Over-Anxious

from

The Flying Boy Letters: Responses and Replies 30 Years Later

Letter # 31

June 29, 1990

White Bear Lake, Minnesota

Dear John:

I just finished reading I Don’t Want to Be Alone. As usual, I was so anxious for help that I only read the last half. I’m inspired. It was exactly what I needed. Now, the work begins. I want the end result so bad. I hate codependency. Yesterday when I heard my dad’s voice, I felt angry again even though I’ve forgiven him.

As my lover sleeps and I think of the emotional abuse of each and every day, my heart saddens for my child within me. She’s been hurting for 43 years. It’s time to care for her now. Your book will help me do that as I re-read and follow through.

I must tell you that as I once again walked directly to the self-help book section at the bookstore, your title jumped out at me. I picked it up, read the back cover, then I looked at your picture to surmise whether or not your face “looked” full of wisdom, or at least whether it “looked” like you had more info than I. It was the first time I ever threw the book back on the shelf as fast as I could. All of a sudden, it felt like a tornado inside my head. Why did I react so intensely with that book? This is where guilt took over. I “scarefully” picked it up again. “Hum,” I thought, “maybe it’s time to face reality.” 

I’m sure I’m ready, but I’m scared to follow through. I pray that I can learn quickly. I need to heal and I’m over-anxious now that I’ve read your book.

Thank you for getting me started.

Sincerely,

I’m Over-Anxious Joan

January, 2017

Dear I’m Over-Anxious:

I’m glad you found I Don’t Want to Be Alone (Flying Boy II), my second book with Health Communications, Inc. Like many of us who know anxiety all too well, you started in the middle just so you could hurry up and get to the end of the book to see how things turned out for Lucy and I.

You say in your letter that when you heard your dad’s voice, you felt angry again, even though you’ve forgiven him.

Well, by now you probably have, but you probably hadn’t when you wrote this letter nearly 30 years ago. Let me explain what I mean. As a counselor and rogue therapist, I have asked hundreds of clients and workshop participants: “Have you ever forgiven a parent or spouse?” The answer runs something like this: “Oh, thousands of time;” “Many times;” “I have to forgive them every day;” and so on.

See, most of us were taught we were supposed to forgive people without walking through the door into the anger room. We were also taught and told nice girls didn’t get angry, or that anger was a negative emotion, or that we’re not really feeling anger at all—that “anger” is just fear, sadness, and abandonment that has been covered up. So we become prematurely nice—not authentically nice—because we are holding on to so much anger. I realized that until I felt my feelings of anger, frustration, and disappointment, I couldn’t fully forgive anyone.

I would say, and still say to the people I work with, “Why don’t you feel your anger, experience it, express it, and get to real forgiveness just once and finally?” Then, once your anger has been appropriately expressed, you are able to interact with that person in the present, even a parent or lover, and you are feeling a primary emotion (not a secondary one as most therapists have been taught) and you will not unload the ancient baggage of the past on to someone in the present.

Now here is one more thought about anger before I go to other parts of your letter. Many men and women don’t want to let go of their anger at someone because anger is the only fine thread or coarse rope that we use to stay connected. We are afraid if we let go of our anger, we will watch them or us just drift off into space.

The truth is that if we’re still using unfelt, unexpressed anger as connecting devices, we’re only creating an illusion of connection. Forgiveness, and perhaps love, build a much stronger bridge to people than the frayed rope of anger.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are such egregious abuses that some have experienced that may not ever be forgiven, and that is right in its own way.

Remember this: anger is for getting out of stuck places, i.e. jobs, marriages, families, etc., and grief is for having been in a stuck place for so long.

I love how you said: “…once again I walked directly to the self-help section at the bookstore”—I tried to put up a tent in that section years ago because I wanted to live in the self-help aisle for the rest of my life.  “…and your title jumped out at me. I picked it up, read the back cover… It was the first time I ever threw the book back on the shelf as fast as I could… I carefully picked it up again. ‘Hum,’ I thought, maybe it’s time to face reality.”

 

This reminds me of the time a woman who attended a workshop of mine years ago said she would like to show me a copy of The Flying Boy.

