On Reducing Anger While Sleepwalking

SleepwalkingWhile talking with a friend recently who has had his share of injustices, he made an insightful comment which may prove helpful for you. Several years ago he had a break-up with a friend, a long-standing friend. To mask the pain of this break-up, as he explained it, he basically put the person and the event out of his mind, not to be cruel but only because the friendship seems to have dissolved. He refers to this state as “sleepwalking.”

Yet, two patterns are worth noting. First, whenever he meets this friend, the pain and anger well up within him again. It is as if his sleepwalking abruptly ends, he awakens with anger, and then goes back to sleepwalking when not in the friend’s presence once again.

A second pattern is this: When the friend makes overtures to reconcile, it is precisely at that time when the anger wells up the greatest, with great pain and suffering. Why? I think it is because the full weight of the injustice is now felt because of the contrast between the abandoning state and the state of mutual love and respect. That contrast at that moment is very intense.

So, for you, the reader, I have this suggestion. Are you sleepwalking through an unjust event with someone? “How do I know?” you might say. Here is a test: Quiet yourself and then with concentrated effort, imagine this person coming back to you in a repentant way, in a way that says, “I did wrong and would like to reconcile.” In that state ask yourself, “How angry am I now?”

If you are very angry, especially compared to when you are sleepwalking, then let this be a sign to you that you are harboring more anger than you realize. Your degree of forgiveness while in your sleepwalking state may not be complete forgiveness. You may have more resentment in there than you think and if so, more forgiveness work may be necessary.

With this knowledge, work on forgiving this person so that the next time you meet, you are not jolted from your sleepwalking….and if he or she truly wishes to reconcile, you will not bolt awake as if now in the nightmare. Your forgiveness work will help you to walk while wide awake, with reduced anger, ready to offer goodness rather than anger to this person.

Robert

5 thoughts on “On Reducing Anger While Sleepwalking

  1. Chris April 24, 2013 / 6:29 pm

    ZZZZZ…….zzzzz…….OK, I’m up. I will start working on forgiving. This is good advice, even better than this: “Just turn over and go back to sleep.”

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  2. Penelope April 24, 2013 / 8:46 pm

    This is a new insight for me. We do tend to put out of our minds the conflicts that are so real to us and then, poof!, they are gone when we cannot see them and directly experience them. Yet, our reactions to them remain strong. I will try to forgive those people who are not directly in my life now so that I can be polite when and if we meet.

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  3. Jasmine April 29, 2013 / 11:32 am

    This is a wake-up call (sorry for the pun) to be diligent in examining my own amount of anger. We can sometimes carry this around without even knowing it. Doing the work of “knowing it” can be healthy.

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  4. Brandon May 2, 2013 / 11:28 am

    I have been working on this ever since the post appeared and I can tell the readers this—It’s tough work! I need to keep trying this because it is obvious to me that I have more anger inside than I thought. Thank you for this helpful technique.

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  5. Samantha May 3, 2013 / 1:44 pm

    I wonder if readers are familiar with Professor Enright’s “Forgiveness Landscape Scale.” It is in his new book, The Forgiving Life. The idea behind this scale is to help us examine our entire life to see who is still angering us even if it is 30 years ago. It might help us all not to sleep walk so much 🙂

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