You should turn over a new leaf. Start fresh. Let it go.
Everyone spouts off variations of this phrase, from therapists to church to even Taylor Swift.
But what if you can't "shake it off"? What if you find yourself holding on to every little thing, from a fear that you'll lose your job to bad vibes from the grocery store clerk who was rude to you to the baggage that comes with romantic relationships both past and present?
Personally, I find that if I try to force myself into feeling acceptance or forgiveness, part of me feels really satisfied and "whew, my work's done!". But it's like a little sore begins to bubble and fester somewhere else. So while I may have convinced myself that my mind is at ease, truthfully my jaw has tightened several notches, or my intestines have tied themselves in a knot, because my body has not, in fact, let it go.
Alice Miller expresses it well in her book Free from Lies: Discovering Your True Needs:
"It is all very well to be told to tell hatred that it should disappear and never rear its ugly head again. We all want to turn over a new page and live in peace. Everyone wants that, and it would be marvelous if it worked. But it doesn't. Why? Because, like all other emotions, rage will not let itself be manipulated. Instead, it imposes its dictates on us, it forces us to feel it, and to understand its causes."
So, here's the truth: I'm pissed off.
I'm angry that I had to suffer through an eating disorder. I'm angry about what I did to myself over the years. I'm angry that I've developed a facial tic from stress, and that because of my anorexia, I have low blood pressure and get dizzy every time I stand up quickly. I'm angry that bulimia wrecked several of my teeth. I'm angry that something as stupid as an eating disorder could contribute to the end of my marriage. I'm angry sometimes that I'm not as thin as I used to be. I'm angry at myself for being angry that I'm not as thin as I used to be, because I should be all "girl power" and acceptance about it, right?
Some of this anger is ugly and petty and embarrasses me. But trying to dismiss it is futile.
When I try to ignore or not feel these awful feelings, they still find me somehow. It might manifest as horrible headaches, or digestive troubles, or as me becoming OCD about something like which way I walk to a place or the order in which I eat my foods. That doesn't sound like coming to terms with something - it sounds like transference.
Ultimately, I think that there is something to turning over a new leaf. But I have come to learn, the hard way, that to "turn over a new leaf" by shutting out our true feelings, which can be ugly, that we are not getting a fresh start at all. Quite the opposite. We're just storing those ugly feelings inside of us, and they will come out--perhaps this time, as brand new addictions, physical maladies, or just being unkind to those around you.
Sitting with it
It's hard to live with nasty emotions, feelings, or anger. And we certainly don't need to totally succumb to them and scream and shout. But we do need to be able to "sit" with them rather than try to dismiss them.
In my case, being able to "sit" with my feelings is frustrating, because I want closure, man. But that's not the point. On some of the anger issues, I might never have closure or be able to seal the case file and sign off. I'm not sure if I feel OK with that.
But I can try. I can try to be present in everything I do, be it washing the dishes, cuddling with my pug Porkchop, making a custom painting, working on a blog post, and even the nastier things, like feeling as if I despise someone so much I wish they'd stop existing, or feeling hatred toward myself for all of my transgressions, real or imagined. It's easier to be present during the positive things, not so easy during the negative things.
I'm not saying that being present will solve your problems or mine. But for me, I feel that simply being able to identify that I am angry, and frustrated that I don't have closure, and that I'm not OK with it, is a start.
Perhaps by starting to be present, I can ultimately move beyond acknowledging the feelings and begin to truly, constructively, productively, let things go.