Living in chains…6 ways to break free

Are you living behind bars?  Stuck in anger?  Stuck in pain? 

We all like to think we are in control of our own lives.  Often we are.  We make daily decisions about many things.  We take care of ourselves, families, homes, etc.  We hold down jobs and pay bills.  We plan activities, travel, pursue dreams.   But are you harboring anger against anyone?  Are you holding onto the wrongs that people have done to you…either real or imagined?   Do you see them out and about, or a picture of them, a Facebook post and you are instantly upset? Do you hear their voice and get anxiety?  Do you relive the wrongs and just can’t shake the anger?

When we live in a place of anger or hate…we are giving up control.  We are letting someone else have a power over us.  If just a thought or seeing them can bring up terrible feelings, they have the power.  They control our emotions.

I think many of us have heard this quote:  “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”–Buddha.   

This seems to be true.  I add to this in saying it’s as if you can see the poison seeping out of someone who is staying angry.  It makes you become bitter, mean and ugly.  One harboring anger looks angry.  They look unhappy, smile less.  I imagine they laugh less.  Their whole body seems to exhibit these frustrations.

In order to set yourself free from this bondage that has you, hostage, you have to WANT to let go of anger. We become comfortable in our anger.  It’s known.  We think it protects us from hurt.  Often thinking it can bring redemption from the pain, it will somehow make that person suffer the way you feel you are.  In my experience, continued focus on anger, pain and hurt, just created more pain for myself, not that other person.

About 6 weeks ago I decided to start a blog.  I really wanted to turn the experiences of my recent past into something positive.  I needed an outlet for all the thoughts that seemed to constantly fill my mind.  I have always loved to write and this appeared to be a way to pursue writing in a more concrete way.  August 21, Eclipse Day, was that day.  Something that day washed over me and created a shift in my mind and life.

Just a couple days prior to this, I had a conversation with my ex-fiance. We were yelling at each other, hanging up on each other, angry texting; back and forth; on repeat a few times.  Till eventually, we both calmed down and had a real conversation.  This was a pretty typical way we used to handle disagreements.

I am not even sure what precipitated the conversation that evening.  Perhaps it was feeling stuck in the prison we had created through the hurt and anger we had both caused.  We were both free from each other but still stuck behind bars of disgust, rage, feelings of injustice, shock, layers of anger and mixed in with love and loss.   As often happens when relationships finally come to an end.  Even more so when it was complicated by others and never fully closed.   Perhaps it was a desire to be understood.  A longing to forgive. A desire to be truly set free.

After hanging up, and thinking about what had just transpired, I was left with a deep desire to love my life again!  To let go of all the pain and hurt this person had caused. Over the next few days, I finally accepted that you can truly, deeply love someone but not want the type of life you would have with them.  That love isn’t the only thing you need to have a life together.  And it’s ok!  It made me take a very hard look at how I want to live my life and how I wasn’t doing that.  I was still living in a place bound up in pain.

So I stopped!  As the sun and moon passed each other for a moment, I too let my anger and love pass through me.  I decided to lay down the anger and hurt.  To stop hating anyone for the wrongs already done.  The list of those folks was not long but was enough to keep me bound.  To prevent me from living free and in peace.

Since that day, each day has been wonderful.  Not all day, every day, but I am content and happy every single day.  There are still sad moments.  There is still death and loss. Still frustrations and irritations. Children’s illnesses and issues to deal with.  Sufferings I desire to ease.  But anger, resentment, disgust are a part of my past.  Now when anger hits, I process it and attempt to clear it out quickly.  That may take a few days sometimes, but I am no longer in chains. I no longer STAY angry.

Bondage to another person who harmed us robs us of joy.  It prevents us from being our best selves and living our best life.  There is a true freedom when you realize and accept that hating someone else, staying angry at them is YOUR OWN problem.  No one else can fix this for you.  We are not in control of others, we can not prevent what they choose to do.  If they choose to cause harm, to hurt others, that is on them.  How we react is on us!

