They stuff their unresolved anger in “leak proof” containers, but it’s just a matter of time before it seeps out and destroys any hope of a healthy relationship.
Everyone knows the story of activist Erin Brockovich, the divorced mom raising two kids on her own who took on Pacific Gas & Electric in Hinkley, California, for burying toxic chromium-6 in the ground over the course of 30 years — waste that leaked into the water table, making nearby residents sick. In the beginning, PG & E likely didn’t realize that concealing the toxic material would have such a devastating effect. Burying it seemed like a good idea at the time. Yet when the consequences were discovered, instead of facing it, company officials denied there was ever a problem at all.
PG & E’s behavior provides a good metaphor for how some people try to bury their own toxic waste — their anger, resentment, bitterness — hoping it will stay sealed up inside. But just as the buried chromium-6 eventually surfaced, unresolved emotions will ultimately emerge, and when they do, those nearby are the first to suffer.
More than once, I’ve been involved with someone who allowed their old resentments to contaminate their relationship with me. I fooled myself into thinking that my love was powerful enough to neutralize their pain, but the fact is, I couldn’t fix it. Only they had the power to remove the poison by letting go of their old anger and hurt.
I’ve also met people who seem to relish their toxic bitterness, allowing it to become part of their identity. They carry it around everywhere they go, they see it as a medal of honor, a kind of Purple Heart. In reality, no one is impressed and it destroys any hope of intimacy with others. No one wants to get close to a person, no matter how charming they can be, who allows their toxic anger to rise to the surface, over and over again.
For those of us who are in dating mode, how many times have you started a relationship with someone only to discover the rage they have for their ex husband or ex wife? They watch us with a suspicious eye, waiting for any sign that proves we’re just like the person who hurt them in the past.
For some, it goes back even further — to a parent that abandoned them, abused them, ignored them — and as any therapist will tell you, that kind of pain will continue to manifest for as long as it remains unresolved.
As hopeless as it sounds, there is a simple solution: forgiveness. Forgive the source of the pain no matter how much they hurt you five, ten or twenty years ago. Learn to forgive, not for our sake, but for yours.
Copyright © Kim Calvert /2012 Singular Communications, LLC.