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.

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.