Now that we have the first column naming people, institutions and principles we can move on to the second column. (Refer to the Not Scary Resentments Worksheet of Step 4 in the list below the post, or for printable pdf, CLICK HERE.) In this column, we ask ourselves why we are angry. It’s a little like undoing a spaghetti knot. Why am I upset with that person? Why did I hate that saying?
Write as few words as possible in the cause column. If you check the example on page 65 of Alcoholics Anonymous, you can see Bill covered some pretty dicey situations using no more than 19 words! You do not need an 8×10 color glossy and an essay to explain this!
Going back to the duck that my mom called a ‘nerve toy’, I will show how I completed the second column. Beside Randy in the middle column of the page, I wrote “took my duck” That covers the first infraction. Then I add things pertinent to later life. “stopped speaking when he didn’t agree with my divorce”. I didn’t use my allotted 19. I have 4 left. I could add more, but that really is what made me angry.
Across from Mom I wrote “liked him best.” but soon I realized under that was “ focuses on the male gender”. A few minutes later, the original wound occurred to me. The day I was delivered she “told the Dr to put me back and get a boy”. That sums up the reason I was angry with my mom. Only two false starts and I used 11 words to pinpoint the exact issue. Even if I leave all of it, I met the maximum 19 words. I find limiting the words focuses the issue.
What becomes clear in the second column is that the cause of the problem eventually defined the person. The problem and the person had become the same thing. If I saw the person coming toward me, I thought the problem was going to talk to me. The judgmental attitude was going to speak. The insult was going to attack. The misunderstanding was going to interrupt and ruin my day!
In reality, it’s what people have done to you that makes you upset. You can exchange the names and mix the causes and you realize something important. It’s not them that makes you upset. It’s what they’ve done to you that makes you upset.
Recognizing this allows me to think of all the good things that I remember about my brother and my mom- and there are plenty! It makes me accept some gray thinking instead of choosing to see them as white hat or black hat players. Frankly, whether they meant me ill or meant me good, I wouldn’t be the character I am today without their colorful influence. (I’m confident the motive wasn’t the issue. As I find in the last column, it was my contribution to the situation that caused the pain!)
As one little kid said about me, “She’s got more character than anyone I know.”