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Behind Great Anger is Great Pain; Don’t Take It Personally

Sad Face

More important than the quest for certainty is the quest for clarity. ~Francois Gautier

My husband was a gift I really never expected to find. I never imagined that I deserved the kind of love that he was capable of giving me. With complete certainty, I felt safe in loving him and lucky to marry him.

We both had children from previous relationships, and with high hopes we entered into the balancing act of a blended family.

I had reasonable expectations that among the hard work there would be an unspoken respect for each other, and we’d slowly start to make new memories and become our own. Simple. It was a new journey that we would all share; I was open and ready.

I was blinded by love.

I had anticipated a period of adjustment for us all. I was fully prepared for insecurities to surface, emotions to flare, and compromise to become our very best friend, but I could have never imagined what was ahead.

My new stepdaughter, she had no desire to connect. “When will you get it,” she’d ask. “I just don’t like you. I don’t want things to get better between us.”

I was hurt and confused and it would only continue.

Trying to explain this behavior to our other children and trying not to blame my husband for her behavior became intolerable, almost agonizing to me. She treated them no differently, but with me there was a distinct anger, almost aggression. I needed to understand why.

I began to question myself, everything I had worked so hard to find in my life, my own self-acceptance and self-confidence. It took me all of thirty-five years to get here, and suddenly I could feel it all slipping away.

I tried every angle. I gave space, I gave time, and I gave love. I gave until there was nothing left to give. I started to lose pieces of me every day to this. I started to have anxiety about coming home, and I started to lose my grip on all the other beautiful relationships in my life.

I felt like I was being punished, and I soon realized that I was beginning to punish myself and others as well. I saw a side of me that I never knew existed. I was angry, I was sad, I was out of control, and I felt helpless.

We’ve all dealt with a “Negative Nancy,” the person at the office who thinks everything is a bad idea, the aunt who ruins every holiday, the neighbor who for some unknown reason just seems pissed off that you bought the house next door. The happy ending to that story is that you get to go home, get away, regroup and recoup after they’ve sucked the energy from you.

What if you dont? What if this person is a part of your everyday life? You want things to be different, but they do not and maybe never will for that matter. You have to find your own way.

I’ve learned that you must make a conscious choice to own your peace, to protect it.

Take time each day to embrace your “quiet,” the quieting of the mind—the self-doubt, anger, and resentment. Stop questioning everything and stop trying to rationalize their bad behavior.

Stop trying to seek acceptance from them; this most likely has nothing to do you. Really!

Lastly, stop judging them. It’s so unbelievably hard to do but necessary. I had to continually remind myself, even while writing this.

You cannot change the way someone else feels if their mind is set or their past has a hold of them. Until they want it for themselves, you have to let it be. Be brave, be gentle, and set yourself free.

This is not a life-altering tragedy that you are a victim of. This is a life-changing lesson you are faced with; use it wisely. Instead of resigning to the fact that you aren’t to blame for what’s happening to you, consciously decide to play a part in what happens. No matter how you got here, how will you handle this?

Keep your motives and expectations in check. Be much more mindful of your thoughts.

When you find yourself stuck in an ugly moment or a negative emotion, think loving thoughts for the person frustrating you. This can be very hard to do at first, but moments to practice will come frequently, almost daily, in every aspect of your life. Channel the negative into positive.

Avoid looking for intentions in their actions or words. There is a defense mechanism in their behavior; forgive them. There is a great deal of healing that needs to be done but they have to want it for themselves.

Lastly, realize that you cannot control this situation, only your own feelings and actions. Let go of the desire and need to fix them. Just lead by example.

Actions speak louder than words. Show them an example of unconditional love and a life well lived; leave an open invitation for them to join you but do not give them the power to take yours from you.

Maintain your boundaries. Insist on respect. Protect yourself and those you love.  Give your thoughts, time, and energy to those who bring you joy.

Today, in what is a very slow and deliberate process, I focus my energy on keeping healthy relationships with those who want that as well.

To keep from being distracted by negative people and hurtful moments is one of the hardest things I have ever done. I hold on to the hope that someday this anger will leave us and be replaced with a chance. I hold on to that hope but I don’t depend on it.

