So how do I feel? A little flat, a little apprehensive and very excited. I won't know what to do with my evenings now. So I thought I would give you all a little taster - another chapter: Here it is!
I went back to see Anne a week later. It had not been a good week. Nothing had changed. I was angry now and prepared to admit it. I didn’t want any of this thought-changing nonsense. None of this ‘you are in a well or in a stream’ or whatever. No more ‘beliefs are just thoughts you keep thinking and you can change your thoughts’. It had changed nothing. I was furious.
Anne settled into her armchair and asked me how I was feeling. I replied that I felt very angry.
"Rage is good,” she said, smiling.
“Huh?” I stared at her.
“Rage is good. It means you’re not scared anymore. Is that right?”
“Yes! I am not scared anymore. I don’t keep running that stupid scenario through my head where he comes home and tells me he is leaving and I fall into a sobbing heap. I am not sad or scared anymore, but I’m angry.”
“Good. Now show me how mad you can get.” Anne sat back and looked speculatively at me. Suddenly I felt afraid. I have always been scared of people in a rage. I have always tried to avoid confrontations with them. They are ugly and frightening. They hurt people.
“But why?” I asked. “How can getting mad possibly be better than being scared?” I tried to sound indignant, but I knew Anne was going in a direction I was afraid to follow. I thought she was trying to turn me into one of those women I’d read about who cut up their husband’s clothes and stalk their girlfriends. I didn’t want to be one of those women I listened to repeatedly, who give validity to the saying that ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’. I told Anne in no uncertain terms, that I did not want to bitch about the bastard who had ditched me for some young bimbo. She watched me steadily, calmly and with a glint of amusement in her eyes.
“Well, that was easier than I thought it would be,” she said. “How did that feel?”
“Awful. I hate it. I would hate to be one of those…”
Anne held her hand up. “You think there is more virtue in being sad and scared than being enraged, but sadness has no power. Fear has no power. It’s time you got your power back.”
“I don’t agree,” I said. “Rage feels pretty out of control to me. It’s like a toddler having a tantrum because she is powerless to change what is going on around her. I don’t want to do that.”
“That’s my point precisely,” replied Anne. “While you wait for Michael to tell you he’s leaving, you are powerless; you are giving him all the power. You are making everything dependent on what he does. You are paralyzing yourself. Getting really angry will help loosen up that paralysis.”
I felt like pleading with Anne. Never had I felt so at odds with her. I began to wish I hadn’t come back. I wanted to get up and walk out of there, but I didn’t know what I would do without her support.
“But I’ve seen women like that,” I argued. “All they do is rage about their husbands or ex-husbands and the other women. They get on a rant and they don’t stop for days, weeks, months and sometimes for years! Their friends get tired of listening to them. They start avoiding them. I don’t want to be like that. I don’t want to be just one more bitter ex-wife.”
“I understand that,” said Anne, smiling, “but those women got stuck in rage. There is nothing wrong with arriving there. The trick is not to stay there, but to move through it, up past it, towards something else.”
“How about frustration, hope and joy? Think of it as climbing up your emotional ladder out of that well, one step at a time. Now, I want you to go for it. Get furious. You showed me a little of it before and it was impressive. Let’s go back to that bit about the bastard and the bimbo. That was a good spot.”
I stared at her in disbelief.
“Get mad. Let’s burst your rage balloon,” Anne persisted. “You have one chance and one chance only to say it out loud.”
I was dismayed. You know me, getting mad and yelling really isn’t my thing. I’ve done it, you’ve seen it and you know I don’t like the out-of-control, spitting, venomous feeling of rage. Rage is scary. Rage is when people say things they really mean, but later have to pretend they didn’t mean, because what they said was so cruel or foul.
“I can’t,” I said.
“Are you worried about what I’ll think of you?”
“Maybe,” I replied. I meant, definitely.
“Oh, so you want to stay stuck in sad and scared and sorry for yourself?” Anne gave me such a mock sad, self-pitying look that it made me furious. I wanted to hit her.
"How the hell would you feel if the man you loved for thirty years was cheating on you with some, dishonest scheming bitch? If he took away everything you loved for some conniving little slut!”
