My anger management group is no place for the weak. While I am very compassionate and respectful, I have zero tolerance for denial, blame, self-pity and the like. Monday night was no exception.
“Sharon” sat down on the large blue sofa along with the other women. As always, I asked the ladies how they were doing since our last meeting a week ago. “I’m having a problem with some of the women here,” Sharon said. (She was referring to those at the battered women’s shelter where our meetings are held.) “Last night I told my roommate to turn the light off so I could go to sleep and she got nasty with me. Then, when I got up the next morning to go to my appointment, no one told me the van was leaving so I missed my ride. Later, I was using the pay phone and moved the garbage can into the hall because it was in my way. A staff member yelled at me and told me I had to put it back. I told her it’s a free country and I can do what I want. She got nasty with me so I got nasty back. I’m tired of these b*tches pushing me around!”
She proceeded to congratulate herself for not hitting anyone. “I’ve been to anger management before. I don’t need this group. I didn’t hit anyone like I used to.”
I, too, applauded her for the progress she had made. This was impressive for someone who grew up where violence is an acceptable way of life. But I needed to take her beyond where the other group left off. “Let’s take a look at the role you played in each of these situations so you can do things differently in the future and avoid further problems. In the first, did you ask your roommate politely or were you rude?” “I was rude but she didn’t have to get nasty with me so I cursed her out!” “Could you have asked politely?” I inquired. “Yes but even so, she didn’t have to be a ‘b’!”
I proceeded: “You do know that the van leaves precisely at 6 am every morning, don’t you?” I asked. “Yes”, she replied. “What could you have done differently to ensure you were on time?” “I could have gotten up earlier.” I could see she was becoming agitated that I was focusing on her role in each of the arduous situations. “This is a shelter and they have rules everyone is expected to abide by. To move a garbage can into the hallway presents a fire hazard and is in violation of the town’s fire code. Staff was only doing their job.” “That’s ridiculous!” she shouted. “It’s a stupid garbage can, for God’s sake! I could move it if I want to!” I was not surprised when she left the group.
The hardest thing we ever have to do in life is face the truth about ourselves. We are quick to credit ourselves for the right choices we make while failing to acknowledge our defects. Finding fault with others is effortless as it requires no self-examination and effort on our part to change. But only when we are willing to acknowledge our role in what isn’t working in our lives do we have the power to effect positive change.
Live in truth, no matter how (temporarily) painful: it is where your true personal power lies to prosper.