Photo by RenaudPhoto

Avatar of Katie Curran Taylor

About Katie Curran Taylor

Katie is a freelance photographer, writer, and poet. She believes that all people have the right to a life that brings them love and peace. Her photography has been featured in collections throughout major hospitals and healing centers. You can follow her journey at katiephoto.com.

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  • Sowmya

    What you have written makes so much sense. I am going through a similar ordeal with a loved one and was on the verge on giving up. But after reading your post, I feel that there is still hope for me and I can continue to try and give my best without any expectations from the other side. Thank you for sharing your thoughts

  • http://twitter.com/pernillahjort Pernilla Hjort

    Man you are strong! Any rightful person would give up and yet you find a way to live with it and be ok. You beautiful soul, you deserve happiness! Bless!

  • natalie bowler

    Gosh , this has been my life for a while now . I have also stepped back if you like , put myself in a position of love and am investing only in joyful relationships with clear boundaries that protect me and my home and indeed my marriage . Thankyou for sharing and possibly helping others in similar circumstances :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/pa.sandberg Pa Perre Sandberg

    I’m there to. Thank you for putting words to it. Thanks for reminding me. Thanks for the chance to see it from another angle. Thanks for the strength to hang on a little longer. Thanks for making life a little bit easier, at least for now. :)

  • Samantha Jones

    Thank you for sharing. I’m also going through a similar situation with my father. Just what I needed to hear today :)

  • http://twitter.com/organichat craig daniels

    Thanks for the timely piece, I was just thinking about compassion for myself and one person in my life that is very hurt and angry. It’s always good to see a reminder.

  • Renee

    Wow, this really hit home for me. I went through something similar recently with a partner. It was a different situation but in the end, his anger/depression took over. He didn’t want to connect. It got to a point where I felt rejected/hurt almost every day, because I could feel this. I could feel it even when he was acting more positive and warm. We have since split up but those feelings still have a hold of me sometimes. I still find myself wanting to help/change him, or have some kind of connection. I also blamed myself, and tried every single angle!

    It took me reading this to realize that I’m still holding onto some of this, even though he is no longer a part of my life.

    It is so hard when you have so much love for someone and they can’t see it or express the love back, especially when it’s mostly directed at you! And sometimes it can be so subtle that it’s easy to ignore. Fortunately I was able to have a fairly amicable breakup with my partner, but you can’t separate like that with your child.

    Wow, I can’t imagine, but, hang in there. And thank you for writing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/katie.currantaylor Katie Curran Taylor

    I am so very very moved right now, thank you all. Just knowing that this feels familiar to others brings me a sense of peace & I want you to remember, on a day that seems particularly tough, just how many of us understand. I thank you for sharing all your thoughts and feelings.

  • http://www.facebook.com/katie.currantaylor Katie Curran Taylor

    Sowmya, letting go of expectations is so hard and so good for you (& your relationships). I wish you all the best of luck.

  • Jenn Summer

    You are my beautiful friend.

  • Vee

    It’s nice that you are taking steps to make life happier. I wish I could do that more often. I’ve tried the visual of putting my anger and resentment in a bubble and blowing it away before I have to face the person who makes me feel miserable. Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, when you are already in a horrible situation, it is so hard to remember to forgive and not let those bad feelings get to you. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • http://www.facebook.com/katie.currantaylor Katie Curran Taylor

    Renee, it is really really painful to feel rejected, no matter the reason why. I am sorry you had to live through that and I am also sorry that he… has to live like that. I hope you heal more each day. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/katie.currantaylor Katie Curran Taylor

    So moved by you all, thank you for sharing with me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sonja.maciaczykhanley Sonja Maciaczyk-Hanley

    I too have gone through this awakening…there is such peace on the other side and I feel so much happier now that I realize I am in charge of my journey and they are in charge of theirs…and it’s not my job to “fix” them.

  • Amy

    I have had the most frustrating relationship with my own stepdaughter. You wrote a beautiful truth, I will read this often. Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1374126016 Jill Cable Boucher

    I can totally relate to this…with my stepdaughter. As a mother with 3 kids of my own, being in a situation of complete rejection is gut/mind wrenching. The more you try to connect with them, the worse it gets! She is 21 now and we haven’t seen her in about 5 yrs. Not that family hasn’t told us how she feels. She has told my husband (her father) that as long as he is married to me, she will not be in his life. My stepdaughter has extreme anger issues.

