I have just received one of several letters sent to me from an American prisoner who found me in a rather bizarre way. He has a criminal history going back many years, in fact since he was 16 years old. His parents divorced when he was young and that tore him apart. He was then abused by his babysitter. He held the anger of that for many years and this anger sent him on a difficult path with included several terms in jail, in fact he has spent half his life there.
A couple of years ago a psychiatrist asked him, “have you considered the ripple effect of your actions?” This question triggered a wakeup call. Soon after he started a program with three of his colleagues called “Navigating the Ripple Effect” to help others realise the effect of their actions on others. They gave a number of talks to other groups in prison. One day a warden approached him and said, “You can’t call your group Ripple Effect because there is a book called The Ripple Effect written by Anne Jones! He had seen my book in the prison library. So I received a letter from the prisoner telling me about his work and apologising for any problems using the same name. Of course, I wrote back and gave him full throttle to continue – and sent him copies of my books and said to use whatever material in them he wanted. Since then we write from time to time and he has asked me to be his mentor.
Something he said in his last letter touched me deeply. “I have a son who is getting into trouble. I am working on forgiving myself. … In here it is very different, you can’t show love. You have to be very careful with what you say and do or people take advantage of you. This is a breeding ground for negative energies.”
It brought to my mind that there are many situations where we cannot show our feelings. In many working environments we have to put on a brave face, have to keep our emotions to ourselves, put up a strong front – for example in an operating room of a hospital there is no room for sentiment, on the battle field fears have to be supressed, in business negotiations we have to appear calm, and so on. But this doesn’t invalidate the feelings we hold inside. And despite the fact we have to put on a public face we must always acknowledge our inner feelings. We need to share our fears, our discomfort, our anxieties, our anger and of course our love.
I think of people like my friend in prison who has to bottle up what he feels and I see the violence in Syria and Ukraine against people trying to show their disapproval of their government’s actions and I am overwhelmed with gratitude that I am free to share my feelings with friends and family. Please don’t take this freedom for granted but use it, for your feelings are a powerful force and if they are held back they can lead to an explosion. This explosion most often affects us physically. If you don’t have anyone to share your guilt, your anger, your love – then write it down, keep a journal but let it out, please, let it out.
Loads of love to you, hugs too