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Archive for the ‘Intervention’ Category

For the last few weeks, I have been developing an outline for the next book I plan to write. At this point, it will tentatively be titled “Healing My Anger – Defusing A Time Bomb.” It is about my journey to unearth and resolve a terrible well of anger and rage I discovered. One of the pivotal points of that book will be about a bizarre event that happened to me – a group of people came over to my apartment late at night, and performed a bogus group encounter with me.

I used to call it an intervention, but I realized that gave the misimpression that what happened was somehow legitimate. It was not – it was an exercise in the power of a group in dysfunction, incited by a strong and charismatic leader. I’ve written about that evening before, in a post called “The Betrayal.” That event led to a whole series of events which propelled my growth in astonishing ways, because it forced me to deal with anger that I hadn’t been able to access previously.

This will be a powerful book – I can tell that already. But for the past several weeks, I’ve had the feeling that I was missing something. I just couldn’t think of what it might be. Then yesterday I realized – I had left out one major event. Then I realized that this would have to be the end of the book. I needed to get it on paper, so I wrote it all down.

It’s the first time I’ve ever written the ending of a book before I wrote the beginning. But it was absolutely the way the book had to end. For a number of years, I had not been around the individual who stirred up the event that night, who I renamed Rob for purposes of the book. We happened to end up at a party together.

******

So here is what I wrote:

In 1996, I decided to move to Austin. I went by a party that was being held by one of the people in the recovery program. It had been a fun party for a number of years, and a source of fond memories for me. Rob and Nancy were there. It was the first time I had been around either of them for quite a while, and naturally there was some awkwardness.

After a few minutes Rob came up to me and said “Dan, can we go outside and talk for a minute?”

“Sure, Rob.”

We stepped outside, and I wasn’t sure what he wanted to talk about. I had gut checked my anger before agreeing to go, and there just wasn’t much steam in those old issues. At most, I felt a little edgy – because of the unknown.

We sat down on a bench outside the party, and Rob lit a cigarette. He sat for a moment, and it looked like he was gathering his thoughts, so I didn’t say anything.

“Dan, I want to apologize for my part in what happened the night we came over to your apartment. That was totally wrong, and nobody deserved to go through what happened to you that night. I am sorry. Genuinely sorry.” He looked me directly in the eyes as he spoke, and I could hear the genuineness and sincerity in the way he said the words. His words were simple, elegant and direct. I was so deeply touched I didn’t know what to say. I was quiet for a moment.

“Thank you for saying that, Rob. I do appreciate it – probably more than I can express right now.”

“Can I give you a hug?”

“Sure, Rob.”

We hugged, and then walked back inside the party.

I lost touch with Rob when I moved, but after that night, for the two of us – we were at peace.

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This letter was written in response to a bogus intervention, as chronicled in the post “The Betrayal.”

What I did to deal with my anger is written in the post “The Anger Contract.”

My sponsor in one of the 12 step programs, after finding out the details of the night the group took me to Denny’s, encouraged me not to be silent – but to confront the offenders, in an appropriate way. I was so angry I didn’t feel safe trying to talk to them in person.  So I began to write a letter to each of them.  I wrote and discarded 4 or 5 versions, each a little less angry and confrontive.  But they helped me get some of the feelings out of my system, so I could write a more appropriate version.  I let it sit for several days.  Then I had several people read it to ensure it was a balanced response. I hand wrote and mailed a copy to each of the six people who had been at Denny’s and saying things to me that night.

The letter follows:

August 12, 1988

Dear ______,

The time when the group of you came to my house and took me to Denny’s has been a devastating emotional experience for me.

That day I had been in great pain.  I came home (from the party) because it was right for me.  I was vulnerable, and I needed space.

When you all came to my house, you each looked so agitated, I was mistrustful.  I felt invaded, unsafe.

When you said you were doing this out of love, but what I felt was your fear and anger, I became confused, disoriented.  My child ran and hid.

I felt attacked, accused, with no one to support me, protect me, defend me, affirm me.  I felt alone, so alone.

I felt betrayed, rejected.

When I looked in your eyes and it seemed you didn’t believe what I said about my reality, it hurt me deeply, and I later cried like my soul was dying.  That really hurt.  I did not feel heard.

The message I received was that you did not think I could take care of myself.  I felt discounted.  I was insulted.  I found out later that what fueled your action was talk at _____’s party that I might be at home contemplating suicide.

