Let Your Soul Breathe

I recently met a guy, who on the surface, seemed great. Stable life, lived near me, common interests, great job, good looking, the whole package. Except for one thing. He complained. All the time.

Somehow every conversation that we had would ultimately morph into a conversation about how his ex wife ruined his life. If I mentioned my job, the conversation would turn to him asking why did he even bother to work, his ex wife was just going to steal his money anyways. If I mentioned anything about my house, it was how livid he was that he had lost his dream home. If I mentioned my kids, it was about how his ex wife had ruined his family. If I asked him how his day was, he would rattle off a laundry list of everything that had irritated him about his day. It didn’t end there, he was also angry about my life. He didn’t know virtually anything about my life except for the fact that my ex chose to leave and that he is not involved with my kids, but even that was a daily topic of his anger. There was no safe subject, anything that happened, that was not to the exact specifics of what he had in mind, ruined his day.

I finally had to tell him that I didn’t think this was going to work out, and wow, was he unhappy. “This is what women do! They make you believe that you can have the American dream and then they STEAL it from you! They suck you dry and then they head for greener pastures!! Why can’t I just have a happy life!? Is that too much to ask!!!” Ok, I’m totally thinking I dodged a bullet from that guy.

That man, was so wrapped up in anger at how his life had turned out, that he was sabotaging his chances to accept any happiness into his life. Not only was he walking through life with one fist in the air and an angry scowl on his face, he was trying to get me to trample all over the flowers along the path with him.

When anyone learns that my ex chose to abandon the family, besides shock and pity, usually one of the first emotions that I see flash across their faces is anger. Almost unanimously they say something to the effect of “you must be so angry!”

When I look at my life, I can honestly see why they would think that. My ex abused me for years. With every injustice against my body, he was also stealing away the precious parts of my soul. When my tattered remains weren’t enough for him anymore, I watched as a string of other women were paraded in front of me. Reminding me that even when I had let him have every part of me, I still was not good enough. When all that was left of me was the remains of a shattered person, he ripped away what little security I had left in my life, by abandoning us and leaving us financially ruined.

One night, shortly after my ex disappeared, I sat in my house, which was now in foreclosure. As I tucked my daughter into bed, she asked me if there would ever be a daddy that would want to love her. I went downstairs, hungry from the meals that I could not afford, and I sank onto the couch. I was exhausted to the core of my soul from another day of single motherhood, and I began to weep. I thought about the family that I didn’t have. I thought about how I was never given the opportunity to be anything other than a complete mess. How I had lost the genetic lottery and had grown up in a family that viewed me as nothing more than a throw away kid. Mostly, I thought about how I had every right to be angry at the world.

In my post from a few days ago, “When Your Life Burns Down,” I talked about letting the anger go. I wanted to bring the discussion back to anger, because I noticed in the hundreds of XOJane comments, that it is a reoccurring theme for a lot of people. Anger is a feeling that runs rampant in the survivor communities, because it is such a powerful feeling. Anger gives the holder a feeling of having some control in an otherwise uncomfortable situation.

Let’s take a fight for example. When someone yells “I’m angry at you!” it puts that person in the position of being the attacker. Whomever is receiving that message is put on the offense. Anger gives you the feeling of being in control of a situation. Most times, anger comes from the feeling of being wronged. Someone has wronged you, and you feel angry. Unfortunately, most fail to realize that anger is a secondary emotion that is conjured up as a defensive mechanism. It is easier to be angry than to admit that you are hurt. When you feel wronged, you inevitably feel vulnerable. No one wants to go into a confrontation feeling vulnerable. If you already feel as though your feelings were not taken into consideration, the last thing you want is to put more of your feelings out there and risk being hurt again. So you feel angry. But what happens when you allow anger to take over is that your true feelings are lost. When they are lost, they cannot be dealt with.

So this guy walks around projecting anger out all over his life. Every situation makes him angry. That in itself is really sad, because until he deals with the underlying emotions that have caused him to be angry, he is going to feel as though he lives in a very angry world. His wall of anger will prevent anyone from being able to see any of the good parts of him.

So how do you avoid becoming him? You let it go. I know, sounds crazy, right? Just let it go? But how does one do that? How does one decide that they are not going to be angry? It has to be a conscious choice. When you consistently make a conscious choice, it becomes a habit. A habit is a choice that is made so often, that it is very difficult to choose something else, and it naturally becomes your default.

And yet again, how do you chose to not be angry? You force yourself to dig deeper, to look under the anger, and allow yourself to feel the things that hurt you. It’s not easy, in fact, I’ll admit, it downright sucks. The anger protects you from the feelings that hurt you, but how else will you deal with them, if you cover them up with anger and shove them away?

