Boiling Mad? Schedule an Anger Date

anger date

When it comes to anger, there seems to be two types of people who get all the attention- those who have no problems spewing anger everywhere and those who feel it’s best to never display anger. I have a suggestion for the second group – schedule an anger date. 

What’s an Anger Date?

An anger date is a scheduled period of time where you talk about in all the things that make you angry. You could do this alone, with another person, or with a crowd of people. However many are participating, you just let it rip. Yell, scream, cry, be demonstrative. The only restrictions are that you can’t hurt yourself or anyone else, you can’t take your anger out on anyone else, and you must stop when the time is up. 

Let’s take a look at what this might look like. Say you’re going to do a solo anger date this evening at 6:00 p.m. Maybe you prepare by writing some quick blurbs down so you don’t forget certain things. As the day goes on, your list gets longer. You start to even feel a little excited about it.

At the appointed time, you set an alarm for fifteen minutes and let her rip. You speak your anger into the world. You say how hurt you are and how you didn’t like what happened. Maybe you punch a pillow or two. After a while, you look at the clock and notice that only four minutes have passed so you wind up again. You want to be sure to use all your time. So, you go back over the same ground. 

This time maybe it’s even more intense because you had some practice. Or it could be less intense because you let off the first round of steam. However it works is okay. Just keep going until your time is up. If you have to rev the engine to make it go, that’s okay. If you have to fake it  little, that’s okay too. Maybe you reach back into ancient history to get enough fuel to keep it going. That’s perfectly fine. 

You set aside this time for your emotional expression. It’s a gift. Use it. 

If you choose to do it with one other person, the person acts as a witness for you. You act as a witness for him or her. There is no judgment and no feedback – ever. When it’s over, it’s over.  The purpose is to be heard. That’s it. 

If you do it in a group, either the whole group can go at the same time or half can witness for the other half as they express their anger, then the other half expresses while the rest witness.

We need permission to express. Most of us are told as children, “Be quiet. Don’t do that” when we emote. So we learn to keep it in and be quiet. Everything wants freedom to be real and authentic. Your emotions do too.

Now this doesn’t mean that you get to go out and unleash on people. The Anger Date is about primarily getting things out in a controlled way. As you get better at feeling, you wont need to explode or set a date with your emotions. You’ll just feel and express appropriately as feelings arise. If you’re not there yet, you can try this technique and let me know how it works for you.

“I’m Not Supposed to Feel This Way”

not supposed to feel

Do you ever get surprised by thought “I’m not supposed to feel this way”? Do you think that you’ve outgrown a feeling or have healed and moved on only to be sneak attacked by old frustrations? What’s going on? Let’s take a look at some possibilities.

You’re More Self Aware

Sometimes being more self aware or less guarded means seeing what you didn’t see before. Perhaps the underlying feelings were always there, they were just covered up by busyness, avoidance, not being completely truthful with yourself, or just not being aware. Now that all that is relaxed, it’s easy to see what was once hidden. If you’re more self aware, great! It’s a fabulous time to finally deal with old issues once and for all.

You’re Less Self Aware

Sometimes we stop using our skills and are less mindful. Maybe things are going well and we don’t need to think about being skillful. Maybe we just get lazy. This can cause us to go back to old behaviors that create old feelings. For example, when we go home for the holidays, we may feel like we’re in the same dynamics that we lived in as a child. This can make us revert to our childhood ways of being. If we are not careful, our mindful skills will go right out the window.

Everything Is As It Should Be

Sometimes feeling the way that you used to feel just means that you’re engaging in life. We never get to a point where things don’t hurt, we never get angry, or we don’t need a reality check. When we are growing, we move through life in a circle. We feel the same old things, but in different ways or different circumstances. It doesn’t mean something is wrong. It just means we are living. When we are trespassed against, we get angry. If we are afraid, we can cower, fight, or run. When we’re happy, we smile, laugh, and are easy to be around. It’s just what people do.

