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Friday, April 24, 2015

End the anger, seek closure, move on!

Seek peaceful closure than revenge in situations where you have been betrayed, back-stabbed, let down or trampled upon.

The normal reaction to an emotional or physical breach of trust or violation of personal space or privacy is anger. You demand justice and want it instantly. And when it is not immediately forthcoming, as is normally the case, your anger brews within, leaving you in a perpetually explosive state. You are like a violent volcano, vulnerable, emotionally fragile, that is waiting to erupt at the slightest provocation. While the best and spiritually recommended path is one of unconditional forgiveness, many people may not immediately be willing to consider it. In such and similar instances, seeking a peaceful closure can restore the victim to a state of emotional equilibrium.

Dr. Nancy Berns, an Associate Professor of Sociology at Drake University, Iowa, US, and the author of “Closure: The Rush to End Grief and What It Costs Us” says, “Focusing on vengeance intensifies thoughts, emotions, and behaviors related to aggression and anger. Although revenge may be sweet for a brief time, regret, fear of retaliation, and shame are some of the negative emotions that follow acts of revenge in the long term.” I read the story of a young mother of two, in an issue of ‘Open’ magazine, who says a man, who she treated like her father, tried to rape her in her teens. She says she escaped, but the next day, she looked him in the eye and made him apologize. This suddenly changed the power equation. “Less than 24 hours after it happened, I entered his room. He tried to seem concerned like I was a child with childlike problems who he needed to pander to. He denied it in a voice louder than mine. He said I misinterpreted his affection towards me. It was very difficult for me to hear that. He told me that it was all in my head. That made me very angry. I didn’t raise my voice, but I looked at him and my voice didn’t waver. I told him I didn’t want to blackmail him. What he did was wrong. He was taken aback when I went through the inappropriate details, asking him if he would touch his own kids like that. At some point, the tone of the conversation changed. He got scared, and I saw him for the wimp he was. He accepted what he did and apologized. After so many years, I can understand what I was trying to do. We often miss a very important component of justice. It has to help people move on, not be stuck forever in the injustice. For me to move on, I needed to hear him apologize. I needed to see him as the weaker one, not me. I needed to stop feeling fear or anger when I saw him. We all have our dark moments, but no one, not me nor him, wants to be bound by only the darkness,” the lady recounts in ‘Open’.

So perfectly said. We all have our dark moments. But we must want to move beyond the darkness. So, seeking closure, a peaceful one, is far more intelligent, practical and profitable than just fighting a battle that will leave no one the real victor. A few years ago, the entire team in our Bengaluru (South India, India’s IT hub) office was poached by a competitor. One fine morning, we were left with 5 irate clients (we are a consulting Firm) in Bengaluru and no team to service them! I flew to Mumbai and walked into the competitor’s office without an appointment and met their CEO, who had personally ‘masterminded’ this coup. I sought him out for tea at a nearby Irani café and shared my angst with him. I remember breaking down. Inconsolably, for a long time. He did not apologize. Instead he declared: “All is fair in business and in war. I was only able to poach them because you were unable to retain them.” I learnt an invaluable business lesson in that moment. I also felt a strange peace envelope me. Till that time, I had been seething with rage, wishing this competitor the worst, wanting to see him fail in business and in Life. In fact, when I opened the conversation at the café with him, I called him a cheat, an unethical businessman and a poor human being. But after I broke down, after I learnt what I needed to from his act and his justification, I was at peace. Almost magically, this closure was far more powerful to me than all the hatred and the fury that was brewing with me up until that moment. (This story is recounted in my Book ‘Fall Like A Rose Petal – A father’s lessons on how to be happy and content while living without money’, Westland, August 2014.)

Renaissance author and English philosopher Sir Francis Bacon (1561~1626) has said, “In taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy, but in passing it over he is superior.” End the anger. Don’t perpetrate it. Reach out, seek closure with those that have wronged you and find abiding, lasting, beautiful peace. 

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