The Flying Boy Letters: Getting Back to Y’all 30 Years Later

Letter 21

St. Louis, MO

Dear John,

I need to thank you for your book, “The Flying Boy.” I am in the midst of reading it for the second time. The first reading tore me to pieces and put me back together. I had to become consumed with intense pain before I was willing to take action, which led me to the bookstore at the treatment center I went through for chemical dependency in 1980.

It would look as though my pain’s immediate source is being unemployed, broke, and currently trying to let go of a woman who has left me. The pain I am experiencing is the worst I can remember. Your book has shown me that these things are the result of a pain I have always been aware of, running very deep, and anger I thought only the Devil was capable of. You’ve helped me realize how much work I need. I am deathly afraid of having to go through what you did, hoping I can somehow escape it, or that it won’t be necessary.

The first reading, at many passages, brought tears to my eyes. Only recently has my pain been strong enough to allow myself tears, and only this book, hitting so close to home, has brought them out of me.

The second time reading your book, I stop as certain passages bring back memories as far back as saying my first words and many more painful memories.

I have never felt so completely hopeless and lost as in recent days. All I know is I hate my pain and I want it to stop, and I certainly don’t want it to last as long as yours did. In one way, I really don’t like knowing how sick I am, because it seems like so much to go through. On the other hand, I am grateful and feel like your book saved my life, reaffirming the fact that I have always know that what was in me would kill me before it would go away on its own.

I don’t know for sure where to go for the help I know I need. I don’t know for sure what kind of help I need, except I know I need a lot. You have many times heard people, when undertaking something say, “If it saves one life, it’s worth it.” Well, I am writing to verify to you that your book was worth it. If I am ever in Austin, I will look you up and thank you in person. If you are ever coming to St. Louis, I would enjoy meeting you. Please call ahead.

Forever grateful,

Joe L.

Dear Who Never Felt So Hopeless and Lost,

You know what fire and rescue teams try to get into our heads? If you’re lost in the wilderness, stay put and they will come find you, and yet nearly everyone tries to find their own way out and they end up getting terribly lost for days or weeks, or die out there because they were so afraid no one would come find them.

It’s okay to be where you are. Be where you are. Be where you are so that you can move out of it.

Then there’s the old saying, when the student is ready, the teacher will come. Once again there is great wisdom in getting still, silent, and trusting that now that you are hopeless and lost someone is on their way.

While we are hating our pain, we must give it time to prepare us for the healing, and God, that’s hard to do. I hated my pain so much I did everything I could to numb it with alcohol, women, and work. None of them worked. It was going into the pain, letting myself be scared of where my pain would take me. I felt there was so much in me, no firefighter or rescue squad would ever find me if I just stood still and trust and wait, trust and wait. So I grew wings and flew from the pain, flying from woman to woman, job to job, beer to beer and rum, whiskey, and vodka. Man, did I rack up some frequent flyer miles on this body. I couldn’t commit to anyone or anything too long for fear if I landed someone would find out who I really was and how much wreckage and trauma had been put in my young body as a child and adolescent.

Finally, my soul sickness caught up with me, and like you, I really did have the intellectual awareness at least that, as you said in your letter, “what was in me would kill me before it went away on its own.”

So once upon a time, long, long ago in a house on 9th Street in Austin in a shabby house even God wouldn’t live in just as the sun was sinking down and the moon was slowly rising, Laurel, the woman who left me saying I was angry and full of sadness, came around one more time.

Bottom line, she, the forest ranger of feeling and search party for a young man’s pain, came and found me. From dusk until dawn I was like a newborn colt who fell into the deep grass of her arms and I wept out, screamed out, three decades of pain as she held me and kept saying, while she couldn’t come back she wasn’t going away that long night into the darkness that was in me so deep I didn’t want her or anyone else to ever see.

So, my friend, like I said years ago when I was playing my own music regularly, “Pain, I love it, it will make me a country singer…” Then there is the whole other point of view, get up off your ass and go find a therapist who has done their own work and who keeps doing it, a counselor who helps take you into your body as well as your brain, a men’s group who will support you while, as the poet Rilke says:

Sometimes a man stands up at supper and walks outdoors and keeps on walking because a church that stands somewhere in the East and his children say blessings on him as if he were dead.

While other men stay inside with the dishes and glasses and dies there while he forces his children to go far out into the world to find the same church which he forgot. Translated by Robert Bly

So Dear Never Felt So Helpless, I see you in the woods, while you wait for direction, wait to be found or on the road and looking for that “church” that can help us heal.

John

Enhancing Emotional Intelligence – Part II

Separation vs Isolation

Emotionally intelligent people engage in separation instead of isolation. By age two children begin the process of separating from their parents. By age twelve they are fully engaged in the process; unless the parents did not experience healthy separation from their parents, in which case they will tend to cling and limit their adolescence’s ability to move away from them in a healthy manner. This limiting, hovering, or clinging creates the tendency for teens and later adults to move more and more towards isolating when they need time to themselves, space and awareness, they need to renew and regenerate their energy to be with lovers, friends, children, or parents.

Separation generates closeness and intimacy because men and women can learn to detach instead of disconnecting when tired, overwhelmed, drained or exhausted by too much contact and stimulation. They get to pull away in a functional way and then return ready for more communication, commitment and caring.

Isolation leaves everyone in the dark because no one knows when the person is coming back or if they ever will come back, which very often triggers people’s unexposed, unexplored abandonment issues.  The “Isolator” closes themselves off to intimacy and can result in everything from feeling distant to contemplating divorce and ultimately to depression.

There are many forms the “Isolator” can employ, but the main one the emotionally challenged person tends to favor is to become a “Distancer.”  This is the person, who during conflict or confrontation, tends to say things like, “fine, I’m out of here,” or “whatever,” before walking or running away to work, alcohol, drugs, affairs, or other mind numbing, body numbing, emotion numbing behaviors. Luckily we can continue to become increasingly aware of the strategies that don’t serve us and learn new ones that do.

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