Perhaps the first thing to do when old feeling arise is to just sit with them. Feel them. Let them speak to you. It could be that nothing else needs to be done. They just want to move through. If it seems that you’ve got some work to do, attack it when you’re ready. Everything is just feedback. Your feelings are just helping you get a sense of where you are and where you need to be to get back in alignment with your center. Cherish them. As long as you are feeling, you’re human! That’s cause to celebrate.

Numbness, Dissociation, and Feelings

numbness

Do you feel asleep at the wheel? Do you miss subtle cues about what’s true or how people feel that other people seem to “just know?” Are you feeling numb, depressed, or just not here? Maybe it’s because you’re numb or dissociated. You can’t have a full, vibrant life if you are not in your body. You can’t feel if you’re not embodied. How would you know if this is you?

Numbness

Numbness feels like the absence of sensation. You’re in your body, but it’s not really responding to stimulus. Perhaps you’re at your birthday party. All your friends are there. There is great food, music, and company – all the things that would normally make you happy. Yet, you’re not really feeling anything. You’re not even all that interested in being here. That’s what numbness is like.

It could also be that you’ve just shut down. Something has happened that has sucked all the juice out of you. You can’t take any more stimulus. Maybe you’re balled up in bed, sitting in the bath, or hiding out in your parked car. You’ve gone here to retreat and shut out the world. There are no thoughts or feelings.

With numbness, you’re still embodied, but you’re not feeling. This is generally situational and temporary.

Dissociation

Dissociation occurs when there is overwhelming stress. This could feel like you’re living in third person. You know what’s going on, but it’s like it is happening to someone else. Or maybe you know it’s happening to you, but you don’t feel what you think you ought to feel in response. It’s almost like you’re not there. Or rather your thoughts and body are there, but your feeling self is not.

Contact with reality can fluctuate. If it’s mild dissociation, you’re fully present, but detached. If it’s extreme, you could have go into full black outs and have complete amnesia. There is a fuzzy, in between state where you just feel zoned out and far away.

Both of these situations occur to keep you from collapsing. The brain is very useful in that way. It has tricks that help you to survive. The problem is that sometimes the things it classifies as dangerous aren’t harmful at all. Or it could turn on the fight or flight signal and then it doesn’t turn off so we’re on high alert for no reason. It takes a lot of energy to do that! In fact, it can be really exhausting.

All this is normal. We all do it sometimes, but if you do this habitually, it could be  sign that you have suffered from some trauma and may need more than just a good night sleep, a conversation with a friend, or to cry it out. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy to just bounce back after trauma. Your brain may be stuck on “on” and could need some help resetting. This is particularly true if the trauma was long lasting or very hurtful.

If you think this could be you, check it out with a trauma specialist. Just any old counselor won’t do because they may not have the knowledge to deal with trauma. Trauma is a specialty that requires bypassing talk to reach the deep limbic system and polyvagus nerves. Once these are released and reset, your functioning generally returns to the pre-trauma state. If the trauma happened when you were a child, you may need Dialectical Behavioral Therapy to give you the skills you didn’t learn so that you can function as a healthy adult.

If I can help with either of these, give me a call.

Face It. Feel It.

resting bitch face

Gone With the Wind is a fabulous movie. It’s a timeless look at humanity. One of the strongest scenes is when Scarlett is seen in the arms of her brother in law, Ashley. Her husband, Rhett Butler, won’t allow his disgraced wife to hide. He demands that she go to Melanie’s party and show her face. It’s a great example of how to deal with fear, shame, guilt, humiliation, grief, or anxiety. You just face it. Feel it. Put on your best dress. Do your hair, nails, and make up and stand in your truth.

Pain is a great teacher. It can’t teach you if you hide it or run from it. In Gone With the Wind, by facing down the gossip, Scarlett saved her reputation. The gesture said, “I am here!” and created space for her to continue living and interacting with people and life. This allowed her to have control over her life rather than letting the gossip control her. You can’t heal in the fetal position. Stand up! Face it. Feel it.

Wild is a movie about a woman taking a solo 1,100 mile hike where she left herself no option but to face it. Feel it. She looked at all her behaviors and gave no excuses. Instead of using energy to push her feelings away or deny them, she felt them. This created cracks where the sunshine could get in. At the end of her journey, she was empty. This emptiness created space where something new could blossom. Something more positive.