    You are correct when you say it has nothing to do with us personally, but it’s hard when your in the middle of the storm. Growing up I had the best step-mom a child could have. I tried to follow her example only to have it thrown back in my face.

  • http://twitter.com/suemolenda Sue Molenda

    I am not really sure you’ve adequately conveyed a solution that others can implement, but I’m glad you’ve found a way to cope that works for you. I know people who really put up with some terribly hurtful family members. Always glad to hear of ways people find to endure and love them, in spite of the pain they cause.

  • http://optimalternative.com/ Mark B Hoover

    Hi Katie. One of the most prevalent adages I encountered through personal growth experiences is “Hurt people hurt people”. It is generally a matter of projection, and if you’re standing in front of them on a bad day, or even a good day, you will be the one to receive their worst. Even though you had done nothing to incur their anger. It takes a wealth of patience and goodwill to overcome a facade of stone and fire. The trick is to not venture too far into their arena of lashing out, because they are blindly swinging their swords. It’s not you, or anyone else who confronts them, it’s just that they feel the need to cause others as much pain as they themselves feel. That need has been created by other, unrelated, events in their life…before they stepped into the ring with you.

    Just like any person who sets out to harm others, verbally or physically, they need to first make a proper connection with what ailed them at the onset. Sad to say, compassion and lovingkindness don’t always break the ice. In your case it is incumbent for her father to take the reins and attend to her source of discomfiture. Address that “child within” who is lasing out in anger. It’s not just for the sake of others (she will be met with a wall of ambivalence…or worse), it’s mostly for her benefit to arrest this belligerent behavior. She may never like you, and that’s tolerable. Stepchildren are a challenge, and we do ourselves ill trying to change their attitudes. There’s a lot of baggage there, and the one(s) closest to the packing know better why the wheels are misaligned.

    Shalom.

    ~ Mark

  • Renee

    I appreciate it your empathy. I went through many of the thoughts and feelings that you describe above, only to slowly come to some acceptance that we had to separate. It was in the nature of the end stages of the relationship that he was withdrawing (he was not like that when we were building it).

    Yet here you are trying your best to build a strong foundation, only to find a huge roadblock. I (we) knew that he had struggled with such issues before, so it was not a huge surprise in some ways. So in that way it was different than your situation.

    I don’t think that he was aware of the depth of the anger/depression that he sometimes showed, or how it affected me so deeply. It might be similar for your stepdaughter. She may just be completely blind to how deeply you are feeling the level of rejection. And no words/actions will ‘help’ them to realize this. In fact, my partner probably felt weirdly rejected in some ways, or smothered, or something negative a lot of the time coming from me too, whether real or imagined, just because I was putting energy in.

    OK I think I just re-summarized your article! oops ;) But it is good to write things out and process. And to know that we are not alone in these kinds of feelings. Again, thank you for responding!

  • http://www.facebook.com/katie.currantaylor Katie Curran Taylor

    thank you jenn, for every laugh, tear, year that i’ve known you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/katie.currantaylor Katie Curran Taylor

    Mark, thank you so much for what you have shared. I very much agree and would venture to say, we are on that path. Thank you again sir.

  • Jen L

    Beautifully written! As a wife of four biological children and four step children, this article rings so true. I’ve spent countless hours/days/years trying to unravel what is “wrong” with three of the four step children. It can be difficult for the whole family to be surrounded by their negative energy. Yoga and meditation are coping tools. Also visualization that I have a positive bubble surrounding me, and I will not let their problems become mine. Their actions/behaviors are their choices, their problem. Blended family bliss is short-lived, and nothing like the Brady Bunch! Good thing I love my husband dearly. I will refer back to this article often. Thank you!

  • Heather

    But the child didn’t ask to be stuck with a step mother. I think biological parent should stay together or at least not start a relationship until their children are adults. The child is more important than a step mother.

  • Hhl

    Are you putting your 2nd marriage before the kids love for their biological mother. I resented my father’s wife for being a home wrecker.

  • k.ry

    This post is very poignant. Thank you for taking the time to write it and outline all of this. I am going through this exact struggle with myself now and it helps to read it and digest is from another person.