That night after my ex left, as I sat on the couch feeling angry at the world, I dug deeper. I was hurt. It hurt. I felt worthless. I felt like no one could see the good in me. I wondered if I had any good in me. I grieved for my children, and for the loss of what should have been. My heart broke for all that I had lost. I was upset with myself for making choices that had led me to where I had landed. I was disappointed in my ex for failing us. I felt insignificant to a system that should have protected me. I was scared at what might become of us. Angry, yes, there were parts of me that were still angry, but I was allowing myself to feel the emotions that keep us human. I refuse to allow any residual anger I have to suffocate out my happiness. I refuse to allow my past to continue to control my future.

These days, I’m not angry anymore. I let it go. I have been wronged, no doubt. I have been failed by many, and I have landed in an uncomfortable spot because of things that I chose, and things that were forced upon me. but I’m working on it. I’m digging through the anger, and it’s not at the surface. It’s not my default feeling anymore, and I’m proud of that. There is room for happiness, there is room for love. There are days that I cry and there are days that I feel nothing but broken, but what I am not, is suffocated by anger. My soul can breathe.

I said good-bye to the angry guy. I’m sad for him, for he is missing out on all the best pieces of his life because he can’t see past his anger. There is no room for him to be happy, there is no room for him to be loved, he stands no chance at joy. That, above all, is the greatest tragedy that he has suffered.

So I challenge you, all of my favorite readers, to not be angry today. Dig deeper, cry if you need, but find those little wounded pieces of your soul, and pull them up to the surface where they can breathe. Suffocation kills even the most basic of organisms. Do not let anger be another tragedy in your life.

You are worth so much more than a life of anger.

Let your soul breathe.

Photo Credit Broken Glass: http://www.flickr.com/photos/autowitch/
Photo Credit Angry Dolls: http://www.flickr.com/photos/merwing/
Photo Credit Shadow Person: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kalyan02/

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  • Lisa K
    January 8, 2014 at 2:59 am

    I sit here with tears rolling down my face after reading your entry. I have SO much anger I'm carrying with me and it protects me, and it's definitely my default. Your blog cracked a little hole in that wall and hopefully the light will start shining through soon.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 8, 2014 at 12:43 pm

      Sending you a great big hug tonight hun 🙂

  • Anonymous
    January 8, 2014 at 3:04 am

    breathe is the verb

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 8, 2014 at 12:43 pm

      Good gosh, I hadn’t even realized my editing software had changed breathe to breath everywhere. That’s embarrassing. Thank you!

  • Kat
    January 8, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    I've just read your post on xojane about disowning your family – I left a reply there too as I was absolutely disgusted with what I'd read. Then I came here to see your blog. I was already crying about your ex-family post when my partner came home for his lunch – during which we managed to have an argument, something silly which is more my problem than his (long story) and then I read this post. I can learn a lot from you! I have so much anger pent up, I usually try and hide it, but it comes out when I feel things are not going my way – I also have been wronged in the past but I now don't give people a chance for fear of further wronging – which is not healthy. Thank you for writing an amazing post! It really puts things in perspective (and total coincidence I needed it just as I discovered it!!).. anyway good luck on your next date and good riddens to bad rubbish 🙂 xxKat xxps. please visit my blog :)www.katfoxley.com

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 8, 2014 at 12:43 pm

      Welcome Kat!! It makes me happy to hear that you got something out of the post. Sometimes I post this stuff and think “I wonder if anyone will even read this.”

      Don’t let your anger suffocate the beautiful person that you are. I hope you visit often, there are a lot of REALLY smart people in the comments that offer amazing advice. We are all at different stages of healing, and I personally would LOVE to have you join along for the ride.

