Tag Archives: anger

Blog 42: Anger & Anxiety # 3-Healthy Anger finally!

IMG_0914
Fight or flight- African Style

Today is the final blog about Anger & Anxiety, at least for now. One final way Anger and Anxiety are linked is that the strong fear of someone being Angry with us, scares the pee out of many of us humans. Unfortunately Anger can be, and often is, used unhealthily to control and manipulate others due to how uncomfortable most humans feel when someone is angry with them. Fear of loved one’s Anger causes great anxiety and often a loss of our sense of self. This is evidenced by how many people placate their angry family member(s), rather than firmly standing their ground and asking for what they really want. Some of my clients are living with an often explosive and angry family member. These clients live in chronic anxiety anticipating the upcoming explosion. The fact that anger’s eruption is somewhat unpredictable just makes the anxiety worse. Many humans would rather temporarily placate, and let go of what we desire, to avoid experiencing the blast of rage that may occur if we stand up for those desires.

I have lived with the fear of Anger a good portion of my life. In the past I lived with an angry family member (who was terribly treated and had a good reason for the anger, but not much control over it.) I have also feared friends and coworkers being angry with me. AND, what has caused even greater problems, I have feared and been blind to my own Anger. It has taken lots of work, with wise and professional support, for me to make peace with Anger and to stop fearing it. I have had to accept my own Anger, and the fact that at times, I can be an angry person. (Which wreaks havoc with my own image of my goodness). Breaking up with the need to be terminally nice, was a related issue, but one I will save for different blog. However, the journey has been well worth the struggle and living on the side of healthy Anger and the acceptance of this strong emotion has brought me great joy and much healthier relationships.

What I have found is that living in fear, and especially, ignorance of our own Anger is a harmful place to be. Unresolved and unaddressed anger leaks out and causes great harm and often, we can get caught in ruts of bitterness and resentment. Both of which cause irreparable harm to our bodies and relationships. I recently have been re-reading old journals and I came across a passage I wrote a while ago when I was really wrestling with my own unhealthy expressions of Anger. Though it is old material, I will include a small portion as it will illustrate my point about the need for healthy Anger better than just giving factual content.

Journal Entry: “Wow, what a journey this has been. Please continue to let the words and concepts of honesty and healing settle deeply into my soul, transcending and traversing any areas of blockage, confusion, or stuck buried resentment or bitterness. I want none of these now, they are not helpful to me, nor are they worthy of me.  For resentment and bitterness are at the core postures of helplessness and victimhood. They are knee-jerk responses that can come after experiencing being harmed, hurt or betrayed, but when I am not willing to deal with or confront the damaging influence. So the energy of angry pain, instead of being worked out through appropriate conflict coming from confrontation and the energetic attempts to make events feel fair and right to both of our body’s and beings, leaks out into stagnant pools of resentment and bitterness. This stuck energy swirls round and round but goes nowhere. These emotions are often a trap of self-pity, and fear of the energetic needs of real human relationships, which are messy & beautiful, harmonious & fractured, joyful & sad. There are seasons in every deep relationships. But resentment and bitterness keep the relationships stuck in dank cold water. The usual  warmth of connection, companionship & sexuality significantly decreased or absent all together.”  END OF ENTRY

Why talk about Anger anyway? Anger is a universal human emotion that often gets a bad rap, mostly because when humans are angry it is very hard to rationally make choices that improve the situation that is causing Anger in the first place. When we are very angry, our net-cortex is mostly off-line. Many times Angry energy causes people to act badly and use Anger for power and control, dominance, etc. No one likes to be scared so we give angry people a wide berth. But Anger is an important aspect of our humanity and an emotion we really need to pay attention to and learn how to properly express if we want to live a healthy and happy existence.

Anger is a good and important emotion. Humans need to be able to experience and express Anger in order to lead healthy lives. Anger is that strong message from our bodies that we feel threatened, that we have been, or are about to be, harmed or hurt. A healthy relationship to our own Anger allows us to perceive the “threat” early on. That allows the anger “energy” to help us say “NO”, or to set a boundary, or worst case, fight back to protect our lives. Allowing yourself to connect to your Anger in a potentially dangerous situation can save your life.

This actually happened to a friend of mine. In her early 20’s she was in a dangerous area late at night and 2 men tried to kidnap her. The driver stayed in the car while the other man tried to drag her into the back seat. Her Anger became her best ally. She felt a surge of adrenaline and rage, and she fought back with such powerful angry energy that she beat her assailant up and yanked out hunks of his hair. The other man drove off in terror, he was so frightened by her rage. (Imagine of the Amazon warrior woman archetype here.) So her ability to access her Anger was her best friend that night.