When she handed it to me, it was in 2 halves, torn right through the middle. She said, “This is the copy I gave to my husband five years ago. He immediately looked at and read the back cover, and then took it out to his workshop where he took a saw and cut it in half.” I understood immediately, and then she reached in her bag and pulled out another whole intact copy and said, “This is a copy he bought for himself and wants you to sign it.”

Thank you for writing,

JOHN

Discipline and Punishment

Anger as Punishment and Revenge

Alcoholics, addicts, and adult children of alcoholics don’t get angry – they get even. One of the reasons adults have such a problem feeling and expressing their anger is because anger has forever been tied to punishment and revenge. People who are punished – instead of disciplined – tend to seek revenge and are angry, and the best way to extract a pound of flesh is to punish the actual or perceived offender. “You drink – I’ll show you – I’ll not sleep with you.” “If you overreact – I’ll get you back – I’ll have an affair.”

A few years ago I was in the Asheville airport waiting to catch a flight back to Austin. I was standing close to a very elderly lady, who was sitting hunched over in a wheel chair in front of her sixty-something-year-old daughter and son. She was silently weeping, and the son looked down at her and said in a voice loud enough for all around him to hear: “Mamma, we told you if you cried we wouldn’t let you come back to visit anymore.” Serious Senior Woman With Adult Daughter At Home

Do you hear the rage and revenge in his statement?

“That’s right mother. We told you that you can’t cry,” said the daughter.

Can’t you just imagine that fifty-something years ago this mother probably said to her children, in some public place: “If you don’t stop this crying, I’m never going to….” She punished them with a threat. They wait fifty years for revenge and no one is even consciously being malicious.

The Difference Between Discipline and Punishment

Unfortunately, children are punished and they become, using Alice Miller’s words, “Prisoners of Childhood,” the original title of her important book later named, The Drama of the Gifted Child.  Punishment makes children, adults, criminals, and animals, at the least, untrusting, and at most, full of rage.  It is capricious – not well thought-out and not stated before the fact. Where punishment is handed out, you might as well hand out the alcohol and drugs to make them forget that they have no choice and that others have extreme amounts of power over them.

One time I asked a room full of counselors, educators, and law enforcers if they could tell me exactly what would happen to someone caught in their state driving while under the influence? A couple of them said, “They would go to jail,” another one said, “They would lose their license to drive; two or three of them said they would have to pay a fine, but several said, “It would depend on who they are, who they know, if they could afford a high-priced attorney and, sadly, what color they are. A poor person of color, who doesn’t know anyone, gets punished differently than someone who is white and has lots of money or connections.” Hear the meanness in this? How enraged is someone going to be?

Now here is what makes people less angry – it’s called:

Positive reinforcement word Discipline engrained in a rock

Discipline is almost angelic compared to demonic punishment. Here’s why: Punishment is after the fact or the offense. Discipline is prior to the act or offense. Punishment takes away healthy choice making. Discipline teaches how to make healthy and mature choices.

Punishment says here are the consequences I, or we, feel like handing out today, and discipline says know beforehand what the consequences of your actions will be no matter how we feel or don’t today.

If my home state of Georgia had huge billboards on every road entering saying exactly what the consequences would be for driving under the influence, say—YOU WILL LOSE YOUR LICENSE, YOU WILL GO TO JAIL, YOU WILL PAY $10,999.00 IN FINES, AND WE WILL CUT OFF YOUR BIG TOE – many folks would “think before they drink” or they’d think, “Damn, if they’re going to be so clear, I’ll just go to Alabama were the law is still ambiguous as hell and take my chances over there.”

It is the same with children and adolescents who are disciplined rather than punished. They just don’t tend to be as angry and have to get even later with their guards – I mean parents and teachers – because they were told what would happen beforehand.

One time my stepdaughter, who was about thirteen at the time, came in one warm summer evening very late, having been with her girlfriends chatting and forgetting about the time. As soon as she came through the door she looked at me in disgust and said, “I know, I’m busted for staying out so late.” The anger at being punished many times by her real father was on her face as she prepared to get more.

