year of living copyA good indignation brings out all one’s powers. — Ralph Waldo Emerson


Laura writes: I was living at home during college and walked in on an argument between my mother and stepfather. I was instantly filled with deep anxiety. In my distant personal history, I had the misfortune of hearing only one argument between my mother and father. That had occurred on the evening before they announced that they were getting divorced, and although I knew intellectually that anger and loss weren’t necessarily connected, the two were still deeply intertwined for me. On this occasion, both my mother and my stepdad were obviously furious, and they sounded like fishwives, their voices high-pitched and shrieking. Stomping down the hall, my stepfather left the house, slamming the door on his way out. My anxiety was just shooting up through the roof when he came back.

“Honey?” he said, in a sorrowful and apologetic tone. I breathed a sigh of relief; everything was going to be fine. He was going to back down or apologize.

“Yes?” my mother answered sweetly, obviously also sure that he was prepared to apologize.

Suddenly, he raised his hand and gave her the finger, a huge grin on his face.

I cringed, my eyes closed, waiting in that long moments silence; surely she was going to order him away forever. What I heard next changed my life.

Laughter. They both erupted suddenly into laughter. They both intuitively knew that they had been rigid, unfair, and unpleasant, and they were good enough friends, with big enough hearts, and small enough egos, to find a way to say so to each other and move on.


You sometimes regress to a child’s position when you are most angry. You may call names, silently or aloud, or you may cling to your position as if it is a precious toy that you cannot stand to share. Next time you are in anger, allow yourself to see a way—or ways—in which you are childlike. Then encourage yourself to be open enough, expansive enough, loving enough, to love the child within you.

  • My childlike behavior: ________.
  • What’s in it for me: ________.

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