One of the biggest challenges for relationships is anger. Most of the focus on how to solve this problem is to reduce reactivity. This is a worthy goal but offers no solutions for when reactivity happens. This often leaves people judging themselves when they are reactive and missing that it is a misguided attempt to get back to love.
I had a recent blow out with my daughter where I behaved badly and sad hurtful things. We revisited the situation recently, and I acknowledged I was out of line. I was struck by how magnanimous she was. She said we can all get crazy at times. I just need to know you don’t think it is okay.
I was very grateful for her level of forgiveness and understanding. She was able to see my psychological innocence in a way that I had not been able to.
So in addition to the worthy goal of reducing anger and reactivity, relationships also benefit from the people in the relationship having the capacity to not take bad behavior personally and to forgive the transgressions of the other person by understanding the drive behind it is an attempt to return to love. I am not condoning bad behavior here, and I am not saying that anyone should stay in a harmful situation. I am pointing to the messy process we humans sometimes find ourselves in, in our attempts to reconnect.
I know I never want to lose my temper again. But I might not live up to that intention. I am grateful to know that the intimate relationships I have in my life have room for my imperfections and my imperfect behavior as I learn and grow.
Anger is definitely an area of growth and learning for me. In the midst of conflict and angry words it is easy for me to take what the person is saying seriously and feel hurt. I forget that their words are a reflection of their distorted thoughts in that moment. When I forget, I try to make sense of what is being shared and try to figure out a solution. But, what they are saying is not how they see things when they are in a good feeling. I am wasting my time trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist when they are in another state of mind.
Sometimes I see this so clearly and recognize the angry words are a reflection of their suffering. And others I don’t see it at all. This has nothing to do with the other person or what they are saying. It has everything to do with my state of mind and how clearly I am seeing things. If I am not connected with my loving essence and feeling open-hearted because I am identifying with limited thinking, it will be easy for me to take what is being said personally and feel hurt by it.
What helps me now is to see my own humanness, to see how lost I get, and then to remember how quickly I find my Self again. I can go from the depths of despair to feeling lighthearted in minutes, and it doesn’t even matter how long it takes for the switch to happen. All that matters is that I know it will.
I share this as an encouragement. Relationships can be difficult. Intimacy is not easy. It is wonderful and comes with beautiful feelings, but it also helps us to see our blind spots. My girls are helping me to see how stubborn I can be. They are showing me my arrogance. They are reminding me of how I distance myself when I am scared. Their light reveals my shadow. And it can feel icky and uncomfortable. I do feel shame at times when I see my limitations.
But it is also very healing to know that these perceived limitations are not barriers to love. They are not barriers to worthiness. They are not impediments to waking up to who and what I am. They are the path. To feel shame about them is like being ashamed of the stairs that I walk up to get to the second floor of our house. They are just part of the journey. Blind spots are not wrong or bad. They are an integral part of the human experience as we wake up to who we are beyond the human experience. The gift of our humanity is that we get to feel our way into our true nature. It is trial and error. There are lots of bumps along the way, but we learn experientially through this gift of life.
Anger and reactivity are part of the learning. They help us to see who and what we are not. The pain of the feelings of separation reminds us that we are looking in the wrong direction. Emotional suffering is the indicator that we are lost. But sometimes we need to get lost in order to find our Self. Waking up is not an intellectual process. It is experiential. We have the gift of the human experience so we can find our way home. Use it all for your growth and learning. Embrace it all — even the parts that make you cringe. Let your heart open to what you don’t like about yourself and wish were different. It is in the opening and the acceptance that more gets revealed.
I don’t know why learning happens the way it does. But I am grateful for the inner freedom and expansiveness that happens each time I remember that my true nature is untarnished by my human foibles and that love can prevail in this world of form as we have room for each other’s foibles. The more I don’t need others to be perfect or to act a certain way, the freer I feel. The more I am able to recognize the truth of my impersonal true nature, the more I can see that imperfections don’t exist. There is just what is. And it is all an attempt to experience the love and wellbeing of who we are from the level of consciousness we can express from. We are all doing that with greater and lesser effectiveness. Even anger is my attempt to get back to love in its own twisted way.
Rohini Ross is co-founder of “The Rewilders.” Listen to her podcast, with her partner Angus Ross, Rewilding Love. They believe too many good relationships fall apart because couples give up thinking their relationship problems can’t be solved. In this season of the Rewilding Love Podcast, Rohini and Angus help a couple on the brink of divorce due to conflict. Angus and Rohini also co-facilitate private couples' intensives that rewild relationships back to their natural state of love. Rohini is also the author of the ebook Marriage, and she and Angus are co-founders of The 29-Day Rewilding Experience and The Rewilding Community. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To learn more about her work and subscribe to her blog visit: TheRewilders.org.