“Did I tell you what would happen before you went out if you weren’t in by 9 p.m.?” She looked at me like I was asking her a trick question. She sighed heavily as all teenagers do, “No you didn’t.” “Well, that’s my job – to tell you beforehand the consequences so you can make choices. So, no you’re not busted. However, if you decide to stay out late again tomorrow night, you won’t attend the sleepover this weekend with your girlfriends.” I’ll never forget what she said: “That sounds fair.” And it was.

Punishment takes no time and is fast and very often furious. Discipline takes time and forethought. Punishment creates rage, resentment, and the need for revenge and retribution. Discipline creates a sense of well-being and feeling that one is cared for. All the young and older children I’ve seen and spoken with, and all the adults, have incredibly angry stories about being punished, and almost no one had stories of being disciplined. discipline_children_final

 

Here’s a little sidebar to all of this. The only institution that at least tries to practice discipline is – would you believe – the military. They have huge books of rules and regulations – if you go A.W.O.L. this, this, and this will happen. If you disregard a direct order – this, this, and this will happen. It is spelled out beforehand. You can actually look up what is going to happen should you violate the rules.

The bottom line – if you want to produce less angry children, who become less angry adolescents, who will then become less angry adults that feel safe, loved and valued in this world, learn to discipline instead of punish.

Angry adults need to drink and drug to forget how punishment caused them NOT to feel safe, loved, and valued in this world. Punishment just royally pisses everyone off, and then out roll the resentments, and out rolls the beer and whiskey barrels that are, at first, a barrel of fun and laughter, but eventually become containers of poison that kill families, friendships, opportunities, and relationships of all kinds.”

Grieving: The Doorway to Healing and to Maturity

This is the time of year when a lot of grief may rise to the surface, and a season that should not be about money.

In that regard, when I first started my counseling career over 30 years ago, I did so with the objective to just help folks. Even though I have kept that objective in mind, there are many who could not afford my long-time standard rate of $150 for a 50-minute session, and therefore, it limited the number of people I could reach and help.

So, beginning today and going through January 2, 2017, for the first time ever, I am offering my phone sessions for a “pay-what-you-can rate.” If you, or a friend, or a family member, would like a session with me, just pay what you can, even if that means nothing.

Let’s see if together, we can make this season a little more, if not enjoyable, then at least, bearable.

During my 30 years of counseling and working with men and women, I have been asked so many times: “How do you grieve?” or “How do you begin grieving?”

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Here are the five things necessary to do deep grief work around any change, transition, death, loss, break up, or divorce:

  1. One needs an awareness that grief is the proper response to all loss and change and that it is a doorway into our maturity.
  2. We need to devote as much time as it takes, letting no one tell us to move on or out faster than we are ready because, as we know, time is the great healer.
  3. In order to do deep grief work, one must ritualize the process. These rituals move the pain and the sorrow up and out faster than a catch-as-catch-can approach to grief can ever achieve.
  4. We need a community of supportive people as we go through these transitions and losses because grief is not to be done entirely alone but in a community.
  5. Having navigated our way through the treacherous waters and shed our tears, we need to employ our community and have a celebration that says we came out on the other side.

Also, one of the seven stages of grief is anger, and the coming holidays can be a time when people feel angry about all kinds of different things. Additionally, it is a season when a lot of folks get depressed, anxious, family histories surface, and loneliness prevails. directory-466935

Loneliness can be a precursor to alcoholism, drug addiction, physical illness, and depression. One of the hardest things, especially for men, is to admit to anyone that they are lonely. If you find yourself in this psychological and emotional state, be sure to reach out and tell someone and not suffer silently by yourself.

If you would like to learn more about grief work, or how anger expressed appropriately equals energy, intimacy, and serenity, or if you are in need of help with other issues, please take me up on my offer of a phone or Skype session for the “pay-what-you-can rate.”

Also, please know that I am doing this as much for me, as I am for anyone who feels the need to make an appointment.

Additionally, beginning January, 2017, I will be opening a full-time counseling and coaching practice in Austin, Texas, but we can do some of this work over the phone or via Skype.

So if anyone out there is hurting and needs some help, remember I want to help you whether you can afford to pay my full fee, a part thereof, or nothing at all.

If you or someone you know would like to schedule a session, please call me at 678-494-1296, or email my assistant, Kathy McClelland, at assistant@johnleebooks.com.

