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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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This Anger Contract was my response to the events chronicled in my previous post, “The Betrayal.” A bogus Intervention had been done to me, and had forced me to get in touch with deep anger that I had been trying to release for several years.  I knew I needed to do something radical to handle the situation, to be able to process my anger, yet not hurt anyone in the process.  I had prepared contracts as a part of my job, and it suddenly occurred to me to prepare this contract.  I knew if I committed to this document, I would honor it.

I had the original of this document signed by two people as witnesses.  These two people knew all the participants, and had been involved in the party that led to the event.  They were also the two people in whose arms I cried deeply about the horror of that evening. Heartfelt thanks to those two people – you know who you are.

I adhered to this contract for 2 years.  The full events of that time will be included in my future book, “The Tiger Unveiled.”

DAN L. HAYS

ANGER CONTRACT

AND

SELF COMMITMENT

August 1, 1988

County of Harris

State of Texas

Whereas I, Dan Hays, attest that the following conditions and circumstances exist and did occur.

1.  On the night of July 23, 1988, a group of six people came to my house late at night, woke me up and got me out of bed.  As a group they took me to Denny’s and did an Intervention on me.  The stated purpose was to confront my pattern of backing away from friends.

In the course of this Intervention, these people did express issues for which they were angry at me and hurt by me.  Each of these persons was in a high state of personal distress.  They projected numerous of their own personal fears upon me.  They cast numerous accusations at me, which would only appropriately be addressed with each person singly.  By nonobjection by the group to said accusations, the group gave power and group approval of and acceptance of those accusations.  They gave me no positive feedback, and no support for what I might be feeling.

I later discovered that the basis of this action was a rumor which had been spread – publicly to a larger group, to my embarrassment, that I was at home contemplating suicide.  This rumor had no basis in reality.

Another party who was not present for any of the previous actions, and had not been around me for three weeks, called my sponsor and alerted him that I was in a critical state of emotional distress.

All of the above parties, those who came to my house, and the one who called my sponsor, will hereinafter be referred to as The Abusers.

2.  I have had a pattern of verbal abuse of people in the past, caused by low impulse control, which manifests itself as “angry words hastily spoken.”  In this pattern I use my intellect, my ready access to words and verbal expression, and my anger to abuse and hurt others.  My mouth goes off and my brain shuts off.

People have learned to fear me because of this pattern.

3.  Another pattern of abuse I have had is one of “the silent treatment,” in which I will not speak to a person, but my great personal anger manifests itself through “The Look,” and people actually fear my anger.  They fear the time when my anger will explode and lead to the verbal abuse.  I suspect people even fear me physically.  I know it because it was the way I feared my Father;  I know how it feels, and have seen that fear in the eyes of others, toward me.

4.  In January I did a 5th step on my anger toward my Dad.  I continued through the 7th Step and asked God to remove that anger.

5.  I recently read before another person, in the form of a grief therapy matrix what I call The Gun Incident.  I had remembered the incident in January, and in it, my Father beat and abused me severely, threatening to kill me with a hunting rifle with which I had seen him kill deer.  The number one listed loss I suffered from that incident had been my belief in my right to be angry.

6.  I had been working with a sponsor for two and a half years who was familiar with my pattern of avoidance of direct anger toward my Father, and who felt after hearing the full details of the Intervention incident that I had a complete right to be angry about what happened, and encouraged me to begin to express my anger in appropriate ways.

7.  In my opinion several of the Abusers were angry with me prior to the Intervention for issues I had with each of them singly, and wish to have me express my anger so they can feel justified in expressing their anger.  I believe anger was also a motivation for the Intervention.

The Abusers have in my opinion begun in subtle ways, and may be expected to continue, to provoke my anger with regard to the Intervention incident – with provocative statements, and even in one case, directly trying to get me to say I was angry.  The subconscious purpose of this is to expiate their guilt and shame with regard to said Intervention.

Given that all these conditions exist, I am experiencing extreme anger.  It is my sincere desire to only express that anger in appropriate ways, to not give any person further cause to fear me because of my anger.  Yet also, I have been one who has expressed anger, and no longer wish to express anger for the group, thereby allowing and enabling them to repress theirs.  I’m tired of carrying this group’s anger.

In an anger slip with happened several weeks ago, I hurt someone I loved, very deeply;  it affected me deeply, because for the first time I saw and felt the pain I had caused, in the eyes of the other person.  Behavior of that kind is unacceptable to me on any level.  I am willing to go to any lengths to stamp out this anger and verbal abuse pattern, yet while unburdening myself of the anger I still carry.  I know much of it is about my Father; he is dead and I can’t hurt him with my anger any longer.

Yet The Abusers are alive, all people whom I still love very deeply, and though I have a right to be angry, hurting them through compulsive patterns in response to my anger is unacceptable, because I lose – by letting my anger rule me, and by possibly causing irreparable harm to relationships.  I too, fear myself and my anger.

Because all these conditions exist, and are alarmingly volatile to me, I hereby make a commitment until August 1, 1989, at which time I will renegotiate this contract, either to extend it, or to terminate it.  The conditions I commit to are:

1.  I will not speak to any of The Abusers about the Intervention incident until it doesn’t matter any more.

2.  I will not knowingly put myself in any situation where I will or may speak from anger.  If I find myself in such a potential situation, I will remove myself immediately.

3.  I will not share in meetings about this incident, unless I can be clear that I am not indulging in hidden agendas of divulging my anger, by sending messages indirectly to any of the parties involved.

4.  Should any of The Abusers wish to talk to me, and it becomes apparent that they wish to talk about The Intervention Incident, I will request that I be allowed 10 minutes before hearing them.  During that time I will attempt to determine if I am in an angry state, and if so, will decline to listen.  If I agree and I begin to experience anger, I will immediately withdraw from the situation.

5.  Where necessary, I will remain completely silent, and hereby put a “gag order” on myself, rather than continue the abuse.

6.  Insofar as it is possible for me, I will attempt not to wear “The Look,” or to express anger by the silent treatment.  If I discover myself doing so, I will withdraw myself from the situation, and process the anger.

7.  I will use all methods now learned by me for appropriate expressions of anger, to dissipate this terrible load of anger I carry.  This includes angry letters not to be mailed, beating on the bed with the racket, yelling in the truck, further 12 step work if necessary, the boxing gym, yelling in the presence of a neutral observer at an empty chair symbolically containing the object of my anger, and any other methods which my Higher Power reveals to me.

8.  I will talk and keep talking to appropriate people about the past abuse I endured, the Intervention, which is still a hideous hurt for me

9.  Should I wish to waive any conditions of this contract, I will wait 5 days, and talk to at least 3 people about my reasons for feeling it necessary to abrogate this commitment.

I have been badly damaged and hurt by anger, both by my Father, and by The Abusers.  I have a right to my anger, all of it, and it is fully justified. But that anger does not justify the hurtful and damaging expressions of anger to which I have resorted in the past.  Those patterns are unacceptable, and will not be tolerated.  Let it end here.

I hereby solemnly agree and pledge to abide by the conditions of this self contract.  Signed this day,  _________________, until August 1, 1989.

____________________

Dan L. Hays

WITNESS:

_______________________

WITNESS:

_______________________

I next responded to the people in an appropriate way, in “The Intervention – Response Letter.”

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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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