappy one and not working well.  I have met quite a few couples with exciting and active marriages who have not had an argument, i.e. an angry disagreement, in 25 years or more of marriage.  While this is unusual, it is not rare in a loving marriage.  Anger hurts a good marriage or relationship. While many couples with very good marriages do have fairly frequent brief and mild feeling of anger with each other and occasional angry arguments, the anger itself never adds to the enjoyment of marriage.

The fact that we all get angry doesnít mean that itís okay to get angry.  Anger is a mistake.  We all make mistakes, but each mistake sets us back a little bit.  When I balance my checkbook, I try to add and subtract carefully even though I know I am sometimes going to make a mistake.  The more mistakes I make, the more likely it is that I wonít have enough money in the bank and my check will bounce.  Anger is similar.  Every time you have an angry thought or feeling doesnít lead to a catastrophe.  However, each time is a little mistake.  It increases the chance that your anger will result in an open attack on another person or hinder your life in some other way.

Holding It In Or Letting It Out

Sometimes, anger is only an inner experience that doesnít lead to any outward signs of upset or outburst of verbal or physical aggression.  This doesnít mean that no harm is being done. The reason that people try not to let anger out is that it leads to behavior that hurts other people.  The average person usually feel attacked or insulted by outward expressions of anger directed at him. People donít appreciate being hurt. So most of us, if we get angry, try to control at least our outward expressions of anger.  However, even if anger is held in, it is damaging.  Research studies have shown that blood pressure goes up whether anger is held in or openly expressed.  Inner anger frequently leads to anxiety and tension.  It also restricts the way you interact with others.  Anger blocks our ability to think clearly about how to handle difficult situations.  It causes you to be less able to talk directly to people with whom you have conflicts, because you realize that you are liable to explode and make the situation still worse.

Some people have the mistaken notion that expressing their anger will get rid of the problem. This is a very common misconception.  Openly expressing your anger is a good way to hurt other people, to make enemies and to lose friends.  The other person will be less trusting and may even retaliate in anger.

Speaking up and expressing concern and disappointment is not the same as expressing anger. Gentle assertiveness is much more productive.   An angry person doesnít do a very good job of communicating his concern or of being gently assertive.  Because of his anger, he often makes matters worse instead of better.

Surprisingly, some people have themselves talked into thinking that getting angry is the best way to handle frustration.  They tend to get angry easily, and then blame everyone else for "making them angry."   Most of us know people like this.  Its pretty easy to step back and see that these people are making their own lives and the lives of others around them miserable. They tend to have fewer friends and more enemies because of their bad tempers.

Another group of people think that if they just get angry and get over it quickly that no harm is done.   They lose their tempers for brief periods of time and yell at other people or attack in anger.  Of course, if they get over it quickly and apologize, it is certainly better than staying angry.  Indeed, sometimes because they spoke up, a conflict was worked out.  However, in virtually every instance the problem could have been worked out without the anger and would have been worked out more smoothly.  The anger causes others to lose a little respect for the person with the short temper.  It also sometimes results in hurt feelings that did not need to occur.  Speaking up is important, but anger detracts from the effectiveness of your message.

Some people say you have a right to get angry.  In one way, this is true.  No state in the United States has anger police that come and give you a ticket for getting angry.  You also have the right to take a hammer and smash your car windshield or rent a bulldozer and plow down your house.  Having a legal right to get angry doesnít mean that it is good to get angry.  Anger makes things worse for you and those around you.  It may be understandable that a person under great stress gets angry.  All of us have lost our self-control at some time, especially under great stress or when things have taken us by surprise.  It may be very understandable for a person to get angry in difficult situations.  But being understandable doesnít means that it was good or the right thing to do.  By being patient and understanding with yourself, but continuing to work on improving your self-control, you will get a lot further than if you pass off your problem with your temper as unimportant or "normal."