Take care of yourself during this holiday season, and please:

  • call me if you would like a phone, Skype, or in-person session,
  • tell your friends and/or colleagues about my new full-time counseling and coaching practice in Austin, Texas and;
  • don’t forget the 2-day Intensives in Austin, Texas or Mentone, Alabama.

Thank you, and I hope you have a wonderful holiday season.

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Announcement – I will be offering 2-Day Intensive Sessions in Austin, Texas beginning September 1, 2016

I’m pleased to announce that after a break from offering my 2-day Intensives in Austin, Texas, I am now making those available again starting September 1, 2016 at the Austin Men’s Center, thanks to Director Bill Bruzy.

As most of you know Austin is not only charming and beautiful, it is a convenient location for clients especially from the Midwest, Southwest, and West Coast.

I will continue to offer the Intensives at my Mentone Cottage in the mountains of Northeast Alabama.

I hope you will pass the word along to clients or friends who would like to engage in my nontraditional approach to coaching, counseling, and teaching.

HOW to Tell the Difference Between Anger and Rage

A woman called me the other day for help. When I asked her what the problem was, she didn’t hesitate. “I am living with the angriest man in the world.” I said, “Tell me how he expresses his anger?”

After four or five descriptive sentences I said, “I hate to interrupt, but everything you’ve said so far is rage.” And she said, “What’s the difference?”

Anger is about the “Here and Now;” it is an active response to issues and situations occurring at the present time. You feel anger because of what your boss said to you this morning or because your spouse incorrectly balanced the checkbook this week.

Rage is about the “There and Then;” it is about our past. Rage is a reaction to what your boss has said to you every morning for the last year. What you’ve stuffed and bottled-up all this time, suddenly comes gushing out like a geyser. Likewise, rage occurs because the checkbook has gone unbalanced for two years; seemingly warranting a deafening silence to correct or punish your spouse’s behavior.

WHAT IS HEALTHY ANGER? WHAT IS RAGE/UNHEALTHY ANGER?
A feeling A reaction
A primary emotion Stuffs or masks emotions
It is neither positive or negative It is negative and inappropriate
Anger is energy Rage is exhausting
Meant to be given away Meant to be given up
It doesn’t hurt anyone Hurts everyone involved
Anger clears the air Clouds communication
It increases understanding Adds to confusion
Helps communication Increases conflicts and misunderstandings
Rights injustices and wrongs Is an injustice and wrongs people further
It increases energy, intimacy, and peace of mind Decreases energy in people, increases the distance between them and causes discord
Healing Damaging
Contained and controlled until proper time, place and person Pervasive, out of control, and misdirected
About the present About the past
About “Me” About “You”

Anger lives in the present and so takes minutes to be felt and expressed. Rage sticks around because it is grounded in the past. Because anger lives in the present, it takes moments or minutes at the most to be felt and expressed. When Jerome’s wife was late for a special luncheon they’d planned, Jerome said, “I’m angry. Now, I only have forty-five minutes left for lunch before I have to return for work. Let’s eat and make the most of our time.”

Rage lives in the past and takes a very long time because it is grounded in our personal life history, and once unleashed, the result is that no one wants to eat with anyone because no one has an appetite left. Sandy’s now ex-boyfriend was chronically late; Sandy’s response was, “I’m tired of you always putting everything before me. Didn’t your mother teach you it is rude to keep people waiting? I got here on time. I can’t see why you can’t!” …And she was just getting warmed up. Clearly, there was more than anger going on.

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Rage is what constitutes most marathon arguments. You know the ones that begin at eight o’ clock after dinner after the kids are put to bed and is still going strong at one in the morning until someone cries, “Uncle,” and says, “Does anyone know the original point of this?” or attempts to just share some feelings.

Anger is about me and rage is about you. If I express anger, I am telling you about me. Anger is revealing. If I am raging, I’m telling the other person about them and thus I am concealing what I am really feeling and going through. What many people do when they rage is this: They tell the other person about them. What they didn’t do and shouldn’t have done; why what they said is wrong, crazy, sick, and messed up. When they finally finish their diatribe, then it’s the other person’s turn to tell the first person about them and how what they said doesn’t apply, and that if they’d said it differently, maybe they could be heard, and if they’d only read more self-help books they wouldn’t have said it at all. After that, then it’s the first speaker’s turn again, and then the second, and we affectionately call this marriage, and then very often we call it adversity and grounds for divorce.

