Category Archives: Meditations Remixed

Releasing stored anger as part of recovery

To live in recovery, we must be willing to take responsibility for the anger that we carry within us. We are not bad people because we feel angry. No one wants to think of themselves as an angry person, and we are no exception. But when we refuse to acknowledge the anger and resentment that we have stored within us, two things happen:

(1) we turn our back on ourselves and refuse to accept a very important part of ourselves
(2) we ask the people close to us to hold our feelings for us, to be the containers of our unconscious, or the feelings inside of ourselves that we do not wish to see.

Because we deny our anger to ourselves does not mean that it goes away. We must be willing to consider that there might be something more to it, that we may be carrying feelings of anger that we need to accept.

Dealing with the anger inside us does not mean we need to act on it, and do or say things that might hurt others. Owning it and working through it could be accomplished by taking a walk, or meditating, or journaling, to sort out what we’re feeling and why. It may also be helpful to talk through our feelings with a safe and trusted friend or counselor, rather than rushing to confront the person we’re angry at.

Are we willing to own our anger?

(This is a meditation remix … adapted from Tian Dayton’s wonderful book “Forgiving and Moving On“)

Accepting and dealing with inner emptiness

A common result of growing up with trauma and deprivation is what some therapists call an inability to “self sooth.” In healthy families parents model and teach their kids how to comfort themselves when they feel angry, stressed, or sad. When that doesn’t happen – especially when kids grow up with an over-abundance of stress and sadness – this is experienced as an inner emptiness that gives rise to unhealthy coping strategies later in life (including addictions, workaholism, and codependency).

This inner emptiness is a challenge for many people, and it doesn’t just go away when we grow in a relationship with God. The famous quote by Saint Augustine that “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God” is true enough about life in general, but we’re talking about the void that is created by suffering in early life and an absence of nurture.

This inner emptiness gives rise to addiction, and creates challenges for people in recovery. Many clients report that after experiencing some time of sobriety, they will struggle with times of “restlessness,” not knowing what to do with themselves. Think of being at home on a Sunday afternoon, and nothing sounds interesting or engaging enough to do. Nothing on TV, work projects seem to require too much energy, no social engagement planned … nothing seems appealing. This is often associated with depression, but it’s something more, and can be present even when other depressive symptoms are absent. It’s an inner emptiness, or restlessness. You used to cope with this by using, or acting out. Now what?

Let me offer a “Meditation Remix” (extended quote from a meditation book with a few adaptations by me). This is from a wonderful meditation book by Tian Dayton, called Forgiving and Moving On. Pick it up if you can. Here’s a remix of her meditation on “Accepting Emptiness.”

Today I see that anxiety arises inside of me when I fear my own inner emptiness. I run from the feeling and try to find activities to keep me from it. I will try something different today. I will accept the emptiness and allow it to be there. Rather than be anxious about it, I will realize that worry will not help remove or reduce it. I will relax and let the emptiness just be there without running away from it or resisting it.

Eventually the feeling will transform into something else and I will allow that to happen. Awareness of a painful state can be all that I need to transform that state into something different. It is in my resisting feeling states that they gain a hold over me – when I allow them to be, they are allowed the room to move and change.

I would add that if the emptiness really seems overwhelming, you may want to reach out to someone else. Make a call, visit a friend … do something outside of yourself. What Dayton is talking about is learning to manage our emotions by sitting with them and allowing them to be transformed. But sometimes – especially in early recovery – we may not be ready or able to do this, and we need to get out of our isolation.

But by all means, if you feel ready to try it, follow Dayton’s advice in this meditation. Sometimes the only way out is through, and the feeling of inner emptiness may be powerfully transformed just by facing it.

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