So what is the right thing to do?  If you shouldnít hold anger in and youíre not supposed to let your anger out, whatís left?  Whatís left is learning not to get angry when hurt or faced with frustration in the first place.  And, if you do get angry, learn to get rid of anger and get back to clear and sensible thinking as quickly as possible.  By careful practice at self-control, you can train yourself to be much less likely to get angry when attacked or hurt.  By studying alternative ways of dealing with situations and by learning to avoid hurtful conflicts, you can also learn to make it easier on yourself.  Another way to improve self-control is to find ways to avoid getting attacked in the first place.  But more on that later.

Eliminating Anger and Resentment

Learning to deal with accidental or intentional attacks from others is an important part of learning self-control.  One thing that you can be sure of is that you are never going to have a life free from frustration and pain.  Obviously, it is important to try to design your life so that hurts occur as rarely as possible.  This is probably the most important step in self-control.  For example, it is important to pick the right relationships, find the right job, have the right boss, and get enough sleep.  However, no matter how hard you try, things are still going to go wrong.  For many of us, major emotional injuries have already occurred.  It may have been something over which you had little or no control.  It may have happened in childhood or years ago.  Or it may have been something that you didnít have the wisdom to foresee and now itís too late.  How do we deal with the hurt that has already occurred?

Helping people deal with anger and bitterness for past injury is probably the most common single task that a therapist has in everyday practice.  One study found that 49% of divorced individuals still had a large amount of resentment directed at their former spouses 5 years after the divorce (Ahron, 1986).  Twenty-four percent were unable to remain in the same room as their former spouses because of that resentment!  Many people have been abused in life by parents, brothers or sisters, relatives, neighbors or other acquaintances.  Emotional, physical and sexual abuse in childhood is surprisingly common.  It is a great hurt that is often left unresolved.  Other types of personal violence are also common.  For instance, according to the most detailed study of rape ever done in the U.S., a door-to-door survey of adult women with in-depth interviews completed by Dianna Russell of Pomona College, an incredible 59% of women in their late thirties had been victims of rape or attempted rape at some time during their lives.  Thirty percent had been victims of rape or attempted rape on two separate occasions by different men or groups of men.  Fifteen percent by three separate men or groups of men.  And rape by a stranger accounted for much less than half of all rapes.

How does one deal with this hurt?  Getting emotional support can often be a great help.  Finding someone with whom you can talk about it, someone who is calm and sensible, can be the key to dealing with the hurt.  Going into counseling with someone who is sensitive to your problem can be a great help.  This might be a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or any type of counselor.  It might be a minister, priest or rabbi.  It might be a group for abused women or a similar self-help setting.  A close friend or family member can sometimes also be a good support.  Sharing your hurt with another can be very helpful.   While some misinformed individuals may not make good counselors, since they encourage anger and thus increased and prolong the pain, a good supportive person can comfort and aid in the healing process.

It is important how you share this hurt and how you think about it.  If you are angry, it is important to admit this to yourself and to the person you are asking to help you.  By looking at your anger and the injury that triggered it, it is possible to give up the anger, deal with the situation, and put the hurt into the past.  One thing is sure.  Holding on to anger is a mistake. An angry person feels the hurt for far longer periods of time and is less able to deal with injury than someone who doesnít lose his temper or regains his self-control quickly.

Giving up anger doesnít mean letting others walk all over you.  It means starting calmly and reasonably to deal with a problem.  It is actually easier and far more successful to stand up for yourself if you are calm than if you are angry.  Anger often paralyzes a person resulting in inaction as frequently as it results in overreaction.

Ventilating Anger vs. Opening Up

One way of talking about your hurt and anger is to "ventilate" your anger.  This means letting yourself feel mad and openly expressing your anger, i.e. talking in an angry and even hateful manner about how you would like to get back at somebody.  The opposite of ventilating your anger is to talk about your hurt and anger calmly.  In this instance, instead of letting your feelings control you, you practice controlling them.  You talk to the other person about the hurt. If you have slipped into anger, you admit that, too, although acknowledging it as a loss of self-control. You explore the situation and try to learn more about it.  These are the two basic approaches to dealing with anger.  One could be called the Primal Scream approach with angry yelling; the other the Sensitivity Training approach of opening up, studying your hurt and your feelings, and getting emotional support.  Most of us probably deal with hurt and anger by a mixture of the two.  However, by sticking with the non-angry approach, you can get further and get there a lot more quickly.

