Ten years ago, a very close friend ghosted from my life.
I knew him from church. Together we organised a big event for our church ministry where we were supposed to speak to all the Catholic priests in Singapore. It was the opportunity to get their buy-in for what we were doing. My close friend was the main speaker for the event.
On that day, he didn’t show up. He sent me a text message to say that he was not coming. We scrambled to find a replacement, but his absence from the event made it all go awry. The ministry went downhill from then on.
After the event, I contacted my close friend to find out what happened. But he did not respond to my emails or phone calls. We were close friends and I spent many weekend afternoons at his place chatting. I visited his home, but he hid inside the house and wouldn’t come out to see me.
It was the first time that someone had ever cut off all contact with me without giving an explanation. And it made me feel very angry.
To this day, I have not heard from him. However, the effects of that cowardly act continue to have a lasting impact on me. I carried the burden of anger with me for 3 years, before the anger turned into depression.
Years on, I would find out that I had anger management issues. You wouldn’t expect it of me. It’s always the quiet, soft-spoken, mild-mannered ones who have anger issues. And only their loved ones know about it. Sometimes their neighbours.
I spent years trying to learn how to let go of my anger.
I tried everything.
When I was still Catholic, friends told me: “Just forgive.”
“How?” I asked. “How do I forgive?”
“Just let go,” they said.
“How do I let it go?” I asked.
“Just do it. Just make a decision to let go and just do it.”
I did decide to. But it wouldn’t go away, and my friends weren’t of much help.
Some said, “Pray to God and ask him to help you to forgive.”
I did. Every day. But it didn’t work.
“Punch a pillow,” someone said. “Imagine the guy’s face in the centre of the pillow and punch his lights out.”
I did. But it didn’t work.
“Meditate on the anger,” another person said. “See what it is telling you.”
It told me that someone had done something unfair to me. But the anger did not go away.
“Get even,” still another said.
“How?” I asked.
That wasn’t much help too.
I tried everything I could find on dealing with the anger, but nothing worked. I continued to carry the anger with me for years, because I didn’t know how to get rid of it.
“Anger harms you,” I was told. “Being angry is like stabbing yourself and hoping the other person gets hurt.”
I know that. But no one could tell me how to get rid of it. I knew all the reasons why I had to let go of the anger, and I very much wanted to. I just had no way of doing it.
Until one day, my inability to manage my anger hurt someone very important to me. Then I knew I had to get professional help, or else.
I sought help, and I found it. I got to know a hypnotherapist helped immensely. In just two weeks, he helped me to resolve my anger issues that I carried for many years. He taught me a tool to use which helped me to let go of all the anger I’ve been carrying for many years.
I’ve had a problem with anger for a long time. It extended to way before I knew that friend.
One by one, I revisited all the angry feelings I had and their causes.
One by one, I let go of all of them.
One by one, I forgave the people who hurt me.
And lastly, I forgave myself for allowing myself to get hurt by them.
I forgave myself for not rescuing my cat when it was trapped by a neighbour.
I forgave myself for not standing up to my best friend when he moved in on the girl I liked when I fell ill.
I forgave myself for the shame I felt in my childhood years of not being good enough.
I forgave myself. I set myself free.
You see, sometimes we tell ourselves that we’ve forgiven, but actually all we did was to bury the anger deep inside. We hope that it doesn’t surface again.
But it always does.
Anger never stays buried. The pressure just continues to build up with each hurt we suppress. Until one day it just all blows up in our faces. And it will keep blowing up so long as the anger isn’t processed. And it leads to all sorts of nasty physical, psychological, and spiritual ailments.
It’s not that I don’t get angry anymore. I’ve learnt how to let go of anger the moment I identify it, how to tell when something unfair is being done to me and what to do about it.
Most of all, I learnt how to not let my anger control me anymore.