Client’s Rage Melts Into Compassion

Posted Posted in Client/Friend Stories

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.

Anger & Other Relationship Stuff

Posted Posted in Client/Friend Stories

This post will be more about anger in the beginning, but further down you’ll see that it contains some classic relationship stuff. Here we go…

A client came in to work on his anger. He was tired of it and wanted to finally deal with it once and for all. His wife was quite happy about this decision, too. In fact, she might have been part of that decision! I don’t remember exactly…

The first session was pretty standard, with me thoroughly explaining what I’m always like a broken record about – feelings and thoughts. We mostly focused on feeling and releasing as the alternative to expressing the anger (check out the BEGIN HERE! category if this is not familiar). We also talked about his specific triggers so that he’d be on the lookout for them. As always, he’d leave my office after the first session with powerful new tools for life. We’d set a second appointment for a week or two out so that he’d have a chance to practice what he had learned. Then he’d return and we’d discuss what went down.

When he came in nine days later, he said life had been pretty uneventful since our first session. He had been working most of the time, anyway. Since this was five minutes into the session, I was wondering what we’d talk about for the next forty minutes! So I kept asking some questions to see if he had experienced what I had been talking about at all. Did you get angry or stressed? Did you notice it and feel it? Did the anger start to move on after you just breathed and felt it without any thinking or story? Were you able to let go of it, while letting it be there? It was sounding to me like none of this had happened, which would mean we’d have very little to discuss. And then he said something like, “Well, my two young kids were fighting, and that always makes me feel stressed out.” Now we’re talking… So I asked what he did when he noticed that he was getting stressed. He said that he did what we had practiced the week before – he stopped, closed his eyes, breathed, and let go of the stress. And I asked him the inevitable next question, “What happened to the stress when you did that? Did it move?” And his answer was… yes! And I was internally high-fiving the air and jumping up and down.

While my client was super chill as he told me what had happened, I was super excited. I asked him, “Do you realize what you did?? You learned something new, practiced it a few days later in the heat of the moment, and you got noticeable results. That’s major! Just do the same exact thing for the rest of your life and you’ll be all good!” You see, often we get in arguments with people, especially family members, and we don’t realize that we came into the exchange carrying stress from earlier in the day. We were already in a combustible state. Being around young kids fighting is a very easy way to become combustible. Then you end up in an argument with someone else and it wasn’t even really about that person – it was because you were already angry and stressed out from hearing the kids fighting. Classic family stuff. My client noticed this and immediately whacked it. He let it go and centered himself. He was no longer combustible because he learned something and then applied it. This is huge. And after only one session!

It gets better. I asked if he could think of anything else at all like this, and he finally remembered that his wife had gotten a pretty expensive speeding ticket since we first met. Excellent! Why is that excellent? Because that’s how it works – learn new stuff in first session, practice when life inevitably goes south, then return to discuss. That’s the way. So I asked what happened when his wife told him about the ticket and he said he did the same thing. He did not react. He stayed calm. He resisted the urge to say something snide to her about screwing up and costing them hard-earned money, like he would’ve done before we had met. All after one session! It seems small, but the only thing that can happen now is that the volume can get turned up when life goes south. But the laws of feelings are the same – feel them without thought and they move whether something big or small has happened to disturb your peace. It’s just much easier to deal with a little anger or stress (or sadness or any other feeling) than a lot.

My client simply has to practice the same thing whenever life goes south, and he’ll live a much more peaceful life than he otherwise would have. So cool. He learned something one time, put it into action, and got measurable results. Here’s where the classic relationship BS comes in. In each case mentioned above, he would’ve ended up in an argument with his wife. Instead, he avoided that same old tired, useless outcome by his own doing. He was able to make a different choice. I asked about his religious or spiritual beliefs, and he said he was raised in the church but doesn’t go now. I explained that he’s on the path to inner peace, which is something that Jesus endorsed. This is the beginning of that path, and that’s pretty powerful. It’ll take more and more to rattle him as he practices. And whenever he gets mad, he won’t beat himself up. Instead, he’ll just examine how it happened so that he can learn. Then life will bring him the same test later, and at some point he’ll pass it. He passed the two tests he had since our first session, though. He passed them with flying colors. Straight A’s. I love my job…

Anger Management… check!

Posted Posted in Client/Friend Stories, Common Issues

A client “got it” after just our fourth weekly session, reporting the good news in our fifth. That’s one month of his life of learning a new way to live, practicing it, returning to discuss, practicing more, returning to discuss more, etc. Wash Rinse Repeat. And he was forever changed now – he had simply come too far to go back. He had turned the corner so much that I felt like crying tears of joy. It was awesome.

He had come in just over a month earlier because of fairly severe issues with anger – severe enough that his wife was prepared to leave the marriage. He had to fix it or she was done. And it seemed like there wasn’t a huge amount of time.