Another great quote: “To be wronged is nothing unless you continue to remember it”-Confucius

I actually find great peace in knowing that I get to control MY reactions.  I CAN let go of the pain.  I CAN forgive wrongs that do not deserve to be forgiven.  I CAN behave in a way that honors who I desire to be.  I care about living a great life.  I want my children to see a smiling, full of life, loving, peaceful mom.  Not one who is ugly and mean because she hates others.   The freedom I have found since releasing the anger is shocking to me.  The peace I feel inside most of the time is addicting.  More addicting than the comfort I ever found in that prison of hate.

Even though 6 weeks is not that long, we all have to start somewhere.  We all have a Day One.  Each of has a jumping off point for any change we desire to undergo.  It is awesome to be able to say that I can see those that have wronged me and feel no more hurt or pain.  I can wave, smile or say hello and truly be free.

I thought perhaps I might give you a few tools to help you in letting go that worked for me.  These are not easy and not always possible, but these are some things that helped me stop drinking the poison, to break free from all that pain.

  1. I accepted who the person is.  I accepted that what I knew of them when I first met them, continued to be true.  I stopped expecting they would change.  I started to see that folks do not really change and it was on me that I wanted them to be something different than who they were.  I had left because I could not accept who they were, so why was this still making me upset that they had not changed?
  2. I stopped expecting any apologies.  If someone is sorry,  they say they are and try very hard to not cause the same harm.  Behaving remorseful when caught in a bad behavior is not the same as actually being sorry.  True remorse admits the mistake without prompting and doesn’t repeat it.  Even with apologies that I was given, if the same hurt was repeated, then the apologies meant nothing, but it no longer matters.  I don’t need an apology to forgive. Forgiveness is my action.
  3. I accepted my part in the process. That I allowed this person into my life who hurt me multiple times.  That because I had continued to come back even after that first harm, I showed how I wanted to be treated.  I showed that I didn’t care enough about myself to demand better treatment.  I am not saying I was to blame for any wrongdoing on the other side, but we have to own our part in what we allow to harm us.  Each of us DOES have a choice.  Sometimes that requires additional help to get out of a mess, but this is our one life, we can’t make others responsible for our choices.
  4. I learned to set boundaries.  I no longer allow the same harm to continue.  Know that you are responsible for what you put up with.  If you’re with someone who’s hurt you,  lied to you,  cheated on you, etc. and you stay after the first time, either leave or accept that’s your life.  Disrespect doesn’t turn into respect.  Once a person knows they can break your boundaries,  which you’ve proven they can by you staying, there’s no reason for them to ever keep them.  Setting boundaries is hard.  It takes work, it takes strength and it takes resolve to keep them.  Especially when someone uses the “love card” to break them.  Respect honors boundaries.  Showing respect is part of loving another.
  5. I removed the offender(s) from my life.  Deleted numbers. Deleted old correspondence.  Erased the tangible memories that are easy to refer back to at times of anger that flare up. I applied this to anyone that I was holding anger with.  I am not rude if I see those that have wronged me, I am able to be kind.  But that is about me, who I want to be.  Not about them.
  6. I focused on my life.  On what I wanted my future to look like.  On the fact that those who keep you in chains, like you there.  They like to be in control.  And that by staying angry or hurt,  I was letting them have control.  I wasn’t living the best way I could.  And that wasn’t their fault anymore.  I had a responsibility to myself and holding onto hurt, anger, the pain was robbing me from that.  I do not follow what they do with their life, I just live my own.  And attempt to enjoy as much as I can.

These are a few things I did since that August day that has changed my outlook.  Have changed my life.  Have begun to heal the pains and allowed me to move on.  The shift has brought peace and I am loving my life again!

Sometimes these take practice.  There are moments I have to repeat these and try again.  Forgiveness and letting go of anger take times.  It’s not an overnight process.  Applying new techniques to living your life, takes work.  And there is no real foolproof plan of what will work for you…these are the things that worked for me.  That when I forget, I refer back to.  We are all a work in progress…keep trying.

Let go.  Live your best life.

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