Dealing With Anger!

This week I got REALLY angry. Anger is not one of those emotions that I am all that comfortable with. In fact, it is something I usually try to avoid; and I manage my surroundings and people so that I don’t touch it very often. But, this week there was no turning back. I was ANGRY!!! So angry I wanted to scream one of those blood curdling screams. It was in the middle of the night when the urge became the greatest, however, and I thought my husband would have been a little frightened so I didn’t let it out, at least vocally.

I was taught not to be angry as a child. Anger was the purview of adults, but not children. I was taught to be a good little girl and not have emotions that would upset those around me. It was the adults who got to upset the kids. Strange really, when you think about it. Children should be taught to name their emotions, acknowledge them, and they should be encouraged to see that emotions are not wrong and they are natural, mentionable, and manageable.  This is one of the best mental health skills you can teach them—to acknowledge and express difficult emotions.

Practicing mindfulness has helped me process emotions—very difficult emotions—as an adult, but I’m not convinced I’m completely skillful yet at anger. This became apparent this week when I felt violated and hurt by a healthcare practitioner working on my physical body. I’m sure that this act of violence was not intentional. But, intentions and impact are two separate things entirely. I have a very sensitive body when it comes to any kind of body work and I am sure to tell anyone that works on me that I am a “light touch.” Even with my clear directive, I have had to spend the rest of the week recovering from the “help” I had gone to receive.  As a little background, I have had an issue with my back for a number of years but had been doing fairly well until this checkup, making it all the more frustrating.

When you are angry, you want to blame someone. I blamed myself for going to someone I didn’t know (but had been recommended). I blamed the person for not listening to me. I blamed my body for being so sensitive. I blamed the medical profession. I blamed the cat (we always blame the cat around my house for things we don’t like). But, what was my anger pointing to? What does anger point to, in general? There is not one answer, but the question is an important one. For me, I believe my anger was pointing to my difficulty with a lack of control. I couldn’t control what happened to me. It just happened.

Life is basically out of our control. Yes, we have certain things that we can make happen but ultimately things happen to us all of the time and our biggest job is to figure out how the heck to live in the midst of it all. The anger and pain that we feel can be our doorway into understanding the true nature of life and how to accept it without drowning in emotions of hurt, anger, and blame.

On the other hand, we do have some control and we are responsible for learning how to use that. We can stand up for ourselves. We can say to someone “That’s not okay.” We can say “no” in an effort to protect our bodies and the bodies of others from abuse, violence, or unwanted advances. We can tell others so that they don’t also get hurt. My response was to write an email and ask that it be put in my file. I won’t be going back there but the person I saw and the supervisor needed to know what happened. I hope that it helps someone else from getting hurt in the future.  The structure of my back is the way it is and there is nothing to be done about that but I do spend an incredible amount of time engaging in activities to support it from Pilates to yoga to strength training and more. Action can be taken.

What to do in the face of anger? Here are some ideas to consider.

Feel the anger.  Human beings need to be able to feel and express anger appropriately. If you need to scream, scream! If you need to stomp your feet, stomp your feet! If you need to pound a pillow, pound a pillow! If you need to run until your lungs give out, run! Moving the energy of anger through your body can be healing. Give yourself a little bit of time to do something to get the energy moving so it doesn’t feel caught in your throat or in your body. Feeling the anger keeps you from staying stuck in the anger. It means that you give it some kind of expression.

Write about it. I started two other blogs that I couldn’t finish this week (which is unusual) until I admitted that the biggest thing that happened to me was my anger at what I experienced and I needed to write about it. I was already trying to move on without really processing it. Writing about your anger can give it a voice and help you understand what lies underneath it. Anger is always at the top of some other emotion that wants to be held and understood.

Do some yoga.  If you read my blog from last week you can hear more of my suggestions on healing with movement. Yoga and other movement practices can help ground you in your body and release the tension and contraction that anger creates. By releasing the contraction, you are moving through the emotion. By relaxing, you are moving more into the flow of life. Anger can flow through you.

Let other people be angry. It is hard to be in the presence of people who are angry but you are giving them and you an enormous gift. This does not mean you allow yourself to be abused by someone who is projecting anger at you. You need to create boundaries between yourself and abusively angry people. But, if you can stand your ground and help another person feel their anger by not arguing with it or trying making it go away then you will both be more resilient as a result. Together you can help each other understand “this is what anger feels like.”  It is not “me.” It is passing through me; and I can feel it, learn its lesson, and move on.

Forgiveness.  Expressing anger can be healing but if it is expressed and held on to for too long it begins to suffocate the heart from love.  Forgive the people in your life that have hurt you, forgive yourself for not being everything you wished you be, forgive the world for being the way it is. Forgiveness is the only way to heal from anger. Without it, you are the one that continues to hurt yourself. It becomes your choice – to hurt or to heal. 

Stay present for this moment. My journey with anger continues. In the process of writing this piece, I feel much better already. Time has passed; and I am choosing to stay in the moment with the many other wonderful things that have happened since last week. Staying present means that I recognize “anger is not here right now.” It’s only here if I choose to dredge it back up again which is not a good choice for me. In fact, it will not be helpful to anyone. Right now my back is even doing well again. It won’t last forever. Nothing does. But living in the present means I am currently engaged in reality and that is all I can really handle. One moment at a time.