Deliberate, controlled anger work helps people de-stress and feel better, immediately.
People are stressed out right now. They feel the stress of the pandemic and the seeming hopelessness of our political circus. I hear people say:
- I can’t believe so many people are still so racist.
- Being trapped at home, I’m helpless to be of service.
- I feel guilty because I still have a job and a house when others do not.
- I’m falling apart . . .
They call me for therapy and I think of EMDR . . . via Telehealth, of course. But before EMDR will help someone process what’s happening in their world, we often have to address a stuck place. When anger is suppressed or denied, information processing grinds to a halt. In this gridlock, we loop around in confusion, sorrow, and fear. We feel like we’re falling apart. We need to de-stress with our anger.
But I don’t feel angry . . .
“I just feel tired,” they say. “All I want to do is sleep or watch TV.”
“If you had to name someone, with whom are you most angry?” I ask, and this is what I hear.
- Myself . . .
- Maybe Mitch McConnell
- Okay, maybe my boss who thinks we need to be back at the office
When people start to notice the tiny loose threads of annoyance or frustration, I know we’re getting some traction. Things start moving. Then, I ask them to find anything they can use as a bat . . . even the lid of a cardboard box. I ask them to stack some cushions on the floor. Then, for 30 seconds, they swing their cardboard or tennis racquet or pool noodle at those cushions.
“Hard as you can,” I say. “Think of Mitch.” They step out of camera range and swing. Then they return.
“That felt good,” they say, their faces now rosy and their eyes bright.
“That’s great. Let’s go again,” I say. They go again as I coach them from my screen, “I’M SO FREAKING MAD RIGHT NOW I COULD SCREAM! I’M SO SICK OF THIS NONSENSE! I WANT MY LIFE BACK! I WANT OUR DEMOCRACY BACK! THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!!!!”
I count them down, “Five! Four! Three! Two! One!” and we breathe and look around the room. “How do you feel?”
“Like something’s releasing. Like my muscles are letting go.”
At this point, my clients look and sound different. Their breathing deepens and they smile. I see their posture change, their hearts and chests open to the sun. Their voices deepen and they feel relief.
When we catch the empowerment of angry energy in the body, we get new ideas and see our way clear to act in some way that’s different. Anger helps