I've been having jaw trouble, or TMJ, for those who prefer exactness. This is not new, it's been recurring since I was a teenager and is often caused by stress. Most of the time it repairs itself quickly, but it's been hanging around too long, and is annoying and sometimes painful.
Searching for answers to "why is this happening?" I picked up an old book by Louise Haye that a friend gave me years ago. It contains an alphabetical list of body parts and their common ailments, with what Hayes believes are the root causes of such ailments—usually spiritual or stress-related. I've found this list to be both accurate and dead wrong so I keep it for entertainment, and also because in a few instances the insight provided relief.
I flipped through the pages and found "jaw problems" followed by "anger and resentment." Hmmm, I thought, I don't think so. I don't feel angry, and certainly not resentful.
"You missed this one," I told Louise as I replaced the book and went back to my work. It was somewhat mindless work and inevitably I thought again about her diagnosis. Do I feel angry? I began to think that maybe I did. Maybe soon evolved to yes, and once I acknowledged that, the anger came roaring forth, surprising me with its strength. Indeed, I was shocked by my lack of self-knowledge, for as soon as I conceded the emotion I found I was angry at everything.
I was angry with Ray for being ill. I was angry at doctors and scientists who denied him a cure. I was angry at the cat for scratching the furniture. I was angry with myself for my incompetence as a caregiver. I was angry that I had a new car but only seemed to drive to doctor's offices. The anger began with me and extended to family members, friends, and the wide world of politics. Not surprisingly, much of it bore the presidential seal.
The force of this suppressed rage shocked me, and as new recognitions surfaced I wept cathartic tears. By day's end I felt better; even lighter. I sat down and wrote a list beginning "I am angry that..." It covered three pages in a small notebook. Then I ripped them out and burned them in the kitchen sink. And then I wrote a list of all the things that make me happy, grateful, and loved. That one I'm keeping.
Anger is not always a bad thing. It is often required—think of righteous anger—and it can move us to action. But action driven by anger needs careful monitoring, and seething anger can kill us and others. To give it credit, however, anger is a legitimate emotion, unlike guilt and jealousy which serve no purpose except to make us miserable.
No matter how cathartic my experience, how extensive the anger expelled, this was only a partial purge. With the world in such a state how could it not be? Anger is justified. But I have learned a lesson. Now I will seek to recognize, manage, and release—not suppress it. Because with anger gone there's a lot more room for love.