“If a small thing has the power to make you angry, does that not indicate something about your size?”
— Sydney J. Harris
I’ve been working on my new book about ho’oponopono (the ancient Hawaiian process of forgiveness). And though I’ve talked about it and taught it for decades now, I can’t think of a time when ho’oponopono was more needed than it is today.
Every time I turn on the TV, I see someone is pointing an angry finger (or a loaded gun) at someone else. People screaming at each other, painting entire groups as evil, is commonplace. Senseless, horrible acts of violence and “revenge” against complete strangers happen almost daily. Fear, frustration, fury and outrage seem epidemic.
This isn’t the kind of world I want my kids to inherit.
To me, it’s perfectly healthy to get angry about something. Anger is a great signal that “Hey! That is not acceptable. That violates my boundaries.” Anger can give us the juice to take positive action, take a stand or make changes.
But when everything and anything sets you off, when your angry reaction is way out of proportion to the current moment or incident, what you’re really angry about is not what you’re getting angry about.
C’mon, is it really such a big deal that someone cuts in front of you at Starbucks? Is it really reasonable to be enraged for days over a questionable call a ref made against your favorite team? Or the spot the dry cleaners missed on your suit? Or the fact that your rib eye was a little over-cooked?
When your anger (or actually any emotion) is overblown and unwarranted or when it is the constant undertone of your daily mood, you aren’t responding to the present circumstance. You are reacting based on past baggage that you haven’t released. Let me give you an example from my own life, the first time I really experienced the truth of how our baggage from the past controls our current responses:
Back in 1993, I was attending an NLP Master Practitioners class that my father was teaching. He started talking about his divorce from my mother (they had divorced when I was about 5) and how bad their marriage had been. I got so upset and enraged that I had to walk out of the room, ranting to myself, “Why hadn’t he told me this? Why did he have to bad mouth Mom in front of all these people?”
The co-trainer followed me out and asked what was up. When I told him what I was feeling, he said, “It might be appropriate to react to your dad sharing this. But you know that you have baggage when your reaction is out of proportion to the current external incident.” He took me through a quick Time Line process (forerunner of the Mental and Emotional Release® process, MER, we teach today) and the anger simply melted away.
That was a real Aha! moment for me, when I clearly experienced the difference between feeling emotions that are valid based on the present and those that are not. Within minutes, I went from a murderous rage to feeling at ease and okay about my dad and the situation. At that moment, I also clearly got the power of releasing emotional baggage from the past and how much it could benefit my life.
As children, most of us weren’t taught about our emotions and healthy ways of dealing with them so we naturally accumulated baggage. Growing up, some of us vaguely heard about forgiveness. But hardly anyone pointed out that forgiveness is really for us, not the other person. It allows us to release the past so we can fully experience the present. Decades ago, few people knew how much forgiveness—(and un-forgiveness)—affects our physical, mental and emotional well-being.
Today, psychologists and physicians are coming to understand what the ancient Hawaiians knew all along: Forgiveness is critical component of a happy, healthy life. And we all have some forgiveness work to do.
“But, Matt, I’m mellow. I don’t act out. My emotions are in check. I’m fine.” Really? As a friend of mine puts it: Are there certain people who are not safe walking down the streets of your mind? Whether you act out or not, if your thoughts about others or certain past situations are stuck on an endless negative loop, you’ve got some work to do. Do you have to forgive everything? Only if you want to live a fully empowered life and tap all of the incredible potential and energy you have.
“Holding on to anger, resentment and hurt only gives you tense muscles, a headache and a sore jaw from clenching your teeth. Forgiveness gives you back the laughter and the lightness in your life.” — Joan Lunden
To your TOTAL empowerment!