Anger meets Therapy

Aug 28, 2017 by

The hulk


The other day, I was in what could have been a parking lot rage incident. I was in the Target parking lot and I left my empty shopping cart near my car rather than take it back to the little corral. Mostly because I broke my foot and it’s in a walking cast and my foot was aching already. The cart corral suddenly looked like it was a long way away.

Then a gust of wind came along and blew the cart into a man’s very nice car.

I watched it go feeling like –uh oh and ….ding.

Instantly he became a very angry dude. He ran over to me and was really yelling, how rude, what the hell was my problem, he was on a roll, all purple in the face. He stopped when he saw my foot in the air cast. I apologized but he kept right on going. I could feel that his anger was about something else and I was just the trigger, it was so obvious. The ding had opened up his anger closet, which was full and it all overflowed.

He was projecting this all over me. Of course it is annoying to have your car dinged by a shopping cart (It didn’t even leave a mark, truthfully) but his reaction was epic, it was like an 8 out of 10 when maybe the ding was worthy of a 2.

I got very grounded and opened my heart, just as if he was a client in my office. It was an experiment to see what would happen- so I trotted out my therapy voice and said, “Yeah dude, I am really sorry, I can see how mad you are. Anyone would be angry, I totally get it. My cart totally dinged your beautiful car.”

Angry Dude: “Yeah well- You should be more responsible and less of a selfish jerk blah blah…” He was off and running again.

Me: “Yes, you are right. Should have put that back where it was supposed to go. I hate it when people are selfish jerks. That sucks.”

Angry Dude looked less angry. He blinked a few times. “Yeah well. Next time you should. But maybe you didn’t cuz your foot is broken. I can see how maybe you didn’t want to walk all the way over there. I had a really tough day at work. My boss is a selfish jerk.”

Me: “Dude, that’s rough. I work for myself and sometimes I can be a jerk to myself so I know what it’s like having a jerky boss.”

Angry Dude was no longer angry. It did take him a second to figure that one out, but he sat down on the edge of my bumper and unloaded the trials and tribulations of his life. He was going through a divorce and missed his kids. His life was in a crappy, terrible place and he was feeling lost. I love these moments when I get a chance to do some parking lot therapy so I just listened. This does happen to me on a pretty regular basis and I actually enjoy connecting and listening to people. After a while I said to him that maybe it was a chance to reconstruct his life and what did he think he needed to do to reconnect with his kids and get support for himself? But mostly I just listened.

Eventually, he stood up and said he was glad I bumped into him. (He had a good sense of humor under all that rage!) We shared a handshake and then even a quick hug.

Parking lot rage de-escalation experiment was a success.

Anger is a very important and necessary emotion. We feel anger when things aren’t fair and when our boundaries have been crossed. Anger means we need to say NO and take action towards change.

There is a lot of raw, life force energy in anger. It gives us the energy we need to move mountains or to take a stand. By itself, it’s clean, sharp and powerful.

The problem comes with how we chose to express anger. Since we have learned the falsehood that anger is a “negative” emotion, we suppress it and then it sneaks out sideways and unconsciously. (Parking lot rage!) We have pushed anger into the shadow, which only lasts for so long until it explodes out of the shadow and forces us to deal with it, like it or not.

The really unfortunate thing is that we learn how to express anger depending on how our parents modeled it for us. Chances are that they SUCKED at expressing anger too. Maybe they repressed it until they exploded. Maybe they were passive aggressive, violently rageful or cruelly abusive. Or maybe they were so mousy they never let themselves feel anger. None of us have had good modeling here.

Most of have strong vows and beliefs against being angry. “Good” and “spiritual” people don’t get angry. Or “I will never rage like my mother did.” So when we feel anger, we open up a closet in our psyche and throw the anger in there and slam the door. Over time this anger closet gets full and one day we open it up and BAM- we have a closet avalanche and all that anger pours out on some unsuspecting person.

The underground anger in our country and in the world has boiled over. It has leapt out from the shadow like a demon and is being expressed badly, with violence and unacceptable behavior. We can only stuff it down for so long before it explodes, and like a three year old having a temper tantrum, out it comes. Frighteningly, the 3 year olds have scary weapons and limitless rage.

So what can we do? We can handle our inner anger and clean out our own anger closets. But we must first learn the appropriate way of being angry and there are two rules to that.

1. It’s not ok to target yourself. When anger is turned inward it becomes depression. Violence towards the self is also unacceptable and yet many people do this.

2. It’s not ok to target others with your anger, then it then becomes hostility, aggression and finally violence.

Sadly many people don’t see themselves as aggressive and hostile even when they are. Did Parking Lot Guy see himself as the aggressor or the victim?

People that have been abused or victimized and who have a right to be angry, lash out with righteous anger- not knowing that they are now part of the problem.

Hostility, aggression and violence are never ok. Anger is fine. Do you see the difference?

Anger- “I am so angry about so and so!” We feel a rush of energy up the spine that mobilizes us to take action. Maybe we say no or set a boundary.

Hostility- “YOU made me angry and you are a jerk!”

Aggression takes hostility up a notch to action and often then to actual violence.

Hatred leads to more hatred and when we are in a polarized stance, us against them, both parties contribute to more hatred. It’s hard not to hate when things suck. Hatred is stuck anger and if we move the anger appropriately, if we say no, setting boundaries in healthy ways, we can begin to let go of hate. (If you hate hate itself, are you just adding to it? It’s like a snake eating it’s own tail…)

I am not pretending know what to do about the state of the world or how to solve the huge problems we are facing as a collective, but I do know that we can and must begin with our inner selves.

If you are angry, that’s great! Let’s use that energy to make change- but not by adding more fuel to the fires of hatred.

Finding a healthy expression for your anger is easy and remember- no targeting yourself or others. Our goal is to move the anger out of the body and release it with the voice. Stuck anger in the body creates a lot of health problems over time and can solidify into tumors and masses. So it needs to move out through the body and the voice.

Make sure you vocalize. Scream, swear and say no a lot.

• Scream in your car
• Swear a blue streak (but not at yourself or someone else)
• Anger likes to release through the legs- so running, kicking, kick boxing…) I love a boxing workout. Very therapeutic.
• And also through the hands, twisting and throttling a pillow or punching something.
• Throw yourself on your bed and kick and scream like a little kid. Say something while you do it! You will feel so much better.
• And then find ways to take action in the world. Healthy anger should lead us to productive action.

My mother, who is very wise, always told me that an imaginary homicide a day is very good for your mental health. If I do this, I always take a minute to intend an energetic release rather than sending someone an energy whammy.

My favorite anger workout was to hang a heavy bag in my garage and to whack it with a baseball bat all while swearing my head off. Very liberating. I did this everyday for about six months. Sometimes I didn’t think I was angry (who me?) but I did it like a discipline to clean out all the stored anger that had accumulated over the years. I would start hitting the bag and all of the sudden, I would be in towering rage, sweating and shaking and remembering something from when I was five years old that I had long forgotten about.

I cleaned out my own anger closet and have kept it pretty clean since then by doing regular anger workouts. Try it. If we clean up the shadow in ourselves maybe we have a hope of clearing it up in the world.

I know that I can’t change a whole complex landscape in the world, but I can manage my own self and therefore not add to the mess. If we all took responsibility for minding our own feelings, words, energy and actions, it would be a lot less crazy out there right now. We can’t MAKE someone do this, but we can mind our own selves.

If you are angry, you have a good reason to be, don’t doubt that. Just take responsibility for how you express it so you don’t become part of the bigger problem, ok?

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