I was humiliated.

Then I grew angry!

VERY angry.  How dare you, etc, etc ….

I am angry still.

So I say, I love you, and I am angry with your behavior.

I believe your actions were inappropriate, impulsive, and improperly motivated.

But so have been my old anger reactions.  I am working hard on them, and I pledge to you to do my best to give you no cause to fear my anger.

And this means:

— I will look at you, but not with “The Look” – my angry face.

— I will say hello and acknowledge your presence.

— I may not be able to hug you.

— I may be very quiet for a while, so not to speak in haste.

— I may or may not be able to approach you, but you are free to approach

me if you wish.  If I withdraw, it is because I grow angry and need space.

— I may look sad – seeing you brings up the pain of that horrible lonely night.

— If you wish to express feelings to me, I will listen, but will not respond or

react.  If I am not in a place to receive it, I will tell you so.

I say again, I love you and I am angry with your behavior.

Love,

Dan

—-

Note: In the time since the Intervention and the events that followed, only one of the participants has ever talked with me about it.  He was the prime motivator behind it all.  He owned his part fully, and that what they did was terribly wrong.  “No one deserved what happened to you that night, Dan.”  His words were enormously healing.

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Talk of Tigers
(Written March 9, 1990)

“Tell me about your tiger,” she said. They were at the zoo, standing in front of the tiger cage. A huge, restless Bengal tiger paced back and forth the length of the cage. His eyes looked devoid of life, cold, neutral. The huge paws silently padded up and down, the tawny skin rippling over muscles bunching and loosening as he walked, endlessly pacing. There was about him an ominous presence, a sense of unbelievable power and force, frightening, even with the steel bars separating him from outsiders.

“OK,” he replied. “I guess to do that the best way to start is to tell you about this dream I had. In the dream I was walking down a road with a friend, and I was taking her to see my house. I wanted to show her all the beautiful new rooms I was discovering in my house. We opened the front door and went inside, and as we closed the door behind us, I knew there was something in there with us.” He stopped, paused, took a deep breath. “We began walking through the house, with me pointing out all the neat rooms and nice features. Suddenly there was a tiger with us, walking next to us. My friend was, of course, very frightened. I assured her It was a tame tiger, that I knew it, and that it wouldn’t hurt us. Then it grabbed my arm in its mouth. I could feel the tremendous power of its jaws, even though it wasn’t biting hard – just playing almost. Then I knew the tiger was not tame, I had been fooling myself. I could not control it, and sooner or later it would destroy me, and any of my friends who might be around. I got scared, and the dream ended.”

“Boy,” she gasped, “that’s pretty powerful. So what does the dream mean to you?”

“The house, of course, is me – the inside of me. It has many wonderful parts – rooms – to it, a lot of which I’m just now discovering. The tiger was my rage. Something terrible because it was uncontrollable, capable of destroying the house – me – and anyone who came close to me.”

The tiger continued to pace as they watched in silence for a few minutes.

“What was it about tigers that scared you most?”

“I think it was that they are so compassionless. They kill for food with no thought of the prey, no remorse. It’s almost like a need to hurt.”

“Wow! That’s pretty intense.”

“Yeah. Also, they have great self control in their stalking, but once they go for the kill they are merciless. And they live so much of their life alone, roaming, seeking the kill. I didn’t want to live my life that way. But there was a part of me that understood that. It scared me so much, I kept it hidden – even from myself a lot of the time.”

“That’s pretty scary. But – I’ve never seen you like that.”

“You see. I kept it that well hidden. But it was there. Some people have seen it.”

“How in the world did you get like that?”

“I guess you could say it was an inheritance. From being raised by a brutal Ex-Marine who let his tiger act out on a twelve year old boy. Like his Dad did to him.” The tiger continued to pace.

“So what did you do about it?” she asked.

He was quiet for a long time. “For me, learning about the tiger was a sort of revelation. I didn’t know he was inside me. But overcoming the tiger was a process, a journey if you will. It started the way much of my journey started, with the First Step.”

“You mean The First Step?”

“You got it. Powerlessness. As long as I tried to fight the tiger on my own, I lost – it was too powerful, too destructive. It was as I worked The Steps on my rage that I began to be able to conquer it.” He stopped and reflected for a moment, then spoke again very deliberately. “There is some more to it than that – some specific things that happened. But they’re still very private for me. I don’t share them with people. It’s like, it’s just between me and God. I guess the best I can say is – do you believe in miracles?”