So in closing, don’t be afraid of your own Anger. It is an important emotion and one that allows us to be fully human. Even the Bible (written over  2000 years ago) has a saying, “Be angry but do not sin.” Practice allowing healthy Anger expression when needed vs. letting it leak out in other ways. Or keeping it inside and poisoning our own bodies.  As always, I am eager to here how it goes. Please write and share about your own journey with Anger!

Going Deeper

1.) Can you describe a time when you felt and expressed your own anger in a healthy and appropriate manner? How did it go? Who are the people who are more open to allowing your healthy expression of any emotion? If you have no one who can do this or very few, adding some new emotionally healthy friendships may be a great idea.

2.) How is your boundary system? In your daily life, how does anger and boundaries interact, if they do at all? Are you able to say NO, and hold your position even if the other person gets angry with you?

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BLOG 41: Anger & Anxiety:Part two- Poems about rage.

Let’s take a break today from all the Left brain activity consisting of helpful facts and materials about Anger and Anxiety. Let us slip over to our Right brains and connect to the subject in the intuitive, feeling, and creative realm.

I find writing poetry a wonderful outlet for creativity (by that way, expressing our creative energies decreases sensations of anxiety), as well as for off-loading excess emotional energy and anxious activation caused by big feeling states.

This first poem was written years ago as I finally became aware of the old Anger still living in my cells and belly, that had been lurking mostly under my conscious awareness. (I bet the people closest to me were aware of it but I was mostly clueless.) So, when the Anger got so big I could no longer smother and ignore it, I became aware of it but had no idea how to express or get rid of it. I felt terrified and constipated by this stuck angry place inside of my body. So I wrote this poem entitled, “Lucky Bastards”.

Lucky Bastards

Rage is cadged, locked tight

in the castle of my heart

the key lost, some years ago

by my careless hands,

more concerned with building

a stage, on which to play a life,

unable to retain, what’s actual, real.

 

Preferring to paint pretty pictures

others praise, to the middle tint

of authentic life, clouded by gray days

and bouts of rage, marring the pretense

of perfection and poise.

 

Princesses can sulk and pout

but rage is beneath them.

It’s the province of paupers and Princes.

I watch as they rant and rage,

perched decorously on my perfect stage

thinking, “those lucky bastards.”

The second poem was also written a long time ago. My early work as a new therapist trying to support abused clients, was one of the catalysts that brought the beginnings of awareness to my own anger. This Anger, left over, from my own early years of being mistreated; at home at times, school bullying, abusive Spiritual leadership, and maltreatment from tyrannical nasty bosses. Not only did I feel my body’s truth, somehow I was still pissed about it all. Now I was also becoming more aware of new Anger arising. Infuriated by hearing the horror stories coming out in my counseling sessions with teenage clients. Many, of whom, were being mistreated and/or not protected by their parents. This poem arose from my body, almost like vomit from the belly. A visceral response to the counseling work with these young women.

“Helpless Rage for a drowning client”

My rage is hidden, shy, sly.

It rises and I turn to look

and it’s already gone

like the view in the rear view mirror.

 

The parents are killing her, I say.

But the Bureaucratic bunglers don’t stop them

everyone looks the other way

and she is drowning in front of my eyes.

I give her a breath of clean air

here and there, but stand aside,

as she thrashes, like a good citizen,

while they murder her by inches,

and hack her soul to bits.

 

I want to stab them, slash them

into ribbons, and feed her their flesh

but it will do no good

nothing does. So I take up

again, my useless vigil

and give her another breath.

By Wanda Brothers

As you could probably tell from the poems, at that point in my life I had not learned yet to healthily experience and express my Anger. These skills did, and are continuing to, come, but it took professional support and years of work.

We will talk more about Anger and Anxiety in the next blog in this series, focusing on a few of the problematic outcomes from refusing to accept, acknowledge and deal with old or current hurt and pain. These outcomes, Anger’s cousins, are called Bitterness and Resentment and they not only make us, and our loved ones, miserable but they cause tremendous anxiety. And finally, we will focus on healthy Anger.

Please send comments that let the rest of us know about your own struggles with Anger and learning how to deal with it in a healthy manner. We can always learn from each other in every aspect of life. It’s one of the things that makes life worth living.

IMG_0531 In a great mother and daughter bond, anger is still allowed.

