It’s not unusual for people to hold on to anger over an event or behavior for years, or even decades. This can lead to great pain, sorrow and loss.
Why do we cling so tenaciously to our deepest feelings? The answer can be layered and complex.
A key aspect of transforming and integrating deep emotions — necessary for our wellness and healing — involves a subtle yet critical aspect of our psychology. This is the meaning we create and then hold on to regarding a past experience — and its reflection on our subsequent worth.
An example: David harbors deep feelings of anger toward his longtime friend Jeremy for stealing his girlfriend. This happened when they were in their late 20s. Now David is approaching 40. Married to a woman he loves with a young child.
Yet David’s anger returns every time he hears a mention of his former friend Jeremy. This even though Jeremy tried to speak with David and apologize for what he saw as a misunderstanding.
Let’s examine what lies beneath the anger for David. Weighing heavily on his psyche is the belief he attached to this past experience: That he was inferior to Jeremy. Not good enough for his girlfriend. This is the burden of meaning to which David assigned himself. The rage was self-created. It trapped his self-worth in a frozen state for years to come.
Yet the seeds of this negative voice were laid down long before David and Jeremy met. Early childhood experiences of a harsh critical parent, the loss of a caregiver. The lack of appropriate nurturing and soothing brings the child to blame himself — to see himself as the bad one — when all he needed was emotional care, a home, with which to relay his pain.
Self loathing of this sort can return in a flash — as it did with David in the case of Jeremy and the girlfriend. The harsh critical voices from long ago flooded into a another moment in time.
With help, David found his way out by challenging the old voices from the past. Examining and discarding the attachment he carried for so long. In this way he released himself from self-imposed bondage. David was liberated to be present in his life, not only for his wife and child, but more importantly for himself.
When confronted with these negative voices that belong in the past, remind yourself of your deep worth. Seek the path of balance and self care.