Dear Jennifer: A few years ago I was involved in a family disagreement that forced me to initiate legal proceedings against my siblings. Although I won and they had to repay money they had taken from the family, it would never have happened if they had not been dishonest, thinking we would not find out. There was a lot of money at stake and the situation involved my parents and some other family members. Now that the matter is settled, restitution has been made, and we can get on with our lives, I am still angry at their deception, that they tried to steal from me and from other family members, and that I had to take legal action to stop them. How do I release my anger so I don’t continue to feel this way, as it’s interfering with my life?
Jennifer’s Answer: Any time we are involved in family drama it’s an uncomfortable situation and dealing with deception and dishonesty, from people you think should behave much differently, is hard to get over. And that is your issue. Your anger is a judgment, based on the belief that they should not have acted this way and should have known or done better. Perhaps that is true but your expectations are not aligned with the truth of who they are and to release your anger, you will have to accept them as they are choosing to be, without judgment. I’m not saying that their behavior was OK, just that it’s their behavior and it has nothing to do with you.
Our expectations about others are often based on who they are in our lives and so often those expectations are not aligned with their energy. Think of what you believe parents or family should do because they are your family, or what a husband or wife should do because they are your partner. And then when their behavior is not within the boundaries of those expectations we are disappointed, hurt, or outraged, and wonder how they can do those things to us. But they are not doing them to us — it isn’t personal. They are doing this because that is who they are and they choose to behave in that manner. And all we can do is to accept their choices and decide whether we want these kinds of connections in our life.
The idea that behavior is dictated by connection is false and leads to a lot of disappointment. People act within the context of their own energy and choices, in spite of how they are connected to us. Friends can be loving or betray us; parents can be nurturing and supportive or abusive; partners can be honest and caring or deceitful and cruel; children can be a joy or a challenge. And here is the bigger issue for you, people choose their behavior and actions in spite of what we do for them, and that is the source of your lasting anger.
No matter how nice, kind, helpful, supportive, thoughtful, and considerate you are with others, including your family, they are going to be who they are. Your anger is a judgment of them and of their behavior, of what you think they should be doing or who they should be being, in light of their relationship with and connection to you. The question is not ‘What should I do with my anger’ but ‘How long am I willing to stay in anger and live with the consequences of my anger?’
When you consider the consequences, to you and to your life, of being in the energy of anger and how it impacts you (because it doesn’t have any impact on them), you will choose to let it go when you are ready, to replace it with unconditional acceptance of them as they are, and then you can decide to be with people who love, honor, and respect you and connect with you in ways that uplift you. But don’t be angry thinking they could have been different, because while that is a potential choice, it is not the choice that they chose to make. And they would probably do the same thing again, given the opportunity. So accept them as they are, then find other people to fill your need for love and support because they are not capable of doing that.
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