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rage-gentleness-pain-calmA Facebook “friend” (meaning one of those people you really don’t know, but you somehow knew someone who knew someone and somehow you and he/she befriended each other) just defriended me in a rage of anger.

As I said, I really didn’t know her, and never saw anybody comment on her postings that I knew, so how we became “friends” I’ll never know.

In the last few months she has posted furiously, detailing (and I do mean detailing) her recent surgery, her legal woes, her financial woes, her family woes, her relationship woes, and so on. I’ve tried to be sympathetic, and when her woes entered the legal realm, I offered advice. Peace ensued for never more than a day before the woes would erupt again with the latest installment of who victimized her this time.

A big hint that you are dealing with such a person, beyond the obvious downer of all the misery, is that people are defined in only one of two ways: how they victimize me, or how they support me. Notice the emphasis on the word “me”. People are not good or bad in and of themselves, or as having good attributes along with the usual not so good. They are either actively my enemy or actively helping me through my latest trauma of the day. One can switch from one category to the other in a split second.

I figured it was time to practice a bit of tougher love when her rage erupted over some company or other who had “promised” her a gift certificate to Amazon for $20 in return for her testimonial or good review or some such drivel. After two weeks, and the card having not yet arrived, she was in a frenzy of emailing and telephoning, all to be told it would arrive momentarily. When it did not, she was threatening to report them to the Better Business Bureau.

I chose neither to ignore this rant nor to offer advice or commiseration, but rather to try to lighten the mood and cause her to perhaps see that she was overreacting. I said she was “funny” and when pressed as to what I meant, I suggested that I admired her energy at getting so upset about a thing that happens to all of us. I admitted to having no such stamina, and would have merely filed the information about the company in my head in making a future determination as to whether I wanted to do business with them again.

She erupted in rage at my answer, ending up telling me that I was one more person telling her that she was a worthless piece of crap and she should just go kill herself. That was followed by the pressing of the infamous “defriend” button.

Perhaps I handled it wrong. I’m fairly convinced I did. I hoped to get her laughing and then receptive to some better solutions to her obvious problems. She claims to suffer from “anxiety” and truthfully I have had some experience with that at one point in my life. A few weeks of therapy, a bit of anti-depressant (awful stuff, stay away if you can but a godsend if necessary), and I was well able to cope with any further incidents.

I would have told her that mild depression can be really successfully dealt with. She already sees a therapist and takes drugs for her condition, but there are really really easy ways to cope by simply following a few rules of the road.

  1. At the outset of feeling out of control (i.e., rage, feeling frenetic, don’t know which way to turn), find a place to sit down, hopefully in a quiet place.
  2. Close your eyes, and begin to breath deeply. With each intake of breath, count until your lungs are filled, then release slowly counting as you breath out. Make sure that the out breath takes longer than the intake by two counts at least, and more if it is comfortable. Do this until your heart slows and you feel calmer.
  3. Then set a timer for 20 minutes and do one of the following: (1) follow your breath in and out. Should thoughts intrude, gently return to the breath. (2) visualize the place you most love such as a beach, a mountain view, wherever you would love to be. Try to imagine the feel of the sun, the breeze, the smell of mountain flowers, the touch of silky beach sand. Relax in your haven (3) Practice loving kindness. Start with loving yourself as a gift, then expand to people, friends, a city, country, a planet, the universe. Offer simple love to animals and plants (4) Pray for friends and those you love that their day is peaceful and pain free. (5) focus on a mantra and repeat it slowly again and again. Whatever you do, don’t allow thoughts to intrude. Once you recognize them as such, return to your choice of meditation technique.
  4. Engage in a gratitude journal. Write down five things each day that you are grateful for. During the day, when you start feeling bad, sit down and review these items.
  5. Engage in some form of activity. Take a walk, swim, bike or anything that requires movement. Your chemical makeup will change and it will help you feel better.
  6. Only when you are quiet and peaceful should you look at the problem at hand. What can you do? What should you do? Are you over-reacting? Is what happened to you unique or part of simply being alive in a complex world? Do you bear some responsibility for your own problem? If so, what can you do differently to avoid sabotaging yourself? Be honest and be frank with yourself, but recognize that all people are flawed and make mistakes. You’re allowed to do so too. That doesn’t make you a bad person. But you can change those things you dislike with patient, caring effort.
  7. Don’t blame your past–your ex, your parents, yourself. These are given. While they may have created difficulties in your life by past behavior, today is a new day to heal and move on. Forgiveness is for yourself, not because somebody deserves it. Forgiveness allows you to stop suffering.

Hopefully after engaging in some sort of process like this, you will gain the insights necessary to deal more successfully with things that go wrong.

Most of all, be careful with who you share the deepest parts of yourself. If you have a therapist then save it for her or him. Friends and relatives especially have their own motives in giving advice even if they think they are being objective.

If you can’t pull yourself out of your doldrums after a few days, and this happens often to you, then by all means seek professional help. Nobody needs to suffer as just “life”. Most people can learn to cope and be happy most of the time. If you can’t the problem is too large for you to tackle. That doesn’t mean you are broken, it just means the problems are deeper than simple introspection can solve. Don’t blame, but do fix.

And most of all, never stop taking medication prescribed to you by a professional on the advice of a friend or relative. Any advice you receive should always be okayed by your therapist if you have one, especially if it against the professional advice you have already received.