Life is always changing. We move from emptiness to fullness and back again. We circle from strength to weakness, youth to maturity, and innocence to wisdom and back again. It’s the necessary nature of things if growth is to happen. While withdrawing sitting in silence and contemplation, and resting is part of that circle too, that time is not meant for denial or hiding. Withdrawing from life isn’t living.

There is a lot of juice in pain! Energy needs to flow. Let yourself face it. Feel it. This requires courage, strength, and vulnerability. It may feel like this will kill you. It won’t. However, it will strip you of the very thing that ails you. When it’s done, if you do it mindfully, it will leave you with a greater sense of who you are. You may feel more compassion for yourself, a greater understanding of others, and an increased connection with life.

There are no “bad” emotions and no “bad” experiences if you use them to take you to the next place. Everything is as it should be. If you need help getting through the rough spots, reach out. Help is available.

The Six Facets of Connection

connection

There are many ways to feel a connection with someone. We live in a culture where we can think that feeling a spark means that romantic feelings or sex is the natural next step. Attraction doesn’t have to be sexual. Before you go down that road, you might want to explore the six facets of connection to see if that’s a good idea.

Physical Connection

This is the most obvious form of connection because it’s generally the first things we notice about someone. Physical connection has to do with liking physical attributes such as hair color and type, eye color, body style, skin tone, smell, sound of their voice, amount of body hair, and touch of their skin. These are things that are pleasant to the senses.

Intellectual Connection

Some people have a mental connection. Usually this means they have similar education level and intelligence because this has to do with sharing of ideas. You have to be able to keep up with someone, and be on the same wavelength, to have stimulating conversations that you both understand and enjoy. Enjoying each other’s sense of humor also falls here.

Emotional Connection

This is about intimacy really. When two people feel safe sharing their inner selves and giving that safe space to each other, they have emotional connection. If you’ve ever been with someone you feel just understands and accept you, you’ve felt this.

Sexual Connection

Physical connection is about liking what you see, hear, touch, and smell. So it’s more of the things that lead up to sexual connection. Sexual connection focuses on touch like cuddling, holding, kissing as well as love making. Do you like the same kinds of things in the same kinds of ways? How compatible are your sexual preferences and sex drives?

Practical Connection

This generally doesn’t come into play unless and until a couple is pretty serious and is contemplating sharing living space. Practical connection has to do with how well two people work together on everyday domestic issues such as housework. travel, child rearing, and handling finances.

Spiritual Connection

Spiritual connection is about the big picture. Do you share similar views about the meaning of life, God, religion, and how you connect to your spiritual essence. This tends to get more important as people age. It can also increase in importance if you have children and want to see them reared with some sort of spiritual awareness.

All of these things are important, but we don’t all rank them with the same level of importance nor do we always keep them in the same order throughout our lives. For example, at eighteen the two you might find most important could be  physical and sexual. At thirty-five they may be emotional and practical. What this means is, the guy that you fall in love with at eighteen may not be the guy you want at twenty-five.

We’re often ruled by our passions. This could mean that the person you have the hots for is not the right person for the big picture. Now, this is not to say that sex and physical attraction aren’t important! They are on the list for a reason! If physical and sexual connection are your top two things, this can make up for a lot of ways that you don’t connect. Since other things aren’t as important to you, it’s easier to overlook them. Just know that looks and passion don’t tend to last forever. And if they aren’t your top two things, you’re probably going to feel a bit empty and unhappy once the sex is over.

Evaluating your level of connection as you’re dating, and even in marriage, is a good idea because your top two are about your love language or how you like to be loved. If you want your partner to make love to your heart and mind before you feel physically aroused, you need to invest time in talking and creating that emotional connection. If you know that, you can dispense with the flowers and put your efforts where they will matter. On the other hand, if you are not feeling particularly fulfilled and you know that your top two are spiritual connection and practical things, it may be time to take the trash out then plan a spiritual retreat together.

