Okay, this topic needed to be discussed on its own because how women deal with anger is enough to make someone’s blood boil. On this topic, my experience and Rosemary’s are in unison. Even our solution is similar; however, the length of time needed to solve the issue was significantly different. The bottom line is: Never give up.
From the time I was a little girl, I was expected to act like a lady. That had very specific guidelines. First, I had to be polite. If I was angry, I was expected to bite my tongue and swallow my anger. It wasn’t ladylike to yell or scream or punch. Even as we got older, my girlfriends and I would talk about other girls. We would be snide or “catty” but if our parents found out, we would be chastised for being unladylike. So, as we got older, we learned to grin and bear it. We turned our anger inward and it had no place to go. It festered and grew and the pain became unbearable. In order to dull the pain, we drank and over time we drank to excess.
In the business world, the different ways in which men and women are treated is highlighted when it comes to spurts of aggression. When men are assertive, they are decisive. When women are assertive, they are bitchy. So we are told even in this day and age, that when it comes to anger, women should be seen and not heard.
In recovery, we need to learn a healthy way to release our anger so that we no longer internalize it. That can be difficult when we harbor multiple resentments and suffer from a hundred different forms of fear. Rosemary talks about using “The Resentment Prayer” to resolve overwhelming anger.
This prayer is found on page 552 of the current edition of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. The proposal is as follows: if you harbor resentment against someone, you need to pray that they receive all the things that you would like for yourself. You are to pray this way for two weeks and the outcome should be that you grow to actually want those things for the person in question.
Most people who are directed to do this react in much the same way….incredulity. “You want me to do WHAT?” After being assured that they should try this, they usually ask, “What happens if I haven’t lost my resentment at the end of two weeks?” and the response is usually, “Do it for two weeks more.”
Rosemary said her resentment prayer for her ex-husband’s new girlfriend and I said my resentment prayer for my ex. Both prayers contained significant levels of profanity, all the while claiming to wish only wonderful things for the recipient. Rosemary doesn’t say how long the prayer process continued before she actually felt that her words were sincere.
Mine took a little longer than two weeks…..it took closer to six years. Seriously. It took more than a year for me to even be able to say the prayer, even with overflowing profanity. My sponsor insisted that if I didn’t let go of the resentment, it would send me back out again. The benefit I had at that point was that I wouldn’t give my ex the satisfaction of being able to say that I couldn’t remain in recovery.
When I finally began praying, it went something like this: Dear God, I absolutely hate that mother f—king son of a b—ching bastard. Even so, I ask that you give him all the health, love and financial security that I desire for myself. I think the prayer went on that way….every single day….for about 2 years. This was during an especially vitriolic divorce which made just saying the prayer excruciatingly painful. And yet, I continued to say it every day because I believed that my recovery depended upon it.
I’m not sure when the first changes to the wording of the prayer occurred, but I think it was around two years ago, when our granddaughter was born. I loosened the profanity a touch. After all, I reasoned, this was my granddaughter’s grandfather. Even if I hated every fiber of his being, she would love him and for that reason alone, I had to wish well for him.
Recently, I became aware that his new girlfriend had changed his demeanor somewhat. While he still tried to tell me what to do and when, he wasn’t as nasty about it. It was still telling and not asking, but it was not as bitter. I figured that if he could let go of the bitter, I could let go of the anger. And so last month when we had a telephone conversation, I was truly pleasant and meant it…nothing forced about it. And the daily prayers continue but now they are sincere. I literally surprised myself.
Regardless of whether the process takes two weeks, two years or two decades, praying for the person you resent works to reduce and then eliminate the anger. I am testament to it. Rosemary suggested a couple of other tools. One of course is to work a fourth and fifth step specifically on the resentment. Looking back, it is possible that if I had done that, I might have expedited the process. The other anger release is one that I still do periodically. Get in the car, close the windows, turn up the music and SCREAM!!