This is a pretty cool story with a pretty powerful silver lining… I have a client who was absolutely disgusted with someone a while back. He was enraged. A friend of a friend was visiting for the weekend and staying with my client. My client is a recovering alcoholic for many years, and the other guy was absolutely hammered all weekend. It was a big party weekend in Pensacola and the guy did not hold back. He was totally obnoxious and my client basically wanted to kill him (don’t take that literally, of course…). The guy was out of control and was repeatedly embarrassing and offending my client. He did things that “crossed the line.”
By Sunday, my client couldn’t take it anymore. This guy had to go. My client was preparing to give him a piece of his mind and really let him have it, and then the most miraculous thing happened. He actually saw himself in the drunk guy. My client realized that this guy had been acting exactly like he used to act many years ago. Exactly. With this realization, the tables turned fast. Now my client was looking in a mirror; he was looking at his past self. And what happened to all of that anger, rage, and hatred? In my client’s own words, “The anger changed completely and turned to compassion. I felt so peaceful.” As you can imagine, this was quite a powerful experience for him.
What happened next is pretty cool, too. My client had been waiting for the right time to tell this guy off and put him in his place. The guy’s behavior had been so inappropriate and disrespectful that it simply couldn’t go unaddressed. Before my client was alone with him and had the chance to talk to him, though, the above miracle happened. And shortly after that, the circumstances naturally shifted so that they were alone. Interesting how timing can work, huh? Armed with this newfound compassion, my client opened up to the guy and revealed that he himself was a recovering alcoholic. He doesn’t really tell anybody this, by the way, except those closest to him. They ended up having a very deep conversation about alcoholism, depression, and Alcoholics Anonymous, and the drunk guy left that weekend with someone he could rely on if he ever decided to take the step and address his underlying issues. Which, by the way, includes being HIV positive. He learned this 4-5 years ago, and ever since then his drinking and obnoxious behavior have been “out of control.” So you can see how all the pieces fit together.
My client nailed the analysis from his own experience. He said that alcohol is just postponing this guy’s dealing with his internal issues. He said that alcohol is acting as a screen between him and his emotions. Remove the screen and you have to deal with the emotions. This is where therapy can help.
A huge lesson here is to look deeply whenever you’re having a strong reaction to another person, because it’s almost always really about you. There’s usually something about your own self that you’re seeing that you don’t like (read What Pushes Your Buttons?). It might not even be conscious to you, so a deeper look is required. And always look with as relaxed an attitude as you can have, because beating yourself up on top of it all does not help. That’s just an extra layer of unnecessary, self-inflicted pain and BS. Just relax and be honest about what you see, owning it completely. It’s a learning opportunity, an opportunity for growth. Remember that it’s just a pattern or a habit; it’s not the core of who you are, and it’s not etched in stone. I know that it sure can seem like it, though.
Soon I’ll be writing about a very cool and accessible tool called the Enneagram as taught in a very powerful book by Eli Jaxon-Bear called From Fixation to Freedom: The Enneagram of Liberation. This helps you identify the core “character fixation” that runs the show for you and calls the shots, all subconsciously. You don’t even know it’s happening! So life keeps jerking you around here and there. It’s just a pattern, though, and there are only nine of them. That means that hundreds of millions of humans right now share the same exact pattern as you. So is it really all that personal? Hell no. It’s just a pattern. Bust it and let go of it as gently as you can. When you’re willing to do this more and more, then more nasty stuff like anger and rage just might turn to compassion.