Connection can feel like it “just happens.” Maybe so initially, but if you want to sustain it, you have to feed it. All energy dissipates. It requires input to regenerate and grow. There is no happily ever after without effort. When you know where to put it, it makes connection easier to sustain.

Keep in mind that not all attraction is physical. When you love someone’s mind or soul, you may feel like it would be so much more to love their body too. Ask yourself is that what your heart really feels or are you just getting carried away. You can’t undo what’s been done. You may be able to salvage a relationship after a bad call, but then again, you may not. So know yourself and choose wisely.

Your Feelings Are Not a Reflection of Reality

feelings are not reality

Your feelings are not a reflection of reality. They are a reflection of your thoughts, lifestyle (diet, sleep, whether or not you exercise, etc.), and emotional habits. If an acorn falls on my head and I think, “The sky is going to fall,” I respond with fear. If an acorn falls on my head and I think, “Great! Fall is here!” I respond with joy.

This is actually great information to have because it puts us in charge of our feelings. If we have the ability to control most of our feelings, why not choose feelings that affirm and motivate you? How do we do that?

Take care of your body

If you are not eating well, are tired, don’t move your body, or feel run down all the time, your energy will be low. Low energy produces lower frequency thoughts and emotions like sadness, doubt, anxiety, and guilt.

Be mindful of how you move your body

Feelings are physical. You can’t feel bad if you are jumping up and down and yelling with joy. Don’t believe me? Try it. Conversely, you can’t feel good if you are slumped over and downcast. Feelings exist in your body. If you do not have the body state to support a feeling, you cannot sustain a feeling. So, tell your brain that you are feeling strong, vibrant, and inspired by how you sit, breathe, walk, and gesture. Move in happy ways.

Get in the habit of being positive and feeling good

Neurons that fire together wire together. Your brain likes simplicity. The more you pair a happy thing with a mundane thing, the more you program your brain to feel happy. So whistle while you work. Sing when you’re doing the dishes. Rock out while you exercise. If you do this often enough, you will start to feel good for no reason.

Assign positive meanings to events

When we use feelings to make sense of our world and make decisions, we are often ineffective because we go negative. Who knows why things happen? Who knows what someone else’s motivations are? Since we don’t have all the answers, why not invent something that serves us?

If it rained today to make me slow down and pay attention to my driving, that’s probably a good thing. It sure beats feeling rushed and upset about it. If I don’t get a response to an invitation, I can wonder if my friend is mad at me, or I can tell myself that she is doing what she needs to do for herself. If I do this, my feelings are always at least neutral, if not positive.

When you’re feeling down, just remember that your feelings are not a reflection of reality. They are a reflection of your thoughts. This means they are a choice. Change your thoughts and you’ll change your feelings. Or you can just sit and feel your feelings. Nobody has to be happy all the time.

How to Reduce Emotional Crises

emotional crisis

A crisis is an event that overwhelms your ability to cope. So, the best way to reduce emotional crises is to increase your baseline level of functioning and increase the number and mastery of your skills.

How do you know you are having an emotional crisis? Here are some signs:

  • physical symptoms like headache, crying, pain, fatigue, stomach upset, loss of appetite
  • emotional symptoms like apathy, anxiety, mood swings, irritability
  • behavioral signs like inability to concentrate, loss of motivation, impatience, social isolation, risk taking behaviors, attention seeking, self harm behaviors
  • cognitive signs like paranoia, self-doubt, self blame, indecisiveness, unfocused thinking

How to Increase Your Baseline Level of Functioning

Good daily self-care will help to keep your mind and body balanced. This can greatly reduce emotional crises by keeping you from becoming overwhelmed in the first place. When your body is functioning well, it has the energy to respond to events without going into overwhelm. This is always going to be your first and best line of defense.

How do you manage this? Meditate daily. This doesn’t have to mean sitting cross legged and emptying your mind of all thoughts. It could be breathing, doing a guided imagery meditation, practicing yoga, tai chi or qigong.

Exercise mildly daily. The body needs to move. Sitting is deadly. Movement promotes healthy functioning. Too much and too little creates problems.