      Hugs and love


  • Anonymous
    January 8, 2014 at 11:42 pm

    My partner made a bad, hurtful mistake recently, and between that and nonsense with my family I've had a lot of trouble processing my emotions. I sometimes struggle to notice I'm having an emotional reactions to things, anyways – thanks, emotionally unstable upbringing in which I was always responsible for my mother's feelings before my own! So, with less awareness and hence less practice dealing with my emotions, I often feel I'm ill-prepared to cope with very strong ones.But this week, my new job started up again after a few weeks of holiday (I'm in education), and after a few weeks of just struggling and stewing in my own head and being hurt and scared and angry and mostly miserable, it's so nice to come back to a place I just feel happy and comfortable. I mean, home is like that a lot right now, much of the time too… even with the pain, my partner and I still support each other very well. But it's complicated in a way that breakfast with my co-workers, the wonderful and bizarre things the students do throughout the day, and many bad puns after-hours in the office just is not. I adore my job, but was surprised at just how much genuine relief I felt to be done with this break. (still holding out hope that our weeks off in the spring will be better!)Monday was welcome but imperfect; the edges of hurt crept in at some very unexpected and inconvenient times. Tuesday – the day you wrote this post – though, was long and hard and wonderful. It did not start out great: I'd freaked out Monday night, had a long and difficult talk with my partner where we both cried a lot and just felt sad and hopeless for much of it. So I woke up hoarse and exhausted and deeply sad and useless and overwhelmed, to the point that I fantasized quite a bit, getting ready, about giving up and calling in sick. But then I got to work, and the whole day was just fantastic. Stupidly long: I was there for over 14 hours yesterday. But so joyful. I came home feeling cleared, like I'd gotten out all the anger and pain – at least for a bit – the night before, and had been freed to have an unaffected day.I feel very lucky that it's easier for me to focus on the positive in my life than it seems it is for a lot of the people around me. I'm so readily drawn into happy moments, and am so fulfilled by them. If I've been truly injured, I'll get waves of relevant feeling bubbling up occasionally, but it's pretty much impossible for me to truly remain continuously angry. I'm too easily distracted.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 8, 2014 at 12:44 pm

      Ah the waves of emotion. I know all to well that “I just woke up after a really long emotional talk and Im totally exhausted because I didn’t really sleep and can I just go back to bed” feeling. I’m so happy to hear that the rest of your day went much better!!

      I totally agree with what you mean when you say you feel ill prepared for strong emotions. I feel like for a long time I just lived in extremes. I was either happy, or sad/mad/angry, but nothing in between bc I didn’t know how to approptiately feel anything else. Ugh, its a process, that’s all I can say.

      I’m sorry that you are going through a rough time with your partner. Nohting hurts more then hurting with/because of the one you love.

      I’m sending you a giant hug, and I hope that tomorrow is FANTASTIC! Keep finding those happy moments girl! You deserve em!

  • Amanda Harris
    January 8, 2014 at 11:59 pm

    I just want to let you know that I'm in the process of recovering from an emotionally abusive relationship, and reading your blog helps me heal.Thank you for writing. You helped me realize it's not my fault.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 8, 2014 at 12:44 pm

      That just MADE MY DAY. It really did. I’m glad that you have found a place that you can relate 🙂

      Don’t ever forget how amazing you are, welcome to the healing place. Please comment if you need anything, there are a lot of amazing people in the comments section with fantastic advice and a great listening ear.

      Love you!

  • Anonymous
    January 10, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    My boyfriend carries a lot of anger and when I ask why, he says he doesn't know. He suffers from depression and anger problems that he won't readily admit and it's taken a toll on me. It's been 3+ years and I've tried to help but I don't know if I can spend my life is an angry person that refuses to seek help.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 10, 2014 at 12:44 pm

      Thats rough. I look back and I can’t believe that my highschool boyfriend put up with me, I just remember being SO angry all the time.

      As much as I feel for your boyfriend, bc I’ve been there, you can’t sacrifice what you deserve for wanting to help him. As much as you love each other, if he is unwilling to work through his issues, he is only going to take you, and any future children down with him. I wish you the best, here if you want to talk. ((HUGS))

  • Anonymous
    January 16, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    I am so sorry you have endured so much pain. You are amazing! I thank you for sharing your life – you have helped me tremendously.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 16, 2014 at 12:44 pm

      That is incredibly sweet of you to say 🙂 Thank you <3

  • lilio naranja
    January 20, 2014 at 3:31 am

    How I have needed this, having just come to this realization. Thank you. <3

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 20, 2014 at 12:44 pm

      I’m glad you have found your way here 🙂 ((hugs))

  • Anonymous
    January 22, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    My therapist keeps wanting me to say that I'm angry about the way I've been treated in the past. And I'm not. I'm going to take your line about anger being a secondary emotion that masks hurt and fear back to her.I was hurt. I was afraid. I still am a little hurt. I'm no longer afraid. I don't think feeling anger instead of hurt and fear serves me in any way and I'm not sure why she thinks it will.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 22, 2014 at 12:44 pm

      Ooooo, I would be interested in hearing what her take on that is, if you don’t mind reporting back!!

      I’m glad you have found your way here 🙂 I hope that you find some healing here. ((hugs))

  • Anonymous
    April 27, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    I believe it's good to come across people who throw a huge log in your path, and challenge your path…it is sometimes those people who remind you, why…But it's also important to realize these people need a form of love…they are obviously scared ;(Nathaliexoxoxox

  • Anonymous
    June 29, 2014 at 1:06 am

    I am curious about your high school dating experiences and high school experiences in general.


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