Research shows that ventilating your feelings, i.e., letting the anger take control and thinking about how you would like to attack the other person, will only cause your hurt to continue. Anger dealt with in this way can last for years, right up to the grave.

It may temporarily feel good to get angry and dream or talk of hurting your attacker.  However, this only leads to unresolved feelings of anger and increases your tendency to get angry in the future.  Again, letís compare the vengeful emotion of anger to the physical act of revenge.  It may actually feel good to punch someone with whom you are angry in the nose, if you can get away with it.  However, this would increase, not decrease, your tendency to get angry and violent in the future.  It would also be hard on the other personís nose and would likely make him more of an enemy.  Successfully attacking someone, verbally or physically, may feel good in the short run.  However, it doesnít make you a less angry person in the long run.  It actually makes you more prone to explode in verbal or physical aggression in the future.

Opening up and talking about or thinking about unresolved hurt and anger is the first step in letting go of the anger and recovering from the hurt.  Angry feelings are always a sign that you are not thinking about the situation correctly.   Anger is a sick emotion.   It is a sign that you have lost your self-control.   You have become emotional about a situation that demands that you remain calm for your own good and that of others.  Regaining your self-control is very important.  Studying your hurt and anger with someone who is a calm and peaceful person, with someone who knows how to help you deal with your hurt, is a big step in the right direction.   It is my hope that that this book will help serve a little of that function for you.   Of course, a book has a hard time substituting for real human caring, guidance, and understanding.  This book is not really meant to do that.  But by helping you to better understand this process, I hope that it will help you cope better with any hurts and bitterness in your life.

Love & Understanding As An Escape From Anger

Love is clearly the opposite of anger and hatred.  Love is caring and gentle, patient and understanding.  Of course, small feelings of anger are only small steps away from love.  But even everyday anger is damaging.  For instance, research shows that a large majority of child abuse occurs in a state of anger.  At the moment anger, no parent is feeling love toward his child.  Parents would rarely hit their children, if they didnít let themselves get angry.  And children who are taught to avoid anger and aggression are less abusive of each other and of their parents.

The average person has a hard time understanding how love can be involved in dealing with anger.  He can understand loving his children and can understand that child abuse is a bad thing, but he has a hard time understanding what love has to do with giving up anger.  People have heard the Christian teaching of loving your enemy, but they pass it off as a silly and meaningless idea in our modern world.  They have heard about trying to understand the other personís point of view, but they have also heard about "righteous anger" and "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth."  Many people have learned that revenge is an acceptable, even a good way of dealing with injury.

Most emotional insults are accidental or due to some misunderstanding.  However, even when the insult is intentional, thinking of the person who has hurt you as a human being who is misguided and emotionally sick is not an impossible task, but realistic and sensible.  Loving your enemy is what modern psychology calls having empathy for the other person.

Giving up your angry feelings and recognizing your attacker as someone to feel sorry for is not an impossible religious attitude, but the easiest and most sensible way to deal with the situation.  Of course, feeling sorry for yourself that you had to run into such a person is also very appropriate.  There is no easy way to deal with abuse, but anger and hatred will only make the pain worse and make the injury harder to deal with.  It might take a while to understand this concept, so be patient and study this section carefully.  If it doesnít seem possible or sounds crazy at first, you are not alone.  Most people will have a hard time understanding this concept at first.  The idea of loving your enemy is not a widely accepted concept.  You may have to study it and think about it.  Be patient and give yourself a chance.  Your future happiness in life might depend upon it.

