What the hell is so wrong with anger?

We’ve gotten to a point where the feeling of anger has gotten a bad rap. We are so afraid of anger and so judgmental of it. Simply feeling angry feels like were out of control. I’ve had clients tell me, “Julie, my anger is out of control. I can’t control my anger.” It is then that I ask, “what makes you say that?” I hear things like, “I’m so angry I could scream. I sometimes feel so angry I want to punch someone.” “Well, did you punch someone?” is my next question. The answer, “No.” Then your anger is not out of control. Simply feeling it does not equal out of control. Hauling off and punching someone then we might be having a different conversation. So here it is…FEELING ANGRY IS NOT BAD! Allowing ourselves to feel angry and expressing that anger are actually VERY health emotionally and physically. Pent up anger makes us sick. It stops our flow. Healthy expression is good. Problem is we aren’t really taught about healthy expression, so we end up stuffing it. It seems we are either taught to avoid this feeling along with several others completely, or we have witnessed or experienced some really not fun expressions of anger, which makes even considering expression seem terrifying. Then there are all the worries around what will happen if I express my anger.

As a matter of fact the whole idea of avoiding negative feelings that we are taught makes me want to scream. Excuse me for a minute while I go find a pillow to scream into. Ok there, that is better. I’ve also been known to take a tennis racket or a fist to a pillow… Ask my husband. After the fact this must be an amusing scene, but hey it works. Even when I was a child I could be found humming a cabbage ball (a southern thing… a ball the size of a cabbage…not an actual cabbage) against the bricks of the house when I was really mad. Maybe this explains why I developed such a good arm… But I digress. Ha!

So back to anger. Anger is there for a reason. Go with it versus against it. Here are some healthy suggestions for going with it:

1. Venting to a friend can be very therapeutic. If this becomes a constant about the same topic this is no longer therapeutic. Now we are just recontaminating… Not good for our mind, body, or Spirit not to mention the friendship! It may be time for an appointment with a therapist. And when you vent really exaggerate it. You may want to give the friend fair warning that you are really gonna get into it. If you see a therapist and they frown on this, find another one!

2. Writing a letter.. Even if it is just for you to burn… Or journaling. Getting these feelings out on paper can be really beneficial. Once dumped out onto a page it can stop stewing in our bodies and rolling around in our thoughts. The clarity we get from writing is an added bonus. Again, for the first writing really get into it. You can always edit later if you want.

3. As you heard about earlier, scream into a pillow or in your car. Be sure to roll the window down for a second after… Don’t keep it in the car. (I’ll have an entire post just about this soon.) I have scared the crap out of my brother with this one on the phone when, out of know where, I screamed. He is used to it now when I am tense or angry and need a release. Right after it becomes hilarious. I have learned you might want to announce the scream first! I think my husband has learned to be able to predict when this is coming.

4. The tennis racket method you heard above is great. Make sure the pillow can handle it.

5. Telling the person we might be angry with about it in a healthy way, which means watching for name calling and blaming. You might need to try number 1 through 4 above to get clear for this one! More to come about healthy disclosure of anger, hurt or disappointment later.

Well, there you have it! Let me know which of these you might decide to try and how it feels. If you feel this will help others, please share.

For the Love of Questions

During the holidays my husband and I attended a beautiful Christmas service called Christmas Carols and Lessons. Within five minutes I was moved by the music and then surprised by what hit me. The first passage was the story of when Adam and Eve hear God coming in the garden and they hide. God asks “Where are you?” Adam replies “I heard the sound of you in the garden. I was afraid because I was naked so I hid.” God asks, “who told you that you were naked?”

Unlike my Hindu husband I had heard this story many, many times. But for the first time, I sat there and thought, “wow!” We have been fooled since the beginning of the Old Testament and maybe well before that. Maybe this is obvious, but I had never quite listened to the story this way. I usually just heard all the wrongness and punishment in the rest of that story. This time was different. We have so easily bought what other people or culture in general have told us is wrong. Adam and Eve didn’t know they were naked until the serpent told Eve to eat from the tree. They did not believe there was anything wrong with how they were being. They did not believe they had to cover up and hide until someone or something interjected. I guess body shame started way back then, but that is a post in and of itself.

Back to today’s reflection…. How often do we travel through life thinking we are wrong simply because someone or something told us we were and we bought it? What if their truth is not our truth? I am not here to say whether we should be walking around naked or not. Although I am sure we could have a lot of fun with that conversation. The point is whose life are we living? Whose voices are we hearing? Do we even know how we feel or what we want? Do we even really recognize our own voice? Or are we following an accumulation of ideas and rules that other people convinced us was the right way to live — ideas that other people told us define success or a happy life? I ask myself and my clients these questions often. I ask the questions not to come up with an answer right away. I ask to create an opening and an openness. I am a firm believer of the great poet Rainer Marie Rilke’s idea to, “have patience with all that is unresolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves…”.

The questions are reminders that these are our lives to create in our own authentic ways. The questions help give insight and direction in an intuitive sort of way. There seems to be an immediate awareness about what comes from within versus what is some rule passed along that we have been trying to squeeze into. I don’t ever intend to stop asking questions. They are a reminder of possibilities. They point to the responsibility and privilege to shine our very own light. It is so easy for the world’s rules and occurrences to mute or attempt to extinguish that light. That’s never the end of the story though. It doesn’t have to be unless we let it.

The last lesson of that Christmas service brought it all home. It is a passage from John that reads, “…light shines in darkness and darkness could not over power it”. As we settle into the new year, let us remember our light. How willing are we to travel into our authenticity — that light that we are here to contribute to the world? Each of us has our very own that only we can be. The journey into this begins with the questions.

-Julie Booksh (Counselor & Speaker)