Letting Go of Anger

I've only recently broken through the "why" of anger.

We often judge whether something is "good" or "bad" based on how we have experienced it on the receiving end. In my life, I've dealt with some serious blocks in emotional expression. I recently discovered that this really stems from having grown up in a family where no one knew how to constructively express emotions or communicate to one another about feelings.

Most of my family tends to bottle up emotions, living in fear of disrupting a balance. They are afraid that what they say may hurt someone else, and as a result, don't speak their truth very often or very fully. They tend to let things go for a long time without communicating to anyone how they really feel about the situations that are happening in their lives. Usually, this comes to a breaking point and leaves others bewildered about where they went wrong - it's not one instance, but rather a series of events, behaviors, etc. that have been stockpiled like a bomb shelter.

This is anything but constructive communication - it doesn't help to advance a relationship in any way. If you're feeling hurt, upset, frustrated, or angry, that is valid. Let it be known! Otherwise, you'll hold everything inside until one day you just can't take it anymore. You haven't had the conversation with the other person, and they haven't had a chance to plead their case, or to change, or to even have any idea that the things they're saying or the way they're acting is not okay with you.

This is the epitome of NOT owning your own power. In a sense, it's being a passive rock in the dirt - someone can come along and kick you and you're never going to tell them how you really feel - so they'll probably keep doing it! Which only disempowers you even more until you are completely powerless in your life.

As you can imagine, when emotions are not expressed around you, it makes learning how to express emotion quite confusing because you were never exposed to the process or the inner workings before - they were in the "black box," and all you saw was the input and the output. What was really happening in there? Without knowing it, as happens most of the time with patterns we inherit from our families, I had been conditioned to be this way, too. And it wasn't serving me. It had to change. I NEEDED it to change and I never wanted to be that person. I didn't know what the root was or how to fix it but I'm glad to be able to share with you what I've learned through all my readings, journaling, etc. throughout the past year.

This type of emotional retreating and, essentially, emotional learned helplessness is a direct result of being on the receiving end of emotion, often anger or rage, that is out of control and/or very intense. It is also highly likely that you were hurt by this expression on the receiving end. As with many behaviors in our lives, we either do exactly the same or exactly the opposite. If we were negatively impacted by another's explosive anger, we probably label the category of "emotional expression" as bad, and then proceed to not express our emotions at all because we wouldn't want to hurt anyone we love by expressing emotion. But lucky for us humans, when we know better, we do better.

But I'm about to tell you how to get out of this cycle!

Step 1. Recognize how you're responding. What do you find is lacking in yourself in your relationships with others?

For me, it was emotional expression and positive communication. 

Step 2.  Figure out why. Was there a specific incident that occurred? Was it an ongoing situation? Did a person in your family constantly yell? Did they neglect to speak constructively about how they were feeling? Did they avoid any form of emotional expression? Look back in your life at your defining moments in this area of your life. Dig deep.

For me, it was a combination of all of these.

Step 3. Fill in the blank with whatever comes to your mind first (without filtering your responses): emotional expression is __________.

For me, it was "out of control, immature, crazy, unhelpful, childish" - even though consciously, I don't believe that and I know that emotional expression is a positive thing that only enriches your relationships when done constructively. 

I think that the ability to move forward from something like this and to learn how to deal with it constructively has a lot to do with recognition and understanding. First, you must recognize how you're responding, why that's your reaction, and what you think/feel about it. Then you can move toward understanding of emotional expression, or of the anger that was directed toward you (or was happening all around you). Through simply bringing awareness to your area of improvement, it gets a bit better.

Anger is a very perplexing and troublesome emotion. Usually, the anger we are presently experiencing is old anger - anger about something that we've experienced in the past that's resurfacing for us in this moment. Anger is also an opportunity to avoid all the more difficult and uncomfortable emotions that we are truly experiencing - it's much easier to just cap them under one umbrella and call them "anger" when what we're really feeling is sadness, confusion, fear, guilt, etc. Anger is stored when we either weren't conscious of it at the time it really came up for us, or when we didn't feel safe expressing it in the past.

The caveat is that denying anger will not bring joy - you can't wish away anger. Its energy will still live in your body, until you are able to acknowledge it, feel it, and release it. When we are holding pent up anger, we will be off balance, on edge, and irritable. As I mentioned before, we have to grant ourselves the permission to FEEL all of our emotions, even the undesirable ones, because whatever we are feeling is 100% valid. Allowing yourself to feel anger, however, differs from giving yourself permission to rage and to verbally abuse those around you. 

It is SO important that we all find constructive outlets to deal with anger with grace and dignity. Go for a run or lift weights. Write it all out. Go somewhere secluded and yell. Have a baseball bat handy to pound into your lawn when you're feeling angry until the emotion dissipates. As the wise Buddha said, "Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die."

The interesting thing about anger (when we reclaim our own power over it and are able to detach from the emotion itself) is that anger can give us fabulous guidance and insight. It can help us determine where we want to go and where we do not want to go. Usually when we're having a breakdown, we're actually on the verge of a break through - anger is no different. 

We all feel things for a reason - feelings are guides to help us eliminate pain and maximize pleasure throughout our human experience. Allow yourself to really feel into your emotions. Then, get the emotion out of your mind and body - only then will you feel a sense of clarity - you'll know what to do next, the path to your heart will be open, and truth will flow freely and naturally. 

Now go and buy your very own baseball bat :)

All good vibes, 

Emily