The Can of Peaches (Email passalong):
An 80 year old woman was arrested for shop lifting. When she went before the judge in Cincinnati he asked her, “What did you steal?”
She replied, “A can of peaches.”
The judge then asked her why she had stolen the can of peaches, and she replied that she was hungry.
The judge then asked her how many peaches were in the can.
She replied, “6.”
The judge said, “Then I will give you 6 days in jail.”
Before the judge could conclude the trial, the woman’s husband spoke up and asked the judge if he could say something.
The judge said, “What is it?”
The husband said, “She also stole a can of peas.”
From Martin Brofman
Unspoken resentments can build up in relationships. We may hold our tongues from anxieties about hurting the other person; angering them; being rejected by them; because our family, religious teachings or social culture discourage this; and for countless other reasons.
In some cases, silent resentments may be forgotten after a while – time being a reasonable healer. In other cases, buried resentments grow rather than diminish, particularly when they are repeated. Accumulated irritations tend to build up like pus in a boil, to the point that they are discharged in one way or another. Humor can be a harmless and accepted way to do this.
Festering resentments can come out in nasty ways. The unconscious mind may seek to discharge its tensions through open anger or passive aggressive attacks, as in the can of peas.
There are many better ways to handle unspoken angers and other feelings that we hesitate to express:
The first, of course, is to not swallow them down in the first place! When we are upset, hurt or angry with another person, it is probably best to take a deep breath or two before opening our mouth and venting raw feelings. By pausing for that brief time, we can let the first wave of our emotions pass, so that we can consider the best ways to respond.
We might respond by being silent and letting the issue pass – between us and the other person. We can then deal with our feelings as our own issue rather than as an attack to which we defend or counter-attack, which often leads to escalations and worsening of the feelings on both sides.
If we do respond, it is a healthy policy to use ‘I’ statements, such as “I feel hurt/ upset/ angered by what you said.” Better yet, if we can speculate or acknowledge we may understand why the other person said or did whatever upset us – before we let them know how we feel – they are more likely to listen with compassion for our feelings rather than responding with further hurtful statements.
Donna, mother of two teenage children, was hurt by her own mother’s sarcastically humorous criticism about how Donna was dealing with some challenging teenage behaviors. This was in the context of her mother having been critical of Donna all of her life. Taking a deep breath to postpone any reflexive, angry retort – which Donna knew would only lead to bitter arguments – she gave her mother a little hug, acknowledging she appreciated her mother’s concern. Using ‘I’ statements, she explained her plan of action, mutually agreed with her divorced husband, and promised to keep her mother’s observations in mind if their behavioral program did not succeed.
“I know you’re as concerned about the kids’ misbehaviors as I am, Mom. George and I have been following a plan of action that seems to be working, although I certainly wish it would work quicker! I’ll let George know what you’ve said and we’ll let you know if we decide to go in that direction – if our current program doesn’t work out.”
Realizing that no one can ‘make us angry or upset’ is another helpful awareness. If someone’s humorous but biting or critical remarks raise negative feelings, we can ask ourselves, “Now what pot of buried angers, hurts or other feelings is being stirred here?” When someone is poking fun at us it is their way of saying something they are not comfortable saying more directly and openly. If we focus on the message that they are giving us, ignoring the ‘how’ of their expressing it, we can leave them to sort out thier discomforts while we address the issues at hand. We don’t have to get tangled up in their emotional hangups.
Donna’s calm response was facilitated by several weeks of therapy, in which she had vented and cleared many years of accumulated angers towards her mother. Using TWR, she was able to do this surprisingly quickly, following which she installed positive feelings and awarenesses about the fact that her mother’s way of demonstrating caring was to nag and criticize. It was also helpful to Donna to be able to release some of her feelings in her mother’s presence with discreet uses of TWR – by tapping her feet on the floor – as she was calming herself down following her mom’s biting remarks.
Much of what tickles our funnybones relates to buried emotional skeletons in the closets and caves of our unconscious mind. Humor helps us release some parts of these issues, and can raise our awareness to work on them further.
Your feedback on this article is welcomed.
You may reproduce all or parts of this article in your journal, magazine, ezine, blog or other web or paper publication on condition that you credit the source as follows: Copyright © 2008 Daniel J. Benor, MD, ABHM All rights reserved. Original publication at WholisticHealingResearch.com where you will find many more related articles on this and similar subjects of wholistic healing.