  • http://www.facebook.com/karen.nance.94 Karen Nance

    Still crying. You said everything that’s in my heart and much more that is now in my mind. I cannot begin to express my gratitude for your willingness to share your pain. Hoping it will only get better. Not enough, but sincere-Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/karen.nance.94 Karen Nance

    Perhaps but shouldn’t the child be able to realize the bounty that comes from having a father who has a loving marital relationship? This child will come to understand that love is limitless and comes from infinite sources, even the dreaded “stepmonster”. She will come to believe that she deserves the love the author is putting forth. It’s not, to me, a matter of importance. Love for your child is different than love for your spouse; one does not rank love on a Top Ten list. The daughter will see that her father deserves his wife and because of their love, she will decidedly benefit. Bio parents staying together ‘for the children’ tends to do all involved a tremendous disservice; hard to hide contempt and indifference, anger and mistrust. Bio parents deserve love, too, but, agreed, not to their child’s detriment. By that, I mean ignoring, disrespecting or otherwise harming the child; loving another person shouldn’t have those negative elements anyway. Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/katie.currantaylor Katie Curran Taylor

    and thank YOU.

  • http://www.facebook.com/katie.currantaylor Katie Curran Taylor

    Heather, I can understand how that would be the most ideal situation but it is not the reality of life, unfortunately. What if the child never had a relationship with their biological parent due to a number of circumstances? This is not about replacing someone or something, nor is about placing one relationship over another. This is about human to human connections, we all have something to offer one another – and – we all have something to learn from each relationship, regardless of the “labeling”. When you use the word “stuck” it immediately gives a negative connotation to the relationship. The same could be said, in my opinion, for the titling of “step-anything”. I prefer to look at these relationships as a bonus to life, not necessarily in need of a label. Love, kindness and respect are vital to all of life’s healthy relationships, one of the most important lessons you can give any child is to live this by example.

  • Childless Stepparent

    Thank you so much for this profound reminder about anger and pain and not taking it personally. You are so honest about your experience. I can relate to how you began with an open heart, then started questioning yourself, and finally applied lovingkindness compassion. I, too, have learned to “own my peace” (that is such a lovely way of saying it – thank you!). I am bringing my practice into my role as a childless stepparent. I hope it’s okay to share my blog here – may it be of benefit to others facing a similar situation. http://www.childlessstepparent.com

  • Childless Stepparent

    Yes, thank you both. I’m in tears as well. Letting those thoughts come and go.

  • lv2terp

    Thank you for sharing your experience, being vulnerablem open, and honest…this is a beautiful post!! Hugs :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/katie.currantaylor Katie Curran Taylor

    thank you kindly.

  • http://goalsetting-workshop.com/blog/ Jorge Blanco

    It’s great that you stayed strong. Problems within the family is one of those things that just hurt us bad. Kudos to you! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/karen.nance.94 Karen Nance

    Jill, I’m sorry you’ve experienced this pain BUT you have done as best you could and that is worth a great deal. Hopefully, this 21 yr old will think long and hard about the genuine love she is denying herself as well as stop and see she is causing herself pain by rejecting those who would love her best. Would we all recognize AND accept the love that’s right there. With so much negativity from so many sources, she could only benefit from the haven of love that’s hers for the taking. Please accept my thanks for your story, Jill. Your open-door policy is commendable in its sincerity. With maturity comes wisdom-I believe she’ll “get it” sooner than later. Best of luck to you-lucky husband you have.

  • http://www.facebook.com/karen.nance.94 Karen Nance

    How true, Sonja! My personal goal is to remember and live every day knowing that I can only control MY actions as well as my reactions to others. It’s a bit of a stress reliever realizing I’m not responsible for their behavior, just mine.

  • thelikelylady

    This is a beautifully written post. I am in this position right now with someone I live with and it’s incredibly hard to find any positivity in my home life with this type of drain on it, but I’ll continue trying.

  • habiba nazeera

    Wow!!!
    Thanks :))))
    I needed this at this moment of my life

  • kpk

    I am very impressed with you. I have been a step daughter who was molested by her step father. Then our family was abandoned by him. He really messed up my family after we lost our dad in a car accident the year before. He also did some very positive things as well.

