Monday, December 29, 2014


As I’ve learned more about meditation and some basic principles of Buddhism, I have realized that I’m very addicted to telling myself stories about myself.

What I do is I have conversations, in my head, with people. The people are real, usually people from my past, but the conversations are just in my head. And the conversations aren’t really conversations. They are me lecturing the other person, or explaining something about myself or about how I view the world. This is my way, I believe, of defining myself, to myself. Often the mind-conversations are confrontations. Often I am angry in these conversations. My current theory is that because I so loathe and avoid confrontation in real life, I need to set my boundaries to myself, in my own head, to distinguish and define and maybe even understand myself.

But I’ve realized that these story-telling conversations are constant. If my attention is not otherwise engaged—in reading, watching or listening to something, actually conversing with a real live person, making music, etc—I am 100% likely to be having one of these conversations.

Last night was a very angry one. We live in an apartment complex and our unit is right next to the laundry room. On the laundry room door it is posted that residents are not to do laundry after 10pm. This is because the dryers are really noisy, and the motion-sensored light right outside the door goes on and off right into ours and a few other resident’s windows when people are going back and forth. It’s very disruptive to sleep. This hasn’t been a problem for most of the 3 years that we have lived here. But recently someone moved in who completely disregards the rule, and two or three times now has kept us awake quite late with their laundry-activities.

This completely enrages me. Blind rage. But remember—I hate confrontation. So my go-to response is to have horrible angry conversations with the perpetrator in my head. I obsess over things I’m going to do to this person, and enact these things in my head, alongside my angry conversations. It’s late, though, and I’m in my PJs, and it’s cold outside and I don’t really want to have to go out there to actually deal with it. Furthermore, I would have to wait until the person walks by between loads to catch them, and that requires constant attention at my window for as much as 45 minutes or something. And I’m much too distracted by my blind rage to do something like that.

Last night, since I knew I wasn’t going to go out and do something about it, and since I’ve had some Buddhist meditation principles rolling around in my head, I laid back and tried an experiment with my angry story-telling. I experimented with letting go of the story. This wasn’t intentional, but as I imagined letting go, I imagined the anger rising off my body, of its own accord, like steam after a hot bath.

I immediately experienced peace. It wasn’t peace combatting my anger, it was the peace that was always there under the story. It was absence. Absence was quite peaceful.

In that space it occurred to me that part of my holding on to the angry story was a duty.

In the past when I’ve thought about anger, I’ve mostly experienced it as an entitlement. I learned early on in therapy that anger could be really important and useful, especially for getting out of abusive relationships or situations and moving forward. I grasped that idea for years. And I still think it’s true. Thus for many years, even when I’ve known that it was time to let go of anger, I imagined that it was a sense of entitlement that kept me holding onto it. Almost like a guilty pleasure. I should probably stop eating this chocolate, and I should probably let go of this anger, but I DON’T WANT TO BECAUSE IT FEELS SOOO GOOD.

But last night when I let go of the anger, and it dissipated and vanished in the space above my body, I realized that I had also felt a duty to hold onto that anger. I have no idea where that duty came from, but... 

No. No, I take that back. As a very good little Mormon girl, I grew up experiencing most things as duty. If a certain activity could be considered a good thing to do, my dutiful little mind turned it into a duty. I think this was a big part of my descent into major depression on my mission. At any rate, last night, it felt MUCH better to let go of the anger-duty. Much better.

I suppose anger is just an emotion. It’s a murky, smoky, gaseous substance that can propel us forward, and can cloud our clear vision. It can be useful and it can be distracting and it can be destructive, but it’s just an emotion. And it’s ok to let it go.


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