April 13, 2018
A hypothetical for you: Can you envision a circumstance in which you felt anger – from mild irritation to blazing fury – that did NOT include the concept of blame?
I had a most remarkable session today with Regina, the biofeedback counselor at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA. After she goo’ed electrodes to my ears and scalp (the only unappealing part of biofeedback), we got into a discussion about The Dead Husband Issue.
(New readers start here: My husband Jonathan died last year after four years of altered behavior and probable mental impairment that made living with him… challenging. His death infuriated me, since it didn’t have to happen. He didn’t kill himself, of course… on the other hand, he took no steps to protect his life, so WHAT A JERK.)
“Of course,” Regina said, “anger and blame don’t HAVE to go together.”
“Yes, they do,” I protested. “Always. Anger is the result of an injustice – something unfair. That gets you angry, and it’s always attached to a wrong that must be righted. That means blame.”
“Not necessarily. You can be angry about karma – about being dealt a bad hand. There’s no blame in that.”
I sat in stunned silence. STUNNED.
Is it possible that I could be angry with my husband for leaving me, for putting me through this trauma, for putting our son through it – and NOT blame him?
The metaphorical earth beneath my feet began to shake. Jonathan was incapable of making a good decision by the end, but it wasn’t his fault. He had the gastric bypass (the one that led to the B-12 deficiency that led to the brain imbalance) for us – he did it for his family. Was he, then, to blame for the physical effects of that decision?
Of course not… yet if you always pair anger with blame (as I always have), you have to have both or neither, and I have too much anger for neither. Both was my only option.
But if you can uncouple the two – if you can legitimately be angry without pointing a finger…
…might this not be the route, the path to – what? Resolution? Forgiveness? Acceptance?
Regina was still talking; she had very valid points, but they rolled off me like raindrops on a slicker. I waved her off. “Hang on – I’m still on anger and blame.”
I am READY to be done with anger; I’m ready to remember the man I loved so deeply for twenty years and forget the bitter bastard who unintentionally poisoned the last four. Maybe, maybe, maybe…
Can YOU think of an example of anger without blame? I’d be most grateful to hear it in the comments; here or on Facebook.
This Venn diagram is actually wrong… I really need a HUGE overlap between anger and blame, with a question mark to indicate curiosity as to what happens when the two conditions are separated, but I couldn’t figure out how to draw that. What – you want your money back?!
6 thoughts on “Anger”
When Gerry’s father died suddenly at the age of 55, he had had a checkup the week before. Nobody could have known he had a time bomb in his brain. I had known him since the age of 12. You know a little about my early years, so let’s just say I worked hard to push past fear and forge a relationship with him. Not easy. After he died I was frozen in anger for 8 months solid before I could even cry. Logic did not help. I KNEW he did not mean to die and I did not blame him. But- I was so angry that I felt isolated around those who were feeling nothing but grief. It rocked my world. I simultaneously felt that once I dipped my toe into the unfathomable depth of the grief chasm, I would fall in head first, unable to clamber out. I made it, of course, but it was a painful time.
Kat – I see parallels! Both in terms of feeling anger where others feel sorrow – and in not wanting to get into grief for fear of being lost in it. Hmm. So interesting. Thank you for the share.
This is not going to fulfill your request for an example but I want to share that I’ve been working on the issue of blame for the entire last half of my life (thirty years or so). I grew up in a household where everything HAD to be blamed on something or someone and I really internalized that message. Recently I had an aha moment where I realized that It’s Not Important where the blame falls. If you want to move on, you have to decide that the blame (the “reason” something bad happened) is really irrelevant. The only reason you need to discover the reason for something bad that happened is if it helps to figure out a way to move forward.
You sound like you’re making a good start at moving ahead. Kudos to you!
Lisa, I appreciate your thoughts, because from inside this barrel, it’s hard to see if I’m making any progress at all! Even identifying blame as a major motivator is hard for me to fathom… I’m glad to have your guidance – so keep going on your journey so I can follow you!
I was shy about details but I think it won’t hurt to tell you that my ex-husband suffered from depression. His version made him critical, focussed on the negative in everything, harsh, and very blue. He told me about it when we met and let me know that he had a family history of depression. Eventually his depression drove us apart. When I thought back… I blamed myself for not listening initially and not seeing symptoms that were in my face.
It took years for me to stop blaming myself after we split up. And we were married 19 years before things fell apart. His second wife is doing a better job at managing his depression, I’m not sure what but it’s working, and we’re friends now.
Your post has really got me thinking — not only about the ease of choosing blame when angry myself, but about the inevitability of it. And it seems seems to me that there is not only a personal component but a cultural one — that blame and anger are elemental parts of many of our interactions with one another and that it shows up not only politically, but also in how the news is presented. Everything is someone’s fault, right? No room for Karma there. Or physics (yup — gravity). Or germ theory (if you/ I had done this, or thought these thoughts, or or or… you/ I wouldn’t be sick). And because we don’t let the person we blame off the hook, we don’t get to let ourselves off the hook either. “ If not their faults, it must be mine.” Goodness. How to unravel this? (Did you ever notice that unravel and ravel actually mean the same thing?) Lots to contemplate here. Thanks!