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Anger management is difficult for many people, and in many cases, success is found by unusual means.
My friend Sue said the idea came to her in a moment of genius. "I don't have very many of those," she told me," so take advantage of it." Genius? More like insanity. I couldn't believe she was suggesting I do something so off-the-wall.
"Are you nuts?" I said, feeling the anger rise inside me. I should have been more gracious. After all, I was the one who had come to Sue. I'd been in a holding pattern in my life, and I couldn't stand it. Sue was a therapist, used to helping people sort out their problems.
I was open with her, more than I was with most people. I talked about my childhood, a bewildering mix of the magical and the tragic. I was the only child from a broken home, and people close to me had hurt me, badly. In my teens, I'd used drugs and alcohol to blot out the pain.
I got counseling, got sober and rediscovered my creative spirit. Now I was a successful commercial designer in Portland, Oregon. I was healthy, fit, went on hikes. It looked like I had it together. On the inside, I felt all tangled up. I wanted a family, but I didn't date. I wanted to be a serious artist, but I hadn't done anything creative outside of work for ages.
Sometimes the internal turmoil leaked out. Like the time I flew into a rage because a friend and I couldn't agree on where to eat dinner. "I'm angry about my place in life," I told Sue. "I feel like I've been given an assigned seat, and I hate it."
Sue explained that kids develop emotional defenses to help them cope with an out-of-control home life. Anger was my defense. "Your anger isn't helping you anymore," she said. "It's suffocating you. You need to let it go."
"But my anger is justified!" I mentally went over a list of people and the pain they caused me. How could I forget that?
That's when Sue said she had an idea. "I want you find a chair, a big folding chair, to carry around with you. It will help you see what a burden your seat of anger has become."
"Are you crazy?" I said. "I'm a professional, Sue. I'm not going to do something that bizarre!"
Sue smiled. "Go home and think about it, Lindsey. How badly do you want to change?"
I drove off, muttering, "That's the dumbest idea I've ever heard!" But I couldn't get it out of my head. My exit was coming up. I could turn right and go home. Or I could turn left and look for a chair at Goodwill. Something made me turn left.