Rage has moved more people out of relationships than U-Haul. It shoves everyone out the door, out of lives, or out of business. Rage pushes everyone away because no one wants to be around it.

On the other hand, anger expressed in present time and in an appropriate manner, actually draws people to you. If a man says to his wife, “I’m angry and I need to talk,” nine times out of ten the wife will respond with something like, “Okay, tell me more,” or “I’m listening,” or “What’s going on?”

If an employee says to a fellow worker, “I’m angry about what went on in the staff meeting this morning,” most fellow employees will say, “Tell me more,” or “Let’s talk about it this afternoon over a beer.” In other words, if I do not rage at you, you have no reason to run—indeed anger can create the beginning of many productive dialogues and initiate problem solving. 887697_73689303

Rage engenders defensiveness, distance, and the feeling of being in some kind of danger; it shows disrespect and disregard for both the speaker and the one pretending to listen. Anger shows appreciation and respect. If one’s boss is angry and says so and follows that statement with something like, “…and I’d like for you to meet me for lunch so we can discuss the issue,”—this says I value you and our relationship enough to make some time and request that you make some time to resolve the issue at hand.

Rage basically says —in no uncertain terms— I do not value you or this relationship enough to warrant an expenditure of my time or energy to try to achieve resolution.

Anger is a response to injustice, rudeness, impoliteness, impoverishment, impudence, and abuse. Rage is a reaction to situations, circumstances, people, processes, and problems. Responses are generated by present stimuli. Reactions are a re-activation of one’s history and memories about people, processes, and problems.

These rage reactions are almost always disproportionate to what is being said or done or not done or said to one’s satisfaction. Angry responses are proportional to what is coming towards us or being taken away from us.

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These reactive behaviors and actions warrant these types of reactions from others: “Where is all of this coming from…?” or “Why are you making a mountain out of a molehill?” In other words, the person might be angry at a pounds’ worth, but is dumping a tons’ worth of rage on them.

Rage incorporates statements like “You always,” or, “You never.” They often include ultimatums and threats. The one raging believes in a black and white mentality, all or nothing, or my way or the highway.

Anger uses words like, “sometimes,” “occasionally,” and “every now and then.” Anger is comfortable with some gray areas.

Anger engages conflict and rage runs from it. The angry men or women are in essence saying I have a problem and I am seeking a solution. Rage says you have a problem and that’s the problem—no solution in sight.

Anger says let’s confront these divisive issues; rage says let’s further divide. A CEO who attended one of my corporate anger presentations, stood up during my talk and said, “I never run from confrontations. I stand toe to toe with anyone. I get in their face no matter what I have to do or say to get my point across.” The sturdy, sixty-year-old with a crew-cut haircut sat down with a satisfied look on his face.

I responded, “Does that include yelling, calling people names, and other like behaviors or actions?”

“Whatever it takes!” he replied.

These actions and behaviors often employed in conflicted situations are self-defeating. One reason is that many people (including the aforementioned CEO) are avoiding conflict, in spite of how things may appear on the surface. They hate confrontations because in the past this meant they felt defeated by their parents, coaches, teachers, ex-wives or husbands.

But perhaps a more significant explanation for so much avoidance is that most people have not been taught how to do it with a win-win attitude. Instead we’re taught there can only be one winner or one loser; an approach grounded in rage.

When we realize that it is inappropriate actions and reactions that cover our emotions, a new freedom is developed to speak out our feelings without fear of retaliation and retribution. And now that our responses are proportional to people and circumstances, neither the speaker nor listener has anything to fear.

PASSIVE WORDS USED BY THE RAGING PERSON:

  • You always _____.
  • You never _____.
  • Why can’t you _____?
  • If only you _____.
  • It’s all your fault.
  • Shame on you.
  • You’re lying.
  • When are you going to _____?

For more information and insight, please visit the bookstore:

the anger solution book by john lee

and

facingthefire_bk