We run through the gamut of emotions when we’re in chronic pain, sometimes all in one day. We may experience loss, sadness, overwhelm, fear, anxiety, shame, isolation and anger to name a few.
Anger can be used to perpetuate resentment and blame, or anger can be used for healing.
Here’s how I have found ways to use it for greater well-being.
Step One: Acknowledge anger and feel it.
There is nothing inherently wrong with feeling angry about what happened in our lives to cause our pain and suffering. In fact, for people stuck in depression and sadness, anger can be a very liberating force.
Anger is a natural response to living with pain. Let’s just acknowledge that as a given. We feel angry at pain because it is so insistent and faceless, a force that can’t be reasoned with or bribed or cajoled or bargained with.
We can be angry with the medical system for not having the answers, and we may wrongly blame ourselves for having unwittingly made choices that somehow led to this pain. And we’re angry for not being able to find our way out again.
So the first step is to acknowledge any anger you may be carrying. Just don’t stay in it so long it becomes bitterness and resentment. Move on to Step Two.
Step Two: Release resentment and blame.
Resentment and blame is anger that has festered and become bitter. I have not found them to be compatible with healing. Rather, they seem only to serve to keep pain in place.
It is easy to fall into the pattern of looking for something to blame our pain on (including ourselves), but it really isn’t a useful strategy for healing. I recommend deciding to relieve everyone and everything from the burden of blame, even if we feel it is deserved.
The point isn’t whether or not we’re right and justified, which may well be the case, the point is that holding onto blame and resentment is stressful and counterproductive.
The energy of blame is always looking backward and we need to marshal our resources in the present so we can heal and have a better future. Best to leave the past to the past as much as possible.
Step Three: Use anger as fuel for healing.
Anger has a lot of energy in it. Rather than sitting still and feeling powerless, anger wants to move and change things, so it can be a very helpful emotion when harnessed for good. It can move us out of the doldrums and into positive action.
We can use the moving energy of anger to motivate ourselves. We can put all that energy and attention on healing, on opening up our options, on being creative about combining traditional and alternative approaches to wellness.
Anger that has festered serves to close us down. It limits our thinking and we don’t see opportunities when they present themselves. It also has negative physiological effects. When we’re constantly revisiting how bad things are, we breathe more shallowly, we contract more, we don’t sleep well.
Anger used for fuel can open us up as we release its energy into anticipation of positive movement. Our minds are more open to new ideas, we breathe more deeply and naturally, we get more restful sleep because we are more hopeful.
We had no choice about getting sick or becoming injured or disabled. But we always have a choice in how we are going to respond to our situation, every moment of every day.
Who are we being while we are on this journey through pain?
We can’t expect ourselves to be happy and perky every moment, not at all, but we can begin to let go of some of the detrimental affects of holding onto anger. Instead we can acknowledge it, feel it and then use it. We can recognize how much energy it holds and harness it into positive choices and positive actions to support a journey toward greater well-being.