I used to be a very angry person. I had locked down my emotions for years and years and the majority of them were simmering beneath the surface. They leaked out all over the place ~ in traffic, at my partners, when I dropped something at work. They were omni-present even though I’d spent decades repressing and trying to ignore them.

Most of my friends wouldn’t have considered me an angry person and yet I found myself complaining a lot, looking for ways to judge others, or getting mad when I felt victimized by fate. The anger I expressed daily was a sideways response to the way that I felt that the world around me affected me. My frustration, resentment, jealousy and lack of compassion kept me operating from the space of a wounded child and showed up in the way I perceived the world at large ~ a hostile place that didn’t hold my or others’ best interests at heart. I saw violence and war within and all around me and I responded with anger and fear.

The worst manifestation of this inner violence was against myself. The constant diatribe of self-criticism and judgment kept me in a state of insecurity and mistrust. I didn’t have faith in myself, so feeling trustful of the world was completely beyond my ability to comprehend. I tuned into violence and projected it back outwards in an attempt to validate the hatred I had towards myself. This type of violence was insidious in that it was disguised as self-righteousness.

The truth is that I did have a lot to be angry about. In my experience, most of us do. We have all lived through stuff that is really, really hard (sometimes nearly impossible). And all the while, we’ve been taught to not express it, to hold it in, to: “Shhh…Stop crying (yelling, screaming); everything is going to be okay. Just be strong.”

This is a societal message, one that is fed to us all from hundreds of different outlets. And when we hold it in, silence our yells, or choke down our sobs, we really just bury it; it doesn’t go away. It festers. It simmers. It swallows us whole at times.

It creates in internal landscape of mistrust. It teaches us that it’s not safe to be us or to express ourselves honestly. It cuts us off from having authentic communication with others and it inhibits our peace-making and keeping skills.

I still struggle with repressed anger and sadness at times. I’ve spent years digging deeply into my being to uncover the anger and pain that my inner child/teenager suppressed and I have made great progress. My inner critic is much quieter now. But she still shows up at times and she tries to disguise herself beneath “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts.”

Cultivating inner peace is a daily practice. For me, it requires meditation, awareness and compassion. It asks that I be vigilant with my thoughts and actions and that I backtrack and cancel the critic within by rewiring and reinforcing healthy behaviors. It asks that I apologize when I act out and it requires that I communicate when having trouble with others (something that still requires a lot of courage and strength for me ~ it does not come easily to me).

When I feel my wounded child rearing her head, I have to stop and tend to her. I have to uncover why she feels unsafe or angry in a situation. I have to release the emotion and then nurture her back into a safe place. (Elicia Miller does amazing inner child work! Our work complements each other really well and we are offering a complimentary talk in Atlanta this Tuesday, November 17 to share what we do together.)

As I cultivate peace within me it manifests as peace outside of me. Will this solve the crises in the world tomorrow? Not likely. But if each of us were to take one more step each day to cultivate peace within, could it eventually? I’d like to think so. What I do know is that thousands of years of warring hasn’t solved violence and that the only thing that stops a war is a peace accord. What if we all chose a peace agreement for ourselves? What if we all committed to expressing one more kind and compassionate action towards ourselves each day? It certainly wouldn’t hurt anything and it just might feel good. I know it has for me and that my life improves every day that I work to treat myself with more love and respect.