Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
Linda: Exemplary couples give each other the gift of clearing. Clearing is a term that describes the process of coming to terms with our own anger without ever speaking to the other person. It is an inside job. There are several methods that we can use to free ourselves from carrying the anger. One method is putting it in perspective by seeing that the issue as small enough that it does not deserve attention or mention. Another method is thinking of all the wonderful aspects of our partner, so that a minor irritation can fade in importance. It is a great gift to our partner, each time we handle angry feelings so that they never hear a thing about it.
Everybody has sensitive areas or “hot buttons”. These are the triggers that ignite strong feelings, particularly anger and fear. When we become aware of our areas of sensitivity, it enables us to take ownership of our part in the breakdown. We can silently observe ourselves going through the familiar feelings, without blurting them. It is possible to silently, internally observe our emotions. For expressing anger unskillfully is like picking up a hot coal from the fire pit and hurling it at the other person. It sears the flesh of our own hand before it flies. Keeping a journal of our experiences can be a powerful tool to quiet down an agitated mind, as can the practice of meditation.
When we are unable to move through anger on our own, it is important that we are scrupulously honest with ourselves, not pretending that we are complete when we are actually still angry. There is a world of difference between truly letting go of the feelings and repressing them. Repressing or hiding our anger is simply another form of dishonesty, and can be just as destructive as blurting.
If we have tried all our means of letting go and find that we are still unable to get free from the distressing feelings, then it’s time to talk. During the times when we cannot remove the feelings completely, at least we may be able to settle them down, so that by the time we actually bring them up in conversation, instead of coming out with a blaming tone of voice, or a combative posture, we bring the issue up in a way that invites communication. Safety promotes the likelyhood that we can finally come to an understanding.
It is helpful an agreement to make with our partner that we don’t hold on to anything that we can’t clear for more than a day. Uncomfortable feelings are like dirty dishes, and most people wouldn’t think of leaving dirty dishes in the sink for more than twenty-four hours. It provides peace of mind to trust that our partner’s commitment is the same as our own, which is to keep our relationship cleaned up every day. When we have truly let go, there is a warm feeling toward the other person, and trust is restored.
Learning how to handle differences leads directly to a relationship that thrives. Understanding how detrimental it is to harbor anger is an important step along the way. Most painful struggles have contained within them our biggest life lessons. So if we find ourselves embroiled in a really heated struggle, and the same issue keeps coming up, it’s likely that there’s a deep teaching in there that we need, but are resisting. It’s so hard in the midst of the struggle, to see what that is. Sometimes with hindsight we can finally figure out what it was. But to the degree that we can stay open and ask the question: “What am I supposed to be learning from this?” often that’s the place that the intractable difference will give way.
As we continue to practice, we can witness our mind saying the wild things that it says at times, and just watch the show. We may find that in only a matter of minutes, the show can change to an entirely different channel. We may find ourselves feeling a tremendous warmth and gratitude for our partner; feeling that we are especially blessed. That’s when we know that we are becoming masters in the fine art of clearing.