“Yes, I can accept that,” she replied. They turned and walked away. The tiger, at long last winded and tired, had finally laid down to rest.

——-

10-28-09 I’m finally about ready to talk about the things that were still very private at the time the above piece was written. The miracles and the events of confronting my rage. It will be the topic of a book, “The Tiger Unveiled,” that I have laid out, but not finished. Below is the pivotal event that made me face the tiger within me.

The Tiger Unveiled – You Got The Wrong Guy!

As we sat down at the Denny’s restaurant, what went through my mind was, “Oh, my God, this feels like an Intervention.” There were six of them, and one of me. They had gotten me out of bed that night – woke me up late – and said they wanted to buy me dinner. From the moment I opened the door to my apartment, my intuition screamed that something was wrong. The people who came to my door didn’t fit together – some of them didn’t even like each other. And they wanted to buy me dinner? This late? They told me they wanted to confront my pattern of backing away from people. Even though it didn’t make sense why this had to be done “right now,” I went along with them – because I trusted them, gave power to their words – in a sense because they were family.

I had seen these people earlier in the evening at a party. I had been in a lot of pain – because of grief over my Dad’s death, but also the pain of knowing that I must move on from some of these people. I loved them dearly, but I had to detach from them, for my own well being, to save myself. So when it got too emotionally crowded at the party, I went home.

Now as I sat in the middle of the long oval table, surrounded by these people – trapped in a sense, because I was sitting on the inside of the booth – my thought was: listen to what they have to say. Give them the benefit of the doubt – don’t get angry and get up and leave. Trust them. They began talking about how they had seen my pattern of backing away from people. That felt strange. Couldn’t that have waited until tomorrow? They said they were doing this out of love. As I looked at them, they looked frightened, agitated – some looked like they were in an altered state. They made statements that sounded reasonable, but in some way sounded angry.

The things they said about me could have been true about them as well. It sounded like they were describing themselves, but they were saying it was about me.

Then they started talking about suicide – how they feared I was about to kill myself. What? That’s not why they said they needed to talk to me. Where had talk of suicide come from? One person did most of the talking about suicide, the others just nodded in support, which hurt just as bad.

Their words grew more hurtful, more demanding. I grew – confused. For years these people had been praising my growth toward health – now they were saying I was sick. They were accusing me of things, diagnosing me – telling me how in distress I was. Some of them grew more angry, more insistent. It continued. They used a lot of “should” statements. Nothing I was doing was good enough, or right enough.

I tried to explain, to tell them I knew what was going on with me, that I was talking with people about my situation. I tried to tell them that they were discussing things that should be addressed with each person privately. They went on. As I looked at each person, I could see that they doubted – no, they had decided – not to believe me. It hurt, and I emotionally closed up. I began to feel the unreality, the insanity of it. I had been condemned before they got there – they wouldn’t believe me.

I was alone – against 6 people. The weight of numbers bore down on me. It was crushing, and I grew numb. They mentioned love again and took me home. The reason I knew I wasn’t suicidal – after that attack, I didn’t go home and kill myself.

Several days later, I found out the truth about how this had all come about. A group had formed at the party, and the rumor began to spread that Dan was home about to commit suicide. I was humiliated to hear that. I heard about “secret meetings,” and “mass hysteria.” Several people “encouraged them to wait.” Someone I had been talking to, who knew what was going on with me – was told they could not go, because there were “already too many people going.” My one advocate – denied access.

They became convinced they needed to save me, so they came after me. When I heard details, I grew angry, very angry. I felt my tiger, my rage. I knew my rage was primarily tied to my Dad, but it scared me deeply, because now there was an immediate target for the rage – that group of people. Something had to be done.

—-
The event at Denny’s was one of the most hideous experiences of my life. Yet I would later refer to it as one of the greatest blessings I’d ever received. It forced me to confront and deal with my anger and rage. But I was committed not to hurt anyone. I ended up signing before 2 witnesses, very solemnly, an Anger Contract that that stayed in effect for 2 years, as to how I would not act out my anger on someone else. I also committed to actively to release that anger in safe ways. It worked! That was the great blessing of the event at Denny’s.

 

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