First, a word of warning.  Loving or understanding your enemy doesnít mean you should pretend that your enemy is your friend or that you should trust your enemy in the slightest.  It doesnít mean that you pardon your attacker for what he has done or let him off the hook.  It doesnít mean that what he has done isnít wrong or even evil.  What it does mean is that you are realistic, that you recognize that your attacker is a fellow human being.  It means recognizing that even you have made mistakes and that if you had grown up in different circumstances, you might have had serious problems yourself.

As noted earlier, the scientific term for loving and understanding your enemy is empathy. Actually, empathy is a little broader than this and means putting yourself in the other personís shoes and being able to understand things from his point of view, even if his point of view might be wrong and misguided.  It means being able to recognize that your enemy has been greatly influenced by his upbringing and the events in his life and even his own heredity.

Research on empathy has shown that it is a powerful tool for giving up anger and for being able to deal with difficult situations more successfully.  Practice every day putting yourself in another personís shoes.  Pretend you are that person and try to see things from his point of view.  Anger-prone people have a very hard time doing this and will need to really work on this exercise over and over.  Be patient and keep practicing.  Self-control takes time. 

Loving your enemy or having empathy doesnít mean you let people walk all over you.  To the contrary, a person who understands and respects his enemy is more able to deal with difficult situations.  Loving your enemy doesnít mean that you donít seek justice when this is possible. Indeed, by having greater self-control and understanding, if it is appropriate to seek justice in a given situation, you will be more able to do so successfully.  You will be doing it not in a spirit of hatred, but in a positive spirit of doing what is right.  When you are not angry with your enemy, you are more able to stand up to him and protest his mistakes in a calm, loving and serious manner, whether that be in person, in a letter, or in a court of law.  You are more successful, not less successful, at standing up for your rights and at persuading him that he is in the wrong.

The Two Meanings Of Forgiveness

One problem with the English language and many other languages is that there are two very different meanings for the word forgiveness.  One meaning is to give up anger against someone and the other meaning is to pardon that person for his offense.  Most people have heard that you should forgive people who have done you wrong, i.e., that forgiveness is the right thing to do.  But, most of us also realize that if you let people get away with wrongdoing without any consequences, things will often only get worse.  The heart of this problem is in the two meanings of the word forgiveness.  They describe two very different concepts that need to be dealt with in very different ways.

In the first instance, you should always give up any anger and hatred that you feel toward someone.  Your anger is a mistake.  It is a loss of your own self-control and is not justified by the injury that the other person has inflicted on you.  Getting angry when someone has hurt you is certainly understandable.  However, it is still a mistake.  Two wrongs donít make a right. Thus, in this sense of the word forgiveness, you should always give up any anger or resentment that you hold towards your attacker since anger is a poison that is hurting your life, an emotional mistake and a loss of self-control.  You should avoid getting angry or give up any initial anger no matter how many times insults occur.  Even if you are attack "seven times seven" as Jesus of Nazareth taught, you should give up anger.  Anger is always a mistake.

However, there is a second meaning of forgiveness.  That meaning is to pardon somebody for the wrong that he has done.  In this instance it is important to realize that people should never be pardoned for what they have done unless they have earned that pardon.  Only a foolish person will pardon somebody that doesnít deserve it.

Some people might have a hard time understanding this concept, but it is really quite easy.  It is also a very important concept to learn and to practice.  For instance, a parent shouldnít get angry at his son or daughter for doing something wrong.  However, it is usually important to intervene and to gently require that the situation be corrected with any appropriate punishment imposed.  Getting outwardly angry is just going to make the situation worse and alienate your child to some degree.  Getting angry inside and not taking action will often cause a situation to get worse.  Either way, it may be still more difficult to deal with in the future.

Actually this two-part meaning of forgiveness has been around since the earliest human writings on anger.   Although Jesus taught to forgive the other person over and over and that "anger is the footstep of the devil," nowhere in the New Testament did Jesus ever pardon anyone who didnít deserve it.  Mary Magdalene, the Good Thief, Zaccarius the tax collector, and the Prodigal Son had all earned forgiveness.  But, the Unforgiving Servant was not pardoned of his debts, since he refused to be equally considerate of others.  Although some Christians defend "righteous anger," the traditional teaching of early Christianity was that one should not even abuse the devil himself with the language of anger.  Repeatedly, early Christians were warned against revenge.  Violence was considered an evil.  Anger was reserved for God and even this anger was not what is meant by human anger, but rather a just and fair punishment for wrongdoing.

