Tag Archives: Family of Origin

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 32: Making New Associations: Moving from Pain to Pleasure.

Big fun for Junior, not so much for kitten junior
Big fun for Junior, not so much for kitten junior

Imagine with me a trip to the Middle East where we see a camel driver and her camel. If the human driver is aware of her camel’s limits and needs, they thrive as a team. But if the driver is only doing what works for her and not paying attention to how the camel is doing, she can damage or kill the camel by overworking it.

This visual analogy can be used to describe our mind’s relationship to the body. The mind drives the camel that is our body and often does not pay attention to how the heavy load we are carrying makes us beyond exhausted.  Instead the mind says, “sure we can take one more load” because the mind does not sense the visceral impact of our physical, social and emotional loads like the body does. Many humans drive their bodies past their limits on a regular basis.

Keeping this analogy in mind, we now move to the subject of this blog- moving from choosing painful things to choosing pleasant things. Of all the recent blog posts about moving from one association to another, this one is more complex than you might imagine. Previous blogs spoke about moving from Duty to Joy, from Scarcity to Plenty, from Craving Certainty to Wanting Wonder, and from Faking it to Living Honestly. Underneath all of these prior blog categories, are the foundational and more basic encompassing categories of Pleasure and Pain. All of the previous associations were in some form about moving toward more pleasure in life and getting away from things that feel unpleasant or even cause pain. (At times pain can be a wakeup call that helps us to grow or learn things, but today’s blog is not about that kind of pain, that is a subject for another blog.)

Scientists tell us that even the most basic bacterium are able to move toward what is pleasant and away from what is unpleasant. I am not sure what a bacteria uses as criteria for knowing pleasure, but we humans have several systems that determine pleasure and pain.

The healthy human body is the most accurate pleasure seeking system, constantly moving us from unpleasant sensations/pain to pleasure all the time. My belly is empty. I feel hunger pangs that are unpleasant, so I move toward the kitchen (Eclipse chocolate cafe if I am feeling frisky). I eat, and I now have pleasant feelings. I am tired, my cortisol levels drop. So I feel really sleepy and I go to bed and I wake up feeling rested and that is pleasant. I could go on, but you get the point. Our bodies are constantly trying to move us toward pleasure and pleasantness using our brains, ANS, and our instincts and drives. A healthy body usually has little problem with this natural process. Beloved children are great examples of trying to live in pleasantness 24/7. Partly because their brains are less developed and their minds are less complex than “grownups”, this is easier for them than for us.

In contrast to our bodies, our mind is a tricky beast. The body if healthy and not traumatized will generally move us toward choices that are more pleasant. However, the mind is not that simple and its motivations and desires can be clouded by many factors, such as projections, FOO messages (FOO stands for Family of Origin, not 1/2 the name of a band) cultural mores, others’ demands, mental illness and drugs, etc.
So, let’s talk about our Minds, the more complex system that humans use to determine pleasure or what is painful. The mind and the brain are not fully synonymous terms, even if they are possibly neighbors residing in a duplex condo in our heads. Neuroscientists will admit, no one knows for sure where the mind is located. We do know that much of our lower brain regions (Limbic and Brain Stem) produce subcortical responses, or in layman’s terms, knee jerk responses. The mind is believed to produce our thoughts. The ability to produce thought is connected with consciousness and our ability to be aware of our inner selves and our outer surroundings.

How do our minds sometimes hinder us from automatically choosing pleasure? Our minds can want two, or more, things all at the same time. We can desire to keep that massage appointment to provide our bodies with much needed self-care. AND, at the same time, we can want to say “yes” to the urgent call from PTA President Patty who needs help with the bake sale that is going on the exact same time as your massage appointment. While we may desire to say “yes” to both options, our motivations for the yes differ. The desire for self-care comes from our own body and ANS, which desire to move toward pleasure, while the need to comply with others, almost always comes from our mind’s desire to keep our social network happy, and to look good to our peers. Both are normal human desires, but the first can lead to a healthier life, while the second, eventually leads to burnout and resentment. (Generally woman struggle most with trying to keep their social circles happy. Our socialization and brain wiring are different from that of our male counterparts).

So, how does this connect with the new association of moving toward pleasure? We will move toward whichever motivation in that moment is given the highest priority by our mind, which usually determines what we desire and will go after. At least until we learn to reconnect with the wealth of intuitive, organic, deep wisdom that dwells in our body’s cells and systems. Our bodies know best when it comes to how much energy we have left to give, how much we should load on our proverbial plates, and how much we are living our lives based upon our truest selves and truest desires. Many of us are living out of false selves, behavioural masks we have been wearing because as children they seemed to bring up more acceptance. So now, we can’t imagine not striving for perfection, or not being the best at everything, or not staying in control 24/7. We often listen to our minds and our social programming and the things that pump up our egos. When we make decisions based solely upon these categories, we often miss the body’s messages. Messages such as “when do we get our needs met, we are so tired, we are lonely, we want to lean on someone, we want to be cherished and cared for, etc.”