Anne smiled, which infuriated me more. It really got me started and then, I said it all. You were a loathsome, lying bastard and she was a whore. The two of you should get terrible diseases, die painful deaths and rot in hell. You would have been shocked. I spewed everything I thought about you and that woman and how you both had ruined my life. Whenever I slowed down, Anne said, “Is that all you’ve got?” I continued ranting until I couldn’t think of anything else to say, and then I sat back exhausted. I had said everything I’d thought in my darkest moments. I listened to the recording later and I couldn’t believe so many loathsome things had come out of my mouth.
Anne sat back, smiled and said, “Bravo! You had a lot of momentum behind that rage that might have tripped you up for years to come. Now, breathe. Feel that tremble in your body and let it go. Emotion is like vibration. Breathe it away.”
I could feel it; it was like a train running through me. I couldn’t move or breathe without vibrating. My whole body was buzzing. I told her about it while I avoided her gaze. I was ashamed of what I had said. How could she possibly like me after all that? What if she asked me to leave? What if she didn’t want to work with me anymore? What if that meant losing you?
"What was all that?” Anne asked and gave me her ‘I know you know the answer’ look.
“Just thoughts I keep thinking?”
"Bravo again – and?”
“Thoughts can be changed?”
“Yes! Well done!” She sat back and waited while I drank a glass of water. Spitting venom was thirsty work.
I couldn’t believe that Anne was so pleased with me for saying such terrible things. She didn’t mind that I spat at her everything I was thinking about you and your girlfriend. She didn’t flinch at any of the language I used, and I used the worst I could think of. She just waited for me to calm down and then said something that has saved me several times since then.
“There is only one rule. You can never do that again with another living person present, nobody, not once, ever. Not even with me.”
“Why? I mean okay, but why?”
“Remember those women you were talking about earlier who were stuck in rage?” she asked.
"Well, they felt rage and fed it to their friends who fed it back to them and they got caught up in the attention, the sympathy and pity-parties. If you can promise yourself that you will never say those words aloud to another person, you can avoid all that. You won’t give rage any momentum.”
I didn’t know then what Anne meant by momentum, but it was a word I would hear often, and one I understood and appreciated fully, months later.
“What about when I’m by myself?” I asked.
"Certainly you can,” Anne replied, “but be careful what momentum you generate. When you have an angry thought, tell yourself to save it for your own personal rage party later. Tell yourself ‘I don’t have to think about that now. I can choose to think about something else. I can choose to give momentum to a good-feeling thought, not a negative one. I can set an intention to think better feeling thoughts’.”
“Most mornings,” I replied, “when I wake up, I go straight back to feeling angry, like a dog to a bone. I think I get some sort of masochistic pleasure out of feeling that twisting in my gut.”
“However,” said Anne, “you could wake up each morning and set an intention to feel better and enjoy yourself. In fact, at night you could set an intention to wake up and feel good.”
“Even if nothing has changed?” I asked.
“Especially if nothing has changed,” said Anne “So, now you have learned that thinking bad thoughts makes you feel bad.”
“Yes, so I had better watch my thoughts, I guess.”
“No, you had better watch your feelings and then choose thoughts that give you relief and you had better watch your words around others. You cannot whine, moan, groan, complain, gossip or bitch and feel better. Negative words just entrench the negative feelings further.”
Anne told me to plan a rage party for a particular time of the day when I was alone, and to time myself for ten minutes and then stop. When I stopped, I was to take note of how I felt and then either tweak my thoughts or find other thoughts that made me feel a little bit better. Not a lot better. Quantum leaps don’t work, she said. Just aim for a little bit better, just one step up the emotional ladder.
Also, Anne told me that I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone about you until I could do it with appreciation and joy. Like that’s ever going to happen, I thought grimly.
I went home and had a ten-minute rage party. I did it twice in three days. I listened to the recording of the session I had with Anne to get myself in the mood. I ranted and raved, and then the steam just went out of it. The third time I tried, I felt stupid. The rage had gone and in its place there was a tiny granule of something that felt interesting but unsettling.