I began like I usually do, teaching him about how feelings, including anger, work in the body. The mechanism is always the same; his flavor just happened to be anger. No big deal. I talked about the importance of stopping as soon as you notice even a hint anger in your body. And close your eyes, stop thinking, breathe, and feel. Take note of what you’re carrying at that moment and then let it go. It might stay for a while, but the doors are open whenever it is ready to leave. And in checking the anger out directly like this, without a story, you might notice that it’s really just physical sensations or energy in the body. Not a problem. We don’t even need to call it anger at that point. And we certainly don’t need to listen to the voice in the head that tells a very believable story about why it’s there, whose fault it is, etc.

I also talked about the other major component of human life besides feelings: thoughts. The voice in the head is not to be believed. Just stop and let go of it when you notice it. If you need to be thinking about something, then feel free to engage in some conscious, active thought. But that chatterbox voice in the head that has useless conversations with itself all the time isn’t real thinking.

Note: the voice in the head really isn’t as bad as it seems – as long as you don’t believe it. Just stop when you notice it. Over time, and it might take some time, it’ll lose its power. Mine still talks to itself all the time, but it’s literally nothing like it was before I started stopping (yes, you read that right). Stopping means you let go of it when you notice it. You don’t feed it. You just stop, take a breath, and listen to the sounds around you. You continue with what you were doing. And the voice in the head just lost a little bit of its power. Do this for a while and you might notice that it’s not an issue in your life anymore. It just doesn’t carry much weight anymore.

Finally, I told my client to start reading a book called The Sedona Method as soon as he could – this was the game changer. This is how you really release what you’re carrying. I told him he was ready to start practicing a new way of living when he walked out that door and into the rest of his life. He could expect to still express anger, but catch it when you notice it and practice what we’ve talked about. You’ll catch it earlier and earlier until you catch it before you act on that anger. Inner peace, here we come…

One week later was session two. He was enjoying The Sedona Method. He was having success already with traffic. Many people experience anger while driving, so this is a great practice area. He was reacting less and less to other drivers. He had small successes at home, but that was it.

By the third weekly session, he and his wife were still arguing about small stuff, but the duration had been cut in half. That’s huge! He was really enjoying The Sedona Method and finally felt like there was hope for his situation. He had also caught himself in the middle of an argument and noticed that his forehead was all scrunched up. What a great sign! Relax your forehead and then try to express anger. I’m not sure that it’s possible.

By the fourth weekly session, his wife had said that the “scary” fights were pretty much done. I was quite happy to hear this. He still had to work on the smaller stuff, though, like his tone with his wife. I suggested that he catch himself as soon as he said something with a nasty tone and stop immediately, laugh at himself, and then tell his wife something like, “That tone was terrible! Let me try that again…” Then continue like nothing had happened. This brings us to the fifth session. He reported that something had shifted. He was so vigilant looking out for that nasty tone that it took several days for it to slip out (which was huge progress in and of itself, by the way). Finally one day, his wife called to him asking him to do something. He was busy, so he snapped back at her, “What?” in a terrible tone. This was not the tone you’d want to use to address the love of your life. That word, in that tone, basically said, “Shut the hell up and leave me alone – I’m busy doing something more important!” He instantly caught it, though, and he was happy, because this is what he had been waiting for! He stopped what he was doing, walked in the other room to where she was, laughed at himself, and said something like, “I’m sorry – that tone was awful. What was it you wanted?” Yes! Do you know how his wife reacted? She was in disbelief, and she immediately hugged him out of joy.

He had experienced success right away with larger bursts of anger, and now he finally had tasted success with the more subtle stuff. He was very happy about this, as he should be. He wants to stay on top of this, so he’s still coming for the time being, but he’s definitely come too far to be that same angry person again. He learned what was going on and then he started paying attention and busting himself. He practiced and has gotten better and better. This has possibly saved his marriage. He’s starting school while working, and he now knows how to handle stress. And this all happened in about a month. He was ready, though, and we’re all on our own time frame. But this shows that it doesn’t have to take forever to start developing A Clean Mind and to start seeing major results. It’s pretty incredible, and it’s such an honor for me to be a part of it all.

NOTE: All of these client stories are told with no identifying information and of course with permission from the clients. My only interest in sharing these stories is to help more and more people find peace, and these clients are interested in the same thing. There is no pressure on the clients to allow their story to be told. Finally, note that these stories are always told at a certain point in time.

When they are told, it is unknown how the future will unfold. Feelings are powerful, thoughts are powerful, and the past is powerful. New and old issues might emerge after progress is made. If that happens, though, we know how to deal with it. In these cases, I’ll write up the rest of the story if and when appropriate. As said before, it’s all about helping more and more people find peace.