Eat a healthy diet. So many people tell me they eat healthy meals, but when they tell me what they are eating, it’s not really healthy at all. Packaged foods, extreme diets, artificial colors, artificial flavors, sugar (natural and artificial), and chemical preservatives are not healthy foods. Healthy foods are on the outside aisles of the grocery store. They are meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and dairy products. Organic and naturally grown (meaning free ranging, grass fed (for animals that eat grass), no hormones, no pesticides, etc) are always going to be healthier options. If your food is lasting more than a few days in the refrigerator or cabinet, it’s not fresh.

Sleep eight hours a night. A lot of people say they “get by just fine” with less. That’s a coping strategy. Every body is different, but the human animal is not designed to maintain health with fewer than seven hours of restful sleep per night. The brain requires that for functioning. The detoxification organs need it to keep the body healthy. Don’t kid yourself. If you have learned to adapt to less sleep, it doesn’t mean your body doesn’t need as much.

Spirituality is another must. Humans are mind, body, and spirit. We need to feel connected to each other and the rest of creation. When we aren’t, we are lonely and depressed. I am not saying you have to be religious or that you have to practice a specific religion. I am saying that having a sense of connection to something other than yourself will reduce emotional overwhelm.

What Skills Do You Need?

What skills do you need to develop and mastery? There are tons. You will need strategies for what to do when you are in the midst of crisis. These are things that you do to calm down, get centered, and keep you from creating any damage for yourself or others.

You also need skills for dealing with the emotional roller coaster that can come before and after the full blown crisis. These help you to stay centered and feel your feelings without pushing them away, blowing them up, or dismissing them. Pushing them away or minimizing them can make things worse in the long run.

Everyone can also use skills in dealing with other people – especially people who are not exactly easy to get along with. Many of our emotional crises arise out of relational issues, so negotiating relationships well will greatly reduce the number of crises we find ourselves in.

If you find yourself dealing with crises often, it’s not because your life is horrible, you’re a bad person, or people hate you. It’s probably because your self care routine needs adjustment or you need to grow your skill repertoire or mastery. There is nothing wrong or shameful about this. Hopefully we all are growing every day of our lives. It’s how we make life meaningful. However, when you are not spending your time dealing with crises, you can be growing in your career, relationships, creativity, spirituality, financially, or in something else. So, why not invest in improving your baseline level of functioning so that crises are minimal?

If you need help with this, contact me. I’d be glad to assist.

Positive Intentions of Negative Emotions

negative emotions

I have talked to some people who want to eradicate their undesirable traits and negative emotions. There are two big problems with this. The Law of Duality says that everything exists in opposite pairs. We know light because of dark and good because of bad. So, eradicating anything is actually impossible. The other big problem is that all emotions are useful. Even though negative  emotions may seem unpleasant, they have a useful function. Once you know what they are, you can allow them to work for you. Let’s take a look.

Jealousy/Desire

Some people like jealousy. It tells them that they are cared about. It is seen as a way of expressing love. Other people find jealousy shameful. It demonstrates weakness and insecurity. These are both manmade constructs that can either validate you or destroy you. Since jealousy can lead to destructive behavior, the more effective way of viewing it, perhaps, is to see it as an awakening desire. Not desire for another person, but for the qualities that they possess that you don’t see within yourself. Or maybe it is a desire for the things that person has that you don’t yet have.

For example, let’s say that I see someone on television with a lavish lifestyle. I notice that it’s hard for me to watch without feeling jealous and thinking unkind thoughts. Instead of beating myself up over it or denying it, I can use it! This feeling is telling me that I desire this for myself. I don’t see this level of abundance in my own life. My inner self wants me to have that and this emotion is showing me what is lacking. This isn’t done to make me feel bad. It’s done to motivate me to do something to fill that void. I can either take action, change my values, or continue feeling jealous. One suggestion is to cultivate more gratitude in your life. Without gratitude abundance slows to a trickle. You have to appreciate good things in order to attract them.

negative emotionsFear/Need for Safety

Fear shows up in many ways. There are the obvious physical symptoms like your heart pounding, your breath becoming more shallow and confined to your chest, and the blood moving to your extremities. There are physical reactions like fighting, fleeing, or shutting down. Some may fight verbally. Some may use humor to diffuse the threat. Some may get calm and cool to reduce the threat. All of these things are done to create safety. Fear is instinctual, and it’s also learned. Some people learn to fear spiders while others don’t.