The very first book on anger, De Ira, Latin for "On Anger," was written in 45 A.D. by Seneca, the great Roman philosopher.  In it he supports the proper use of punishment, but says that you should not get angry even if you see your child murdered and your wife raped right in front of you!  For the average person who has not thought this through, Senecaís statement seems crazy.  However, when you really think about it, to get angry at a moment like that would be the worst thing to do.  Your wife is in desperate need of your help.  If you get angry, you are much more likely to attack the rapist.  In a moment of crisis you need clear, not emotional, thinking.  Your wifeís attacker may have a knife at her throat and in your rage you may cause the rapist to kill her.  It may be better to try gentle persuasion, or cry "fire," or yell "police," or slam the door, or call for help.  It may be necessary to use force, although this is usually the least good idea.  However, even if you use force, you need to be thinking clearly and not emotionally, so as not to hurt your wife, yourself, or ideally even the rapist more than you have to. (Many people, especially people who tend to get angry, wonít agree with this last point at first).

Many people say that, if you donít get angry, your adrenalin will not be flowing and you will not have all the energy you need to deal with the situation.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I assure you that virtually everyone would have his or her adrenalin flowing maximally without getting angry in such a situation.  What you need is fast thinking and action, not angry thinking and rage.

Another early teacher on anger was Buddha.  He called anger a "pus that infects the mind."  He called anger one of the three great evils along with ignorance and greed.  He, too, like Jesus and Seneca, accepted and supported just punishment, but opposed anger as senseless and dangerous.  Early Christianity named anger as one of its seven capital sins along with greed, sloth, lust, envy, pride and covetousness.  Aggression researchers and a growing number of practicing psychiatrists and psychologists are seeing anger as a mistake, as an emotion that gets in the way of psychological healing and appropriate decision-making.

Forgiveness As Therapy

Injury and emotional pain are an inevitable part of life. Although they can be minimized by avoiding or correcting situations that may lead to injury, it is virtually impossible to make life injury-free. Frustration, the blocking of desired actions or goals, is even more common. Some people learn to respond to these situations with irritation and anger, while others learn to remain calm, and deal with them in thoughtful and constructive ways.

Many people think that irritation and anger are natural instincts and that calmness and reason have to be learned.  However scientific research shows that, while everyone has the innate potential for both of these responses, the tendency to react in one way or the another is primarily learned.  This tendency can be modified or changed through repeated practice. Research comparing Japanese and American infants in the first year of life has found that Japanese infants are already being taught to be patient and American children are accidentally being taught to be angry.  While it is true that certain psychiatric conditions may increase anger and that alcohol and other addictive drugs also increase the tendency to become anger, the large majority of everyday anger is a learned response.

Frustrations and hurts that come from everyday situations can be dealt with more successfully when you teach yourself to realize that most of these are accidental or unintended hurts.  For instance, the tire that goes flat, the stone you just stubbed your toe on, or the thunderstorm that ruins a weekend at the beach are obviously not intentional injuries, but some people get upset and angry.

In situations with living creatures, injury is also usually unintended.  The bird that messes up your clean car, the check that doesnít come in time in the mail, or the child who forgot to wear a raincoat to school might be examples of this.  Most insults we receive from other people are not really meant as insults.  When people step back and realize that the injury was unintended, the hurt becomes easier to handle.  In one study, the victim of an emotional injury was three times more likely to think that the injury was intentional than was the person who caused the injury or insult (Averill, 1982).

Still, the most challenging situation in avoiding anger is when the hurt is intentional, and by someone old enough to know better.  Since it is always best to avoid any feelings of anger, learning to understand these situations, and being able to do something about them, when possible, are important in avoiding anger.  Forgiveness is a key step in dealing with the intentional injury of others.