Going Deeper:

1.)  What is your visceral/body response to either or both of the poems? Now, what are your emotional and mental responses?  Can you relate to the struggle of buried anger?

2.) How do you deal with old hurts and wounds? Most buried Angry/Rage comes from being harmed or betrayed by our loved ones or other humans. Are you able to confront and move on or do you carry old somatic sensations of Anger and pain inside?

Blog 40: Anger & Anxiety- Part 1

In today’s blog we will discuss Anger and Anxiety. Anger is an important emotion experienced by humans of every world culture. However, this strong feeling/emotion is often a tricky feeling to experience and to navigate healthily. We have all seen Anger expressed in unhealthy ways (just watch most action adventure movies) and for this reason Anger has often gotten a bad rap.

We will address healthy Anger in the next blog, but today we will explore how Anger and Anxiety are connected. While it may seem they are opposite emotions — Anger is often experienced as an emotion expanding our energy into the world, and Anxiety as an emotion that contracts us away from the world—they are often linked. So, what is the relationship between Anger and Anxiety?

First off, both Anger and Anxiety are sensations/emotions many of us experience as extremely uncomfortable, and the expression of both emotions are fairly hard to disguise.  Many people experience and express consistent Anxiety as chronic irritation, and may not even understand they are anxious. If you would measure their physiology, (levels of stress hormones and the amount of activation in the Autonomic Nervous Systems—ANS) you find their ANS is agitated and dis-regulated, hence the chronic irritation. If you are feeling happy, content, and life is going well, there is little need to be irritable, is there?

Frankly, Anger is scary for most of us, it is a big, and very powerful sensation and experiencing it can feel like it could swallow us whole. It can be extra difficult for women who are often socialized from babyhood that nice girls don’t get angry. We have often heard angry women being described as that “B” word that has kept many females stuck in the prison of nice. (Yes, I mean Bitch!)  Over the years many a woman has been stopped from angrily voicing her true thoughts and feelings, fearing that label. (Though it seems the new generation of young women are less bothered by it than my generation.) However, voicing our thoughts and feelings is critically important for our emotional and physiological health, as well as for changing things that need to be changed. As the bumper sticker so aptly states, “Well behaved women seldom make history.” I would argue that holds true for men as well. It is often the humans who have behaved against culture norms that have changed our world for the better.

Men often struggle with the emotion of Anger as well. However, often the male struggle is with controlling the expression of Anger, not so much not allowing themselves to feel it. Again, socialization plays a big role in our childhood, as well as our adult, behavior. Generally if you go watch young children at recess, the girls are often giggling and playing together, and the boys are fighting with sticks, or whatever vaguely weapon-shaped objects they can find. It’s our gender differences showing up in our play. Our brain wiring, hormonal systems and socialization are vastly different from that of the opposite sex. If we can understand that and work with those differences instead of stigmatizing each other, the world would be a kinder place.

So many human beings become automatically Anxious when we experience the emotion of Anger, whether it’s our own Anger or the Anger of someone else directed at us. Anger is not often handled well in workplaces, families, etc. Sometimes people get stuck in Anger and are not be able to discharge it healthily, or may not want to let it go. Anger can be a secondary emotion, coming up repeatedly after we have been hurt by another person. Sometimes after being emotionally wounded, it is easier (and often more pleasant) to feel Anger rather than the underlying hurt or sadness, or the helplessness to do anything about the pain of betrayal. Feeling Anger is correlated emotionally with the threat of harm, being stuck in Anger often keeps our bodies stuck in threat physiology, which causes physiological anxiety just by its very nature.

We will explore more about Anger and Anxiety and talk about healthy Anger in part 2 of this blog.  In closing, I encourage my readers to be curious about your own relationship to Anger. How does Anger impact your life, your health, and your relationships? I would love to hear any thoughts people are willing to share.

Angry woman
Frustrated and angry-A big emotion

Going Deeper

1.) What do you think or feel when you read about Anger? Do you have a healthy relationship to your own Anger? What about to your loved one’s Anger? Do you express anger directly, or do you let it leak out in other ways that are less frightening but still cause great damage? (I.e. the silent treatment, passive aggressive behaviors, etc.)

2.) How does your body respond to Anger in general? How does it react to other’s Anger? Do you retract, or do you desire to fight back and defend yourself?

#22: Love Leaves Tracks!

Early one morning I was on the beach checking out the surf. I happened to look down and actually notice my surroundings. I saw imprinted in the sand, an abstract work of art consisting of many different bird tracks. There was not a single bird on the beach, but so many bird’s footprints. Just by looking at the unique shape of each track, I could tell what species of bird left them behind. This visual stimulated some thoughts about how things other than birds can leave tracks in the “sand” of my life. Even “intangibles” like Love and Anxiety, especially these two.