It’s rare in modern times to face a life threatening menace. If that is what is inducing the fear, let your instinct take over. Otherwise, be mindful. Slow down. Breathe through it and give yourself a moment to think about what it is that would make you truly safe without damaging yourself or others. If your job makes you feel unsafe, it’s probably time to get another job. If you don’t feel safe around your partner, it could be time to let that relationship go. If you don’t feel safe outdoors, perhaps it is time to get more life experience so your comfort zone increases. In other words, don’t shut negative emotions down. Make them work for you.

Guilt/Atonement

Guilt arises when we perceive that we have not lived up to our ideals. Or maybe we are being influenced by others to feel guilty about not living up to their ideals. Either way the positive intention is for you to be better than you are (by your own assessment).

What can you do with that? If you truly have not lived up to your ideals, the positive intention could be atonement. When you make reparations, you can feel in alignment with yourself again. If the issue is that you are not in alignment with someone else’s ideals, perhaps what is needed is for you to repair the injury done to your self-esteem through allowing yourself to be judged by someone else’s standards. In other words, let go of other people’s standards for what you should be and live by your own. Another possibility is that it’s time for you to review the standards you set for yourself. Perhaps they are unrealistic or not a reflection of who you really are. Your inner conscience wants you to be whole. It wants you to be congruent. No emotion exists to punish you. There is always a positive intention to negative emotions.

Anger/Restoration of Boundaries or Justice

Anger communicates that we have been violated, betrayed, or trespassed against. It is a way of alerting us to protect our boundaries or express a need for justice. If we didn’t feel anger, we could lose our self-esteem and let people just walk all over us. We could allow people to hurt us.

Anger is tricky. While our inner self may perceive that injustice has occurred or that our boundaries have been violated, it’s important to assess whether or not this is objectively true. For example, if I am a teenager who feels I need more freedom and my mother is not allowing me to hang out all night with my friends, we might disagree about whether or not a trespass happened. Negative emotions are not a gauge of truth. They are just an indication that our truth is out of alignment in some way.

When you feel angry, it’s a sign that you need to pay attention to boundaries. Perhaps yours are not very strong. Maybe you need to adjust your idea of what healthy boundaries are. Or maybe you need to relax a bit.

Emotions Have a Purpose

Positive and negative emotions have a purpose. These are: to communicate something, to influence others, to organize and motivate action, and to validate your perception of reality. Whether they make you feel up or down, they are a natural, useful part of life. When you make friends with them and allow them to communicate something to you, the tougher ones become much easier to bear. When you learn from them, you grow so that you experience desirable emotions more often and fewer negative emotions. So make friends with your emotions. They really do exist to help you.

So, what do you do now? First, when you notice that you are feeling something undesirable, pause. It’s a sign that something is out of alignment. Next, identify the emotion. This will help you to get centered and give you a clue what to do next. Remember that feelings are an unreliable barometer for reality. If you are not sure what’s happening, talk it out with someone you trust to gain clarity. If there is something you can do to address the need, do that. If not, accept it.

If your issue involves someone else who doesn’t want to help you resolve the problem in a mutually satisfying way, accept that. It’s not your role to soothe or change the world. Everyone has a right to self-determination. If they don’t agree, don’t want to change, or don’t want to reconcile, that’s the end of his or her part of it. Now it’s up to you to do what you can to fix your part.  You can move on knowing that you listened to your inner guide and allowed them to do the same.

Your emotions are good. They are a reflection of where you are right this moment. Feel them. Express them in a healthy way. Let them inform you about yourself and how you see the world. Let them guide you in your interactions. If you trip up and create a little havoc in this journey in life, learn from it. Let it mean something. Then keep on going. Emotions add color to this beautiful existence. Don’t suppress or eradicate this side of yourself. It’s part of the human experience, your human experience.