Basic forgiveness, the immediate giving up of anger, should be practiced in any situation where you have previously let anger arise.  These may be small, everyday hurts or a major one from the past. They may be against persons living or dead, or even against institutions like the government, church, employer, etc.

Steps you can use to help give up anger: 1) identify your hurt and any anger, most of which is obvious, but some of which may be buried in the past, 2) think about your situation in your own mind or with a trusted friend who is a good listener, someone both honest and patient.  This friend should ideally be someone who is not angry or carrying old resentments himself and who realizes that anger is unhealthy.  Think or talk about the hurt or injury and how to deal with it. Donít dwell on your anger.  Your friend may help you better understand the situation and what can be done.  Two heads are often better than one.  He may even be able to point out where you may bear some of the responsibility for the injury yourself.  3) Put yourself in the shoes of the offending person to help you better understand how things look from his point of view.  He may be totally wrong, but understanding him better will help you deal more calmly with the situation.  Giving up anger is an active process, not a passive one of ignoring or forgetting.  It takes time and work.  4) Old ways of thinking have to be restructured and made right.  Angry words and phrases have to be eliminated and replaced by objective and unemotional words that donít contain anger.

Forgiveness has to be learned just as love or violence is learned.  However, forgiveness is the easiest way to deal with injury.  It is logical and reasonable, and more often successful.  Anger is emotional and much more often doomed to failure.

It is never too late to forgive, i.e. to give up anger.  Apologizing, telling the person that you were wrong to have gotten angry and that you have given up the anger actually strengthens you.  It doesnít weaken you.  Indeed, if anger is still present, forgiveness is necessary to free up the emotional energy being consumed by anger.

It is important to remember that giving up anger does not mean forgetting.  The frequent advice of "forgive and forget" is misguided.  Giving up anger does no relieve the other party of responsibility for his actions, nor does it mean that the other party should be pardoned or be trusted.  Pardon and trust need to be earned and not given without good reason.  However, by giving up anger, you become ready to pardon when appropriate and to allow trust to be re-established slowly, step by step.  The offending party is still responsible for his actions.  But, by giving up anger, you become more able to recognize true repentance.  You are more able and ready to pardon the other person once he deserves it.

In Strength To Love, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, "The forgiving act must always be initiated by the person who has been wronged, the victim of some great hurt, the recipient of some tortuous injustice, the absorber of some terrible act of oppression." King is talking of a gentle and loving spirit of protest. You let the other person know that you see him as a human being worthy of your respect and consideration, but that you object to what he has done or is doing. It is loving your enemy while resisting his wrong-doing.

The great Jewish psychiatrist Victor Frankel developed a whole school of therapy around forgiveness.  He was a victim of Hitler and the Nazi persecution of Jews and had managed to escape death although he had been in a concentration camp.  He helped fellow survivors give up anger at Hitler and the Nazis and to restart building their own lives.  

Protest, Punishment, and Pardon

Aggression research shows that protest and punishment do serve important roles in helping correct inappropriate behavior.  However, your protests will be less successful and your punishment more likely to have the opposite of its intended effect if it is administered while angry.  Anger tends to want to find wrong where wrong may not even exist.  Anger tends to want to punish too severely or even to punish where punishment would not be fair.  Your anger also distracts the person you are trying to correct.  He is less likely to look at his mistake and more likely to focus on your anger.  Giving up anger allows you to recognize the improvements in the person who has offended you.  Anger will cause you not to pardon others who deserve pardon.  Anger is an insult that prolongs conflict and prevents healing.

Pardoning your attacker is also an active process that takes time and effort.  However, pardoning is a process that involves two people, the one who was wronged and the one who committed the wrong.  Getting your attacker to recognize his error is not easy.  There is no easy way to deal with the intentional hurt and injury of others.  Any anger on your part will interfere with your protest.  Anger blocks the resolution of problems.  Giving up your anger makes resolution possible.