My encouragement to you is to begin to listen more closely to the calls and desires of your bodies. And, to set your intentions to choose pleasant sensations over painful ones on a regular basis. The research shows repeatedly, the best antidote to stress/anxiety/trauma is healthy pleasure. Take that walk on the beach, or that hot bath, or get that massage, or acupuncture or cranial sacral appointment. Let your friends support you for once, and find the joy in each simple moment. Life is much more than getting our “to do lists” done and looking good to our bosses or neighbours. If you have not belly laughed or felt deep joy in a while, you probably need more self-care and to pay more attention to your body. Your long term health will thank you, and so will your family and friends. Many of us are stressed out, hot messes mostly because we have not been intentionally choosing pleasure, so pain is often our option by default. Practice paying attention to which system makes most of your choices this week, and choose pleasure as often as you can. Let me know how it goes!

Going deeper:

1.) What are your predominate messages about pleasure? What was your Family of Origin’s (FOO) attitude toward pleasure? What are your healthy pleasures? If you don’t know, you really need to find out for the sake of your body.

2.) What is your relationship to pain or painful events?  Are you able to listen to your pain and learn from it? Can you move away from painful sensations toward pleasant ones, or once pain hits are you stuck there for hours?

Blog #16: Part Two-To Feel or Not to Feel….and how to Deal!

I am curious about what you have have noticed or experienced after reading the contents of last week’s blog? We talked about about Emotion, Sensation, and Living Embodied. I concluded by suggesting that living Embodied helps us better handle our emotional storms. If you did not read (part one) last week’s blog, it will help you understand this one better if you go back and read it first.

Living Embodied is our birthright as a Human Being and something little children do extremely well. If you want to learn more about it, with openness and curiosity, watch a child for long periods of time. You will learn more from watching a child live in her body than from my few words.  

When you do learn how to live Embodied -that is being aware of the sensations and messages from your body, listening to them and responding appropriately-  you begin to notice the emotions you are experiencing when they are small and more manageable. When you first begin listening to your sensations, you might not know how to respond appropriately right away, but if you keep listening, your body will teach you all you need to know. (Every human body has an amazing Organic Intelligence within. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself why wounds always heal themselves, as long as the area is kept clean). When we allow our sensation and feelings into our awareness immediately, we can ‘metabolize’ them so much quicker and they do not build up in our bodies. Just like our digestive system metabolizes a big meal, by breaking it down in usable portions.

In order to ‘metabolize’ emotions and allow them to pass through us without causing great havoc, use the two E’s, or E2. We first need to Experience our emotion as it surfaces out of our physiology/body. We do this by awareness and attention, we notice and are honest about what we are feeling internally. To further metabolize this emotion, next, we then figure out how we want to Express that emotion. Do we want to write a letter, cry, yell at someone, or talk to a husband, friend, or therapist? When we utilize the two E’s, most emotions will pass right on through our mind and body fairly quickly, like a wave moves through the ocean and then returns to the body of the sea. This may be a challenge when you first begin to try, but like anything else, it gets easier with time and practice.

So this week spend some time re-learning, if you have forgotten, your body’s language of sensation. Notice how your throat/chest/belly reacts to uncomfortable experiences. Or, how that same region reacts when things go really well and you feel deeply loved and cared for by your loved ones. 

One big additional benefit of living Embodied, your emotional range will begin to expand. Instead of just the primary emotions of mad, sad, glad, and afraid, you will begin to experience/feel many nuanced and other subtle emotional experiences. Having a larger emotional range brings more exquisite experiences to your life. As when a painter with access to a greater range of colors, rather than painting with only the primary few, makes his painting much more vibrant and expressive.

Images

Babies are the best example of Embodied living-Africa trip 2011

Going Deeper;

1.) Do you remember how your parents dealt with their emotions when you were a child? This week try to notice, do you handle your emotions in similar ways, or did you take a different path? 

2.) What emotions were you allowed to express in your home growing up? Which one(s) were outlawed? Do you still live by those “old” somatic rules?

3.) Are you able to utilize the two E’s when it comes to emotion? If not, which one causes the most difficulty, Experiencing or Expressing?  This week just practice listening to mind and body and see what is different.

To learn how to evict the anxiety in your life, join one of my 3-week anxiety reduction workshops. Go to http://www.sdtraumatherapy.com for more information. Mention this blog when you sign up and receive a 10% discount! Happy Loving.