    It is always a mixed bag. I have had to spend a lot of my life forgiving him and my mother for choosing to be with him on a regular basis.
    It has been hard work for me to do that. As a kid who went through this I was very open hearted towards my step dad, full of love and understanding with very few barriers to protect me. I am kind of proud of your step daughter in a way even though she is really nasty, she is at least taking her power by saying no. I could not do that. I was like clay, I was a kid, and no one was really looking after me.

    So I ended up raising myself a lot. I think I did a pretty good job, being on my own since I was 15. In many ways it was a relief to be on my own. Yet it was tough on my adrenals and nervous system to not have a strong support system.
    I understand your pain, and it is great that you can let her be where she is and not try to change it. I am sure she is really pissed her prior family situation ended. She sounds really stubborn, and a person that hates change.

    That is definitely not me. I am on the high speed train for growth this life through pain and suffering. I am about to turn 50 and I am proud of how far I have come without becoming a intravenous drug user, or some other kind of addiction to soothe my pain.

  • truth is the only way

    I am well aware that anger is a second hand emotion. I think its easy for others to just say “get over it” but its not that easy, especially when you have no one to talk to and everyone thinks life is just an easy breezy joke. I’m tired of telling the story really. The one of my life. I’ve been tormented, turned on by family and put into situations where every single aspect of my being has been attacked. I am resentful, everything is just supposed to be ok? Really? Not only will people not take accountability for what they’ve said and done but they downplay it as if your just “being dramatic” no empathy at all. I’d like to think of my story as one of growing success, I’ve tried my best to overcome being called fat, ugly, stupid, gay, etc. Overall people trying to bring me down I guess. How does that ever go away? Forgiveness is always there I guess but I’m not sure if its forgiveness or just ignoring it until it surfaces once again. It would compare to walking in a room, turning a light on, taking a good look around then having someone turn the light off and tell you to just forget what you just saw. Impossible. I’m glad to be at the point where I need no one to make me feel whole again. For a long time that was what I searched for because I never took the time to turn the light back on and see inside myself. For someone to ever do these things to me again or put me in a position where I’m humiliated, made to feel “not good enough” that everything I’ve done and had to overcome just to be thrown to the wolves would be something I would
    never do to myself. I refuse to compete for someones time, life does not wait. To love others is the easiest thing for me to do, to be there, be loyal, be a constant shoulder to cry on – until I realized I was the one crying alone feeling like I deserved all the nasty things that have occured in life. I know what I deserve and I wouldn’t settle for less or welcome someone willingly that I know has a disgusting attitude that rubs off on you and speads through your life like a life threatening Cancer or flesh eating disease. Although I’m not perfect. I’ve allowed god into my heart. Therefore that’s what I listen to, my heart. No man, woman or website will choose what my heart desires. It causes much pain, anger and resentment when someone treats you as if you’re too stupid to make your own decisions in life. Anger is the lowest form of energy you can have and people who cause it don’t deserve that much of your energy.

    cancer

    someone turn. If off and tell you

  • Jason Holborn

    Wow. Wow. Wow. I have a great deal to learn from your example of strength, and compassion. I am not able to imagine myself in your shoes reacting with such grace. I honor you as my teacher.

  • Jason Holborn

    Mark I am going to remember that adage and try to use it in the future to be more understanding. Thank you

  • Jason Holborn

    I believe it is about human to human connection, as you say. Whoever we are “stuck” with in an office or elevator or car or dormitory or life, I hope it may be possible to grow and adapt and evolve our understandings and connections. I hope you and this hurting person are able to one day come together.

  • http://optimalternative.com/ Mark B Hoover

    You’re quite welcome, Jason. I believe compassion is the first step to understanding. Maybe the only step we ever need to take. “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” ~ Dalai Lama

  • Mama128

    I was in a relationship for four years with a wonderful man. My youngest daughter did not accept him for the most part. The first 2 years were the hardest, but she started to come around. In the beginning he was patient and understanding. It hurt me deeply to see her deny his efforts to connect. He was sad. In addition to other circumstances, this put a huge strain on our relationship. She had trust issues that he could not understand. He was more of a father than her bio father, but she didn’t trust it. It disappointed me. He began to see her rejection as that of a peer and things got worse. He ended it and made her feel like it was her fault. I was devastated he would act that way and could not see her struggle. He refused to accept she could have these issues as a child and insisted she intentionally tried to hurt him. .