When I am deeply loved by another human, it leaves a tangible imprint on my heart and in my life. I was on crutches recently and so many friends offered to help me. Even a few kind strangers opened restaurant doors and carried my coffee. Kind and loving acts change us a little bit each and every time we experience one. Love’s imprint, opens our hearts and allow us to feel the deep goodness of this wonderful life we have been granted.

Some of my readers may be having a hard time right now and do not feel love is available to them. But whether you believe the Source of Love is called God, a Higher Power, or even a benign universe, this world is bathed in love. Strangers donating a kidney to save a life, people building homes for hurricane victims they have never met, parents patiently nurturing crying infants night after night, or even parents rescuing their adult children from yet another big mess! Love leaves footprints. Some of these include; an open heart, delight, expansiveness, peace, joy, trust, safety, a sense that life is good. Love is everywhere, though sometimes we miss it because we are not looking for it.

Often we fail to see the tracks of love in our life, because the tracks fear and anxiety leave seem bigger and more relevant. Anxiety leaves tangible tracks in our life as well. These can include: fear, worry, a self protective stance, doubting our decisions, selfishness, and anger. Because anxiety/fear screams at us internally, it is so easy to only notice the anxiety tracks and move into worry or panic mode. Love and peace are much “quieter” sensations and are easy to miss in the daily stress of our lives. And, since the brain is more interested in negative information than positive information, the anxious tracks catch and hold most of our attention. (See previous blogs is this is new information to you.)

There is a simple, but not easy to practice, antidote to living constantly in stress and worry. Choosing to deliberately refocus our primary attention from the tracks and sensations of anxiety. Honing our focus and attention onto the the tracks love has made and is still making, even in stressful situations. (This is an aspect of mindfulness.) Love is more powerful than fear! This week I encourage you to try this practice, deliberately look for love and away from the anxiety. You will have to do it over and over, but the more you do this, the more you will be able to calm down and see the good, even in hard situations. Love does cast out fear, but we need lots of it!

Going deeper:

1.) When you think of the tracks in the sand of your heart, what comes first to your mind? What specific tracks do you experience with both of these “emotions”?
2.) Who are the people in your life that make the most Love tracks? Do they know how grateful you are to them? Who or what makes the strongest anxiety tracks in your life? What might you do to decrease some of these?
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Blog 19: Rage, Art & Poetry

Today we will talk about Art, and specifically, poetry. Poetry is a powerful art medium that combines words, metaphors, and images in a manner that deeply touches the human soul. According to wikipeda.com “Poetry uses forms and conventions to suggest differential interpretation to words, or to evoke emotive responses.” Today we value conventional poetry less than our ancestors did, but our musicians and moviemakers are this generation’s poets. And I would suggest, that is one reason why we value them so deeply and sometimes “worship” some of our favorite bands and musicians.

But an additional benefit of poetry is the reason it is today’s focus. If you can recall the subjects from recent blog posts — emotion, sensation and emotional regulation— then you will see where I am going with this. Poetry is a wonderful means and medium to help us Experience and Express our big emotions. (Remember those 2 E’s that help us better handle our upsetting emotional storms?) By connecting to what we really “feel” inside, we can use the energy generated, and pour it into a poem. Sharing the raw pain/anger/confusion/joy or terror that we feel, allows other humans to realize they are not alone in these states. Poetry has an intimate connecting effect, it often prompts us to say, “Oh you feel that too! Wow, I thought I was alone in this.”  

As a therapist working with anxiety and trauma, I hear terrible stories from people of all ages. Some of these stories are harder to shake off than others and I feel the impact in my body. It is especially hard when working with children or teens. Some stories really trigger me because I have felt or experienced similar emotions, or even situations. In the past I got scared of being overwhelmed by all the pain that found its way into my office day after day. However, years ago, I found out with the help of a wise wizard woman, (you know who you are, and Yes, there are still those living on the planet) that poetry was a wonderful way to allow processing and releasing of these big somatic impacts. So I started writing poetry out of my own rage, confusion, and pain, and the vicarious pain of the courageous people I have the joy of journeying alongside of on this crazy path called life.

Since for many, anger is such a difficult emotion to healthily express, I will show how anger can be expressed in two poems I will use to end today’s blog. Poetry can allow a sense of playfulness, even when expressing rage. (Any poem about clients are a compilation of client stories in order to protect client confidentiality.)

Poem 1- Superhero        by Wanda Brothers

When I grow up, I wanna be

a super-hero, with big black boots

wielding a lengthy whip,

and a surplus of superpowers.

 

My job will be my joy

chasing villains, busting bad guys,

making a safer world for us all,

enacting the eventually promised justice,

that I lack the patience to wait for.

 

I will be respected and feared

and little old ladies will thank me,

and bake me casseroles

for saving their grandchildren

from the swine that pollute

our earth like raw sewage,

raiding and raping with impunity

until they run into me.

 

Then shaking with terror,

they will pee their pants

piteously pleading for the mercy

they denied many a victim.

With studied gravity, I will demur,

and with a pretense of regret, 

I will annihilate them, and then,

dance on their graves with glee.

Poem 2 – Helpless Rage for a Drowning Client   -By Wanda Brothers

My rage is hidden, shy, sly.

It rises and I turn to look

and it’s already gone

like the view in the rear view mirror.

 

The parents are killing her, I say.

and the Bureaucratic bunglers don’t stop them

everyone looks the other way

and she is drowning in front of my eyes.

I give her a breath of clean air

here and there, but stand aside,

as she thrashes, like a good citizen,

while they murder her by inches,

and hack her soul to bits.

 

I want to stab them, slash them

into ribbons, and feed her their flesh

but it will do no good,

nothing does, so I take up

again, my useless vigil

and give her another breath.

       Going Deeper:

  1. Do you enjoy poetry as an art form, if so, who is your favorite poet? If not, can you notice how the lyrics to some of your favorite songs find their way into your soul? 
  2. I encourage you to try writing a poem or a song about the next big emotional storm that you go through. Allow the emotions and sensations to generate words and images and see what happens internally after you get them down on paper or on your ipad/iphone/imac or PC. Then, as one more big step, I suggest you share it with the person closest to you. I think you will be thrilled at how they respond. 
  3. If you want to send me any of your poetry, feel free, I would love to read it. info@sdtraumatherapy.com

Love & Anxiety #15: “To feel or not to feel….

At the end of last week’s blog, I mentioned that emotions begin as physiological events and not as emotional contracts and I promised to share more. I am not saying that we don’t experience emotions as mental constructs, but that the physiological change in the body comes first. Our then minds realize, ‘oh I am really angry, or, I am depressed’.  

To clarify this a bit more, let’s talk about language. The mind’s language is of course, words! As noted in the above examples. However, our body has its own language and speaks to us, but we often do not hear or even try to listen. The body’s language is Sensation.  Perhaps you have heard these phrases:feeling things in our guts; that pit in the middle of my stomach; or, the tightness in my chest, etc. Less often, we may be aware of a lightness in our hearts, a warm expansiveness in our chests, etc. This is the language of the body. It buzzes, constricts, contracts, chills, warms, opens, expands, just to name a few of the body’s words.

The reasons we are often unaware of, or completely ignore our body’s messages, is we have forgotten this language. We deem those messages irrelevant to our busy grown up lives. Somewhere between elementary school and high school, most humans cease listening to their bodies and begin to live in their heads. Our culture and our role models (adults) usually reinforce the message that our mind is the master and carrier of the most important information. Often it is our poets; musicians, film directors, artists, creative types, etc., who are the holdouts staying connected to both languages, which is one reason we adore them so.

If a person lives in her mind a majority of the time, she will have trouble really experiencing her emotions because she is not truly inhabiting her body. Until the sensations get soooo big, she can’t ignore them anymore. This is one reason why people who spend lots of time in their heads obsessing and worrying, experience high levels of body anxiety. The body is a lot bigger than the mind, especially when it comes to the “negative” emotions. (Not because they are bad, but because they FEEL so bad.) Anger, fear, sadness, when you have tried to tamp them down and ignore them for too long, eventually they will surge out and blow up. When they do, it’s usually a mess. We rant at someone, or go into a deep depression, or have anxiety and panic attacks, to give a few examples. 

Next week I will publish Part two of this blog, sharing more about embodied, present, living and how to more easily deal with our emotional storms. Stay tuned!

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my lovely Aussie friends displaying two powerful emotions -joy and anger

Going Deeper;

1.) What emotions are you comfortable experiencing and which emotions are outlawed from your life? Do you resonate with the information that when we stuff and bury emotions for too long, they burst up and make a mess?

2.) Are you comfortable in your body? Can you listen to its language of sensation? What sensations are you currently most aware of?