In almost every instance the wrongful behavior of others should be protested.  Your protest should be gentle and well-timed.  An immediate protest in a gentle and tactful way may be best, but this is often not the ideal moment, since your aggressor may be angry and not thinking rationally.  Protesting small mistakes in small ways is the best idea.  It is much easily to nip problems in the bud than after they have grown into major conflict.  However, sometimes your opponent may be too angry or insensitive to hear your protest.  The emotional abuse that you are protesting may have occurred in the past.  Your protest may be best done in person or best done in writing.  Your protest may be best done by yourself or through a third person or an appropriate authority.  Your protest should be non-angry, gentle and direct.  You should include feelings of love and respect in your protest.  This will strengthen, not weaken, your protest.  If and when punishment is appropriate, that should also be a part of your protest.

In most interpersonal situations that come to psychiatric counseling in the treatment of adults, getting your attacker to realize that he has done wrong and owes you an apology is often the focus of the protest.  Helping your attacker realize that he has done wrong, that you are willing to pardon him if he deserves it, and how you think he should go about doing it are part of the process.

Surprisingly often, when handled correctly, people apologize when they have done wrong and when they have been gently confronted with the evidence.  The biggest errors are not trying to protest the wrong doing or protesting in anger and without gentleness.  Sometimes your attacker needs some way of saving face.  Some way of acknowledging that he is not an evil person and that his error is understandable.  In your protest you may even suggest this. Sometimes your attacker will not openly say that he is sorry, but will try to earn your pardon in some other way.  This might show up in the way he talks to you or something positive that he does for you.  Of course, your attacker may owe you more than just an apology, but this is an important first step.

Despite your best efforts your attacker may never earn your pardon.  It this case, you should never grant your attacker pardon.  You still love the other person as a fellow human being, although as one who still owes you an apology and reasonable compensation.  In many instances these emotional injuries become resolved and are put into the past.  It may be important, however, to remember not to trust that particular person in the future or not to trust him or others in that particular way.  The injury may remain unresolved and continue to be painful, but if the anger has been given up and you have done all that you can to protest the insult, you are more able to go on with life and bear the pain more successfully.  You may sometimes be able to continue interacting with the person who has injured you and even have them as a friend or a loving spouse.  The injury will never be fully resolved unless pardon is earned, but life is not perfect.  We may be able to go on and even enjoy life.  Or the injury may require some further action, like divorce or legal protection.  You can proceed with this without anger knowing that you have made the right decision.

Sometimes I have likened pardoning someone of an emotional injury to a similar financial situation.  Letís say you loaned someone a thousand dollars, but he has never paid you back. You hopefully will not have gotten angry.  It certainly wouldnít do any good and would actually only upset you and alienate your debtor, the person you hope will one day pay you back with the appropriate interest.  It is important not to pardon the person of the debt unless they have really earned your pardon by paying you back or by doing something else equivalent.


Trust Should Be Earned


Even if the above mentioned person does pay you back and earns a full pardon, that doesnít mean you should immediately trust him with another loan. It is important to learn from experience.  Trust is something that must be earned and never given without good reason. Trust is also something that should be given step by step.  You can trust different people in different amounts and in different areas.  One person you might be able to trust with money, another person you might be able to trust to do you a specific favor.

You should never trust anybody completely.  This may sound different at first, but I have found that most of us are over-trusting.  It is possible to be under-trusting and people with long-term bitterness are often under-trusting.  Still, it appears to me that most people take too many chances. They are too trusting, too early. This can lead to injury that could have been avoided.

Most people realize, when they think about it, that they canít trust themselves completely. We know our own shortcomings too well to trust ourselves completely.  So also, with other people we should give trust step by step, not all at once.  Rarely, if ever, should you be completely trusting of any human being, even yourself.

The same holds true if you have done something wrong to someone else.  You should expect them to give you trust only one step at a time and only if you earn it.  Although all may be forgiven and you may be impatient, wanting things to can get back the way they were, this may be a premature and unreasonable demand.  It takes time to re-earn trust, especially where problems of self-control are involved.

Anger: Chapter 3