Sad Lady and the Persistence of Anger

falling_RockI have a dear and longtime friend who has worked very hard to understand me, who does so well generally, and who has been integral to my life since 2009. He’s also been unfairly (to him) busy in a way that’s not allowed him much rest or time to do things that are nourishing for him and in a way that makes me think we’re sort of losing him, at least as anything more than a shell of a person. I’m going through some deep pain and some ancient pain; I wrote him a very long letter explaining one aspect of this pain in detail and had been waiting for over two months to give it to him. I don’t need everyone to understand this particular thing I’m going through (most people won’t, given how deceiving a surface-level view of it is) but I really needed this friend to.

I sent the letter three weeks ago and he finally responded, after some prodding, yesterday. As an aside, I hate having to chase people down and beg for attention. It is profoundly painful to me; also, I shouldn’t have to remind people to keep their word and it makes me feel pretty worthless to have to do so. Anyway, it turns out that he doesn’t understand, kind of reduced the issue in the letter to “mutual bitterness” and didn’t ask any questions. Now, this will cause the people to know to worry about him. And I do, too. And also, where are the people who care about how I’m treated? Who will stand up for me with their actions? It’s not totally fair that I say this because my best friend has been a person like this, who tried everything she knew when my church abused and then abandoned me in order to protect the abusers. And she’s a hero. She’s just unfortunately very rare.

I feel like I’ve been waiting for a lot of things that I have really, really needed for a really, really long time. I’m not ashamed to say that I need people, nor am I going to accept that my deep desire to not be alone and my anger and despair at my prolonged isolation is “idolatry” that I somehow need to “give up.” I’m not ashamed of admitting how tired I am of hearing “All you need is God,” “people can’t always be there for you,” etc. The latter one is definitely true, but I actually think that’s more of a cultural failing than a truism. And the former – if all we need is God, why did God say “it is not good for man to be alone” when God was standing right next to Adam in the garden?

So it’s clear that anger persists, even after the stone was cracked from top to bottom. It’s just not serving as a protective barrier against what feels like unsurvivable sadness. The problem is that, in my anger, I have lashed out at my friends. I feel deeply misunderstood, that I am being brushed off and that there are some double standards going on. And also. I unfairly throw daggers at people who love me. I need a better way to deal with legitimate frustrations – like, it actually is hurtful when people don’t do what they say, when I feel I have to constantly remind people of not only their commitments to me but also my very existence – and I need a more authentic way of handling what’s really going on.

The people I attack have a track record of loving me. (Though, as an aside, I will say that, just as bringing up past failures in a relationship destroys it, bringing up past good things can shut down or delegitimize genuine hurt in the present.) I get angry when “they’re not loving me,” but actually, what I really should say is, “I get angry when I can no longer bear this unmet need.” It’s not so simple for me to “take it to God” as I feel ignored by God on a good day (betrayed on a bad). My anger is about this ancient, heavy aloneness I cannot bear to carry anymore and don’t feel I should have to (the reasons for that are for another post another day) and it’s not always about one person or another (which is why the lashing out is unfair), though I’m not willing to invalidate the hurt of, for example, not being followed up with, or misunderstood or the grinding isolation that’s compounded by being what feels like surrounded by others fitting in, being loved and celebrated and cared for.

Isolation is not good for humans, we were not meant for it. Evolutionarily speaking, we wouldn’t have survived if not for community; we are the most helpless of creatures when we’re born and we stay that way longer than any other mammal. We need each other. Maybe physically, adults can now survive on their own – our culture demands we do so and calls this “individualism” – though even that’s questionable, given all the latest studies on the physical impacts of loneliness. Either way, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, we absolutely deteriorate on our own. So my anger is about the fear of death. It doesn’t excuse my reactivity or lashing out (and I am really taking steps to address this); it just explains why Sad Lady hasn’t made as much progress as was first thought and is “still” angry.

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