NOTE: This post was originally published on my previous blog, The Healing Project.
Are you a critical person? Do you have a tendency to look at others – and life – with a “glass half empty” attitude? Are you someone who is never happy because you always find things to fault about the people and situations in your life, including yourself?
How do you feel about anger? Are you someone who readily expresses your anger and sometimes has a hard time controlling it? Or are you a person who is very uncomfortable with anger, such that you can’t really remember being angry at anyone? Do you confine your angry feelings only toward yourself because that feels more safe and comfortable?
Our Critical Thoughts…
I recently completed the exercises in Chapter 5 of the “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book.” This chapter is titled, “Critical Thinking” and explores the tendency we all have to be judgmental and critical toward others and ourselves. The exercises focus on our beliefs and practices related to critical thoughts and the acknowledgment and expression of emotions, including the often controversial feeling of anger.
I’ve decided to focus this week’s post on the topics of criticism and anger. I will share some of Louise Hay’s thoughts on these topics, as well as my reactions and insights from the Chapter 5 exercises.
Louise Hay on Criticism
Most of us have such a strong tendency to judge and criticize that we often don’t even realize when we’re doing it. Louise Hay believes that we will never be able to really love ourselves until we go beyond the need to make others, ourselves and life itself wrong. Since loving ourselves is the key to overcoming all of the problems in our lives according to Louise’s philosophy, releasing the need to criticize is a very important step in the healing process.
Criticism breaks down the inner spirit and never changes a thing! In contrast, praise builds up the spirit and can help to bring about positive change.
I Criticize Myself For…
One of the Chapter 5 exercises directs us to write down two ways in which we criticize ourselves related to the area of love and intimacy. Below is what I wrote…
I criticize myself for _____ :
- …Attracting narcissistic and needy people for whom it’s “all about them.” In these relationships, I feel like I am there for them, but they are not there for me.
- …Not being able to express myself the way I’d like to in relationships. I want to foster increased intimacy with people, but I find myself unable to communicate in the right way to do this.
I Praise Myself For…
We are then directed to write about two things for which we can praise ourselves in the area of love and intimacy. My examples were:
I praise myself for ____ :
- …Being able to attract a wonderful partner and grow together over the years. We have a great relationship and I am very proud of that.
- …Not settling for sub-par friendships and relationships just so I’m not alone. While I wish I had more connections in my life, I am glad that I haven’t held on to the needy and narcissistic friendships.
The purpose of the above exercise was to break the habit of criticism and learn to praise ourselves. Through this simple example, I could definitely see that self-praise was infinitely more empowering than self-criticism. With the criticism, I backed myself into a corner of negativity. With praise, I created more possibility and power in the present moment and for the future. I also learned that when you look for something, you can find it. While my natural tendency has been to look for things to criticize, it is just as easy to find things to praise when that is your focus. Try it and you’ll see that it’s true!
Louise Hay on Anger
Anger is a natural and normal emotion, yet many of us have learned that it’s not nice, polite, or acceptable to be angry. Consequently, we learn to “swallow” our angry feelings. These feelings then settle into our bodies and, over time, they can mount into the type of resentment which contributes to aches and pains and even serious diseases. Some of the conditions which Louise Hay believes stem from anger include bursitis, carpal-tunnel syndrome, cellulite, cold sores, depression, jaw problems, kidney stones, and sore throats. Long-term unexpressed anger can even lead to illnesses as serious as cancer!
We need to learn to acknowledge and express all of our feelings, including anger, in positive and healthy ways. But first it’s helpful to explore our family patterns around anger and our own history of dealing with angry feelings. In many families, anger is frowned upon. Many people either suppress their angry feelings completely or deal with them through addictive or avoidant behaviors. Some people only express their anger when it builds up to a crescendo and then they explode in an unproductive manner. They are like a pressure cooker in that they only show their anger when it builds up to the point where they can no longer stand it.
What Me, Angry?
I have never been comfortable with anger, either my own or that of others. For most of my life, I denied even having any angry feelings toward anyone besides myself. I often felt angry toward myself, mostly because I was unable to live up to my own high standards, and I expressed that anger by starving myself, binging and purging, and engaging in other destructive behaviors. I also suffered from depression for much of my life, a condition which has frequently been termed “anger turned inward.”
In recent years, I have become more comfortable with having feelings of anger, yet I continue to struggle with appropriately expressing those feelings. I now acknowledge that I have a right to be angry, but it still doesn’t feel safe to reveal that emotion to most of the people in my life. This is an area of growth for me. I want to increase the level of closeness in my current relationships, as well as develop empowering new connections. Being “real” and communicating honestly are keys to our experiencing true intimacy in our relationships.
Anger – Not the Bogeyman!
The ability to express all emotions in a direct and mature way can help us to become closer to our loved ones. Anger is not the bogeyman that many of us have believed it to be. It is in our best interest to make peace with anger. To aid in that effort, here are a few closing affirmations from Louise Hay:
- Anger is normal and natural.”
- I am safe with all of my emotions.”
- I allow myself freedom with all my emotions, including anger.”
- Healthy expressions of anger keep me healthy.”