The Missing Peace will be a significant breakthrough that will offer a lasting effect and help men and women deal with the part of recovery that has been misunderstood, misquoted, and just plain missing. The Missing Peace will answer the most often asked questions: “What do I do with my anger?” or “Is it really okay to express it?” and “Can I do so without hurting myself and others without risk of relapse?” The answer is “Yes, yes, yes!” Let’s learn how to say yes to appropriately expressed anger and yes to peace.
I am a recovering alcoholic who was raised in an extended family of alcoholics and drug addicts. I’ve been in recovery for twenty years, but not without a few slips. I have counseled alcoholics and addicts for twenty years. I have also listened to and worked with the people who love them, live with them, can’t live without them, work with them, play with them and are exhausted by them. I have trained hundreds of therapists and counselors how to safely facilitate the appropriate expression of anger. Everyone wants a solution to the anger problem, but many psychologists and therapists are unable to provide one. This book provides the pieces that have been missing from many alcoholics’ and addicts’ recovery programs and thus find the peace we all want in our lives.
For years I tried to erase my anger and achieve this elusive thing called Peace through meditation, prayer and intellect, but these were never intended to make anger go away. They were just ways to bypass my feelings not only of anger, but sadness, grief, loneliness, fear and even love. Much later I learned feelings are meant to be felt, not bypassed or ignored. I tried to convince others and myself that I was above such feelings and didn’t really have them or need them. I was too smart and educated to be angry. As proof, I tried to write sensitive poetry and taught religious studies and meditation at the college level—all the while drinking and drugging and medicating to keep my feelings under wraps and peace at bay. I was wrapped a little too tightly for mine and others’ comfort and safety. I hit my bottom in 1985 and began to learn how to express those long-ago and current pent up emotions. I wrote my first book, The Flying Boy: Healing the Wounded Man, which chronicled my personal journey from being “a head on a stick,” as I used to refer to myself, to a man who began to try and heal all that had gone unfelt for so long. I began the long, arduous journey, the extremely long one—the eighteen inches from my head to my heart. What I found along the way was a great deal of sadness, a whole lot of unexpressed anger and ultimately a peace greater than anything I’d ever known. By learning how to release my rage and anger and get it out of my body, I found I no longer needed to medicate it with alcohol or drugs. I finally came home to my body and began to experience the serenity that accompanies being comfortable in your own skin.
Anger as Punishment and Revenge
Alcoholics, addicts, adult children of alcoholics and addicts don’t get angry—they get even. One of the reasons adults have such a problem feeling and expressing their anger is because anger has forever been tied to punishment and revenge. People who are punished—instead of disciplined—tend to seek revenge and are angry and the best way to extract a pound of flesh is to punish the actual or perceived offender. You drink— I’ll show you—I’ll not sleep with you. If you overreact—I’ll get you back—I’ll have an affair. A few years ago I was in the Asheville airport waiting to catch a flight back to Austin. I was standing close to a very elderly lady, sitting hunched over in a wheel chair in front of her sixty-something year-old daughter and son. She was silently weeping and the son looked down at her and said in a voice loud enough for all around him to hear—“Momma, we told you if you cried we wouldn’t let you come back to visit anymore.” Do you hear the rage and revenge in his statement? “That’s right mother. We told you that you can’t cry,” said the daughter. Can’t you just imagine that fifty something years ago this mother probably said to her children, in some public place, “If you don’t stop this crying, I’m never going to….” She punished them with a threat. They wait fifty years for revenge and no one is consciously being malicious.
The Difference Between Discipline And Punishment
Unfortunately, children are punished and they become, using Alice Miller’s words, “Prisoners of Childhood,” the original title of her important book later named, The Drama of The Gifted Child. Punishment makes children, adults, criminals and animals at the least untrusting, and at most full of rage. It is capricious—not well thought-out and not stated before the fact. Where punishment is handed out, you might as well hand out the alcohol and drugs to make them forget that they have no choice and that others have extreme amounts of power over them. One time I asked a room full of counselors, educators and law enforcers if they could tell me exactly what would happen to someone caught in their state driving while under the influence? A couple of them said, “They would go to jail,” another one said, “They would lose their license to drive,” two or three said they would have to pay a fine but several said, “It would depend on who they are, who they know, if they could afford a high-priced attorney and, sadly, what color they are. A poor person of color, who doesn’t know anyone, gets punished differently than someone who is white and has lots of money or connections. ” Hear the meanness in this? How enraged is someone going to be? Now here is what makes people less angry, it’s called discipline.
Discipline is almost angelic compared to demonic punishment. Here’s why: Punishment
is after the fact or the offense. Discipline is prior to the act or offense. Punishment takes
away healthy choice making. Discipline teaches how to make healthy and mature choices. Punishment says here are the consequences I, or we feel like handing out today and discipline says know beforehand what the consequences of your actions will be no matter how we feel or don’t today.
If my home state of Georgia had huge billboards on every road entering saying exactly what the consequences would be for driving under the influence, say—YOU WILL LOSE YOUR LICENSE, YOU WILL GO TO JAIL, YOU WILL PAY $10,999.00 IN FINES, AND WE WILL CUT OFF YOUR BIG TOE—many folks would “think before they drink” or they’d think, “Damn, if they’re going to be so clear, I’ll just go to Alabama were the law is still ambiguous as hell and take my chances over there.”
It is the same with children and adolescents who are disciplined rather than punished. They just don’t tend to be as angry and have to get even later with their guards, I mean parents and teachers, because they were told what would happen beforehand. One time my stepdaughter, who was about thirteen at the time, came in one warm summer evening very late, having been with her girlfriends chatting and forgetting about the time. As soon as she came through the door she looked at me in disgust and said, “I know, I’m busted for staying out so late.” The anger at being punished many times by her real father was on her face as she prepared to get more. “Did I tell you what would happen before you went out if you weren’t in by 9 p.m.?” She looked at me like I was asking her a trick question. She sighed heavily as all teenagers do, “No you didn’t.” “Well, that’s my job— to tell you beforehand the consequences so you can make choices. So, no you’re not busted. However, if you decide to stay out late again tomorrow night, you won’t attend the sleepover this weekend with your girlfriends.” I’ll never forget what she said, “That sounds fair.” And it was.
Punishment takes no time and is fast and very often furious. Discipline takes time and forethought. Punishment creates rage, resentment and the need for revenge and retribution. Discipline creates a sense of well-being and feeling that one is cared for. All the young and older children I’ve seen and spoken with and all the adults have incredibly angry stories about being punished and almost none have stories of being disciplined.
Here’s a little sidebar to all of this. The only institution that at least tries to practice discipline is—would you believe—the military? They have huge books of rules and regulations—if you go A.W.O.L. this, this and this will happen. If you disregard a direct order—this, this and this will happen. It is spelled out beforehand. You can actually look up what is going to happen should you violate the rules. The bottom line—If you want to produce less angry children who become less angry adolescents who will then become less angry adults that feel safe, loved and valued in this world, learn to discipline instead of punish. Angry adults need to drink and drug to forget how punishment caused them not to feel safe, loved and valued in this world. Punishment just royally pisses everyone off and then out roll the resentments and out rolls the beer and whiskey barrels that are, at first, a barrel of fun and laughter, but eventually become containers of poison that kill families, friendships, opportunities and relationships of all kinds.”
How to Know If You Have an Anger Problem:
1. People often say you are angry; especially the people who know you well.
2. When you get angry, it’s always someone else’s fault. (The kids are being too noisy, your spouse is late again, the boss didn’t appreciate the work you did, etc.)
3. People tell you to lighten up, relax, take it easy, have a drink or try a Valium.
4. You drink alcoholically, take drugs, or engage in addictive or dangerous behaviors.
5. You become angry while driving; this includes pointing at another driver with the second finger or cutting off another car.
6. You hit your children, your spouse or animals. Hitting can be accomplished with many different weapons, not just the hands. Whether you use your hands, words or a belt, get immediate professional help.
7. You have a rigid body structure; your neck and shoulders are tight and sore.
8. You have ulcers, insomnia, high blood pressure or frequent tension headaches.
9. You always have to win arguments or get in the last word.
10. You find yourself sleeping in a different bed than your spouse.
11. Animals and children hide from you or cross the street to avoid you.
12. Co-workers, spouses or children keep secrets from you because they are afraid of your reactions.
13. You act out anger without stopping to think how your words or actions will affect other people.
14. You have multiple divorces.
15. When someone makes you angry, you emotionally withdraw or give them the “silent
16. When someone hurts you, you become obsessed with hurting him or her back. You may even take pride in your ability to “get even.”
17. Forgiveness is almost impossible.
18. You never say you are sorry, except in a sarcastic voice.
19. Your children don’t return your phone calls.
20. Your family or roommate encourages you to go to work, the gym or anywhere else just to get you out of the house.
21. Reading this list makes you angry.
John Lee, best-selling author of The Flying Boy: Healing the Wounded Man, has written nineteen books, including his latest release The Half-Lived Life. He has been featured on Oprah, 20/20, Barbara Walter’s The View, CNN, PBS, and NPR. John Lee has consulted and trained prestigious institutions in the clinical environment including The Betty Ford Clinic, The Cleveland Clinic, Guy’s Hospital (England), The Hanley Center (FL), South Pacific Hospital (Australia), and numerous others. John’s work in recovery, co-dependency, and adult children has positioned him as a leader in the field of addiction.
John Lee M.A. works with people all over the world by phone sessions (678-494-1296) and Skype (john.lee1951 or johnlee6767). For a limited time there is available a 100% FREE, no-obligation phone consultation for anyone who is interested in doing private work with John. You can chat with John via phone or webcam. The calls are FREE and completely confidential.