I have always judged anger as being bad. In my book, it had a bad reputation. I wasn't going to acknowledge it, let alone use it. For me, getting on the spiritual path meant to be anger free, more or less sit on a cloud, meditating, being completely serene, not bothered by anything and anyone around me. This actually fit perfectly with the reputation I had created for myself: the good girl. This was more of a blend of beliefs and reputation. My closest friends know and have always known that my relationship with my mother has been at best cold, at worst explosive and filled with resentments, guilt, shame and disappointments. On both sides.
Ever since I was born, my mother has put me on this impossibly high pedestal, expecting only what God could be: perfection. There are many reasons why she did that, I'm not going to explain them all here. One of them was that she wanted me to become what she thought she was not. She wanted me to have what she did not and she wanted me to have good life. So she pushed me to be that person. I tried my best over the years, succeeding sometimes and failing most times. This dynamic in our relationship gave rise to this scenario: she would expect something from me; I would deliver what she thought she expected in the best way I knew how; expectations would not be met and she would become disappointed; she would voice that disappointment which would leave me feeling unworthy and victimized by the relationship; we would reach an unspoken agreement that I would try harder and be better next time. The cycle repeated indefinitely. As a child, I thought there was something wrong with me. I could not understand why I was always failing and I didn't have the knowledge or the experience to challenge that kind of thinking. Amazingly, this continued well into my adulthood, actually it continued until last week.
I never had the courage to challenge her. She always interpreted my meager attempts to stand up to her as "you don't love me" declarations. I felt guilt and shame. We were in a constant cycle of victim-hood: I would fall short and she would be disappointed and withdraw; I felt unloved and unworthy. And on it went. Last week, it happened again. And she brought up all the ways in which over the years, I have fallen short and disappointed her. She even brought up things that happened in my teenage years. Normally, I would let her vent, tell her it's not true and eventually walk away not saying what's on my mind, feeling bad and mad at myself for not having the courage to speak up. But this time something happened. Something snapped inside and I finally lost my shit with her. I was actually yelling and waving my arms and told her that I am not the person that she imagines that I am; that that person does not exist and never did; what does exist is me, a human being with faults and qualities; a real person that tries her best to be good, who is good and nothing more; and then the bomb dropped out of my mouth: can she love me like that? All that while I looked like a lunatic with arms in the air and raising my voice in a way I never did before in her presence. She was stunned for a moment, not knowing what to say. I left the conversation shortly after that, still feeling the high and the fear of what just happened. The consequences were few: she would pretend she didn't hear it and go back to the ways things were; she would acknowledge what I said and treat me differently; she would close off and not speak to me. Time would tell.
The following day, when we saw each other, her reaction was surprising. Although she did not acknowledge our conversation from the day before, I could tell that something has changed in the way she looked at me. She had a little more respect, maybe seeing me a little more real than in the past. I felt different too. I wasn't going to keep my mouth shut anymore. I was going to speak my truth, no matter how uncomfortable it might be for another, especially her. Suddenly, I had new found respect for anger. This emotion that I had shunned away from my spiritual toolbox has allowed me to feel something I never felt before: freedom in a relationship based on victim-hood and self-imprisonment. Anger made way for courage. In a matter of minutes everything changed: mother-daughter dynamic, my understanding of anger and how to use it, what courage really means and a new path to move forward in all my relationships. I finally got why she has been pushing me all these years. From the highest spiritual perspective is simply this: so that I can boldly go beyond my comfort zone of being the "good girl". To break free from this belief and to allow myself to stand up for myself. To acquire some tools and ways in which I can be true to myself and speak up my mind. From that perspective, my mother has been my most valuable partner, creating all along the right circumstances in which I could do all those things. Her challenges have prompted my freedom and growth. In the end all I can say is "Thank you".
If you find yourself in a challenging relationship, how can you look past the obvious interactions to what is going on from a higher perspective? Is there something else going beside the usual "he/she is driving me crazy!"? You can use the following questions to explore what that might be:
- Has there been a long term dysfunctional pattern in this relationship?
- What are some of the dynamics that transpire? List them all.
- Are you being challenged to be more truthful and authentic? In what way?
- What are some of the hardest things about changing the dynamic?
- What are the benefits?
- How can you use anger in a beneficial and appropriate way?