Processing the painful emotions, part 1 of 4

The anger letter

Blankie sandwich
Peaceful Readers, this post is unusual in its intensity and in its catharsis. You might want to get cozy and comfy before reading it. A soft blanket would be nice. I’m a big fan of a fuzzy blanket. As a matter of fact, I’m sitting under a big fuzzy blanket right now, typing on my laptop. Call it a Blankie Sandwich—and not just any Blankie Sandwich—a favorite Blankie Sandwich, because my sweet husband Brandon bought the big fuzzy blanket for me. Happy sigh.

An hour and unwanted emails
When you think about an hour of your time, it’s not long at all. An hour can often fly by without us even noticing it, kind of like the way those pesky email ads can fly oh-so-quickly into my Deleted folder, with an occasional Unsubscribe conveniently thrown into the mix.

How can an intense, well-spent hour be like ditching unwanted, piled-up emails—things you never asked for that keep showing up? Here comes the Hour of Power.

Hour of power
When you hear Hour of Power, you may think of different things, from a hot yoga workout (not happenin’) to a loud, emotional worship gathering to an enthusiastic motivational speaker’s presentation, and maybe more. In this post, Hour of Power refers to an hour in my life when something heavy that I was carrying lost its grip on me. And that’s a good thing.

The list and the letter
During an amazing retreat I attended early this year, one of our exercises was to sit in a quiet place with no one else around, and write a list of people each one of us felt angry toward. After writing the list, our assignment was to choose one person on the list and write a letter to that person, expressing our anger. I had about 45 to 50 minutes to write the list, choose someone on the list, and write the letter before rejoining my small group and reading my letter out loud. This is the letter that I wrote that healing, balmy day.


Shelly,

Where do I start? You were the sister-in-law from hell.

You abused my husband, your younger brother, with such constant cruelty, with physical and emotional scars, and it was all a game to you.

You had to be the powerful one, the one who always beat down everyone else, so you could be on the top of the heap of crushed bodies and spirits.

When our one and only son was born, you emailed a photo of him to everyone on the planet, without any thought to what we wanted. YOU announced our son’s birth! You stole from us the joy and the privilege of announcing our own son’s birth—the son that we struggled for years and through multiple painful procedures to conceive. It pleased you to steal our joy.

At our precious baby’s first Thanksgiving, you made fun of his appearance, and said he had pointed ears. I HATE YOU! You broke my heart by making fun of my beautiful baby in front of a room full of people.

You barfed out details of your daughter’s sex life to us at another Thanksgiving, right after we sat down to eat.

Ruining every family gathering, and putting on the “It’s All About Me” Shelly Show was what you lived for.

It pleased you to shock and humiliate us.

You and your mother launched a double-barreled shotgun-blasting campaign against me the minute I said “I do” and married Brandon, because being on Brandon’s side, sticking up for Brandon, was NOT allowed in this family. You lied about me, you made fun of me, you gossiped about me constantly, hoping you could get everyone to hate me, hoping that I’d feel so defeated that I’d leave. But I didn’t leave. I stayed. I stayed with Brandon, but I stayed away from you and your beautiful hag of a mother—my mother-in-law—as much as possible.

It pleased you to ruin my reputation and my relationships.

You bragged about all your health problems, opening—with great fanfare—your ice chest full of prescription drugs at every family event. I ignored you and pretended not to notice.

You poisoned your body for years. You poisoned the family for years.

It pleased you to treat us like little glass baubles on a colorful mobile for you to spin violently around for your own entertainment.

It pleased you to hurt us. It pleased you.

You poisoned yourself with such a cornucopia of prescription drugs that you died.

You died in December several years ago. There was ice all over the ground. If it weren’t for the ice, we would have waited for everyone to leave the graveside and we would have danced and danced and danced on your grave.

You were cruel. You were evil. I’m glad you’re dead. The world is a much more peaceful place without you in it, you shotgun-toting, foul-mouthed, trouble-making hag.


Nothing
I didn’t sign my name to the letter. After I read it to my small group at the retreat, I said to Imaginary Shelly: “This letter isn’t signed because you get nothing from me, not even my name.” The reading was emotional, with tears, with me clawing Imaginary Shelly in the air and growling at her. It was tiring. Whew.

You should’ve seen the faces in the room.

To read more about Shelly, my sister-in-law with HPD (Histrionic Personality Disorder), see my first post and this one, with Date Night for Sociopaths.

One down, more to go
I’d heard about writing anger letters long before I went on the retreat, but I didn’t realize that I actually needed to do it. What does an anger letter do? It gets the anger out. Out of our minds and bodies. And for me, it worked wonders.

The week after the retreat, I read the letter out loud during one not-so-quiet morning Quiet Time at home. A little while later, I read it out loud to Brandon. I read it silently each morning for a few days, and then… guess what? I didn’t need or want to read it again. I was done. I was done with my anger at Shelly. I was done expressing it. I got it out of my life. I got her out of my life. Finally. What a relief.

I have more anger letters to write. I feel empowered, knowing how to handle old, hanging-around anger—how to get it out.

The short, powerful formula
Sit quietly + Write + Read = Done.

Now that’s a formula worth knowing and worth doing—our newfangled Hour of Power. I hope you’ll write your Anger List and then, one by one, write an anger letter to each person. The purpose of each letter isn’t to mail or read it to the person you’re writing it to. The power is in the writing, the expressing, the relocating of the anger—from inside you to outside you. It’s like removing a cancerous tumor. Watch and feel the change in your own body and mind. Ahhh.

Writing an anger letter is like moving from a non-stop, hectic, Can I Ever Get A Minute To Myself kind of day to some peaceful, Blankie Sandwich time in front of the fireplace, with maybe a tasty piece of chocolate adding to the sweetness. Something stressful that you thought would never end actually did end. You went from UGH (or “not again”) to a gentle sigh (and maybe even a Blankie Sandwich).

Coming next: In the next post, you’ll read about a breakfast-time conversation Brandon and I had recently. I think you’ll like it. I sure did.

Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.

Truth from The Word: Acts 2:36-47

Song for Healing: The songs in this series come from really varied musical styles, like our emotions and the different ways we need to process them. Today’s song reminds me of my anger letter—raw and powerful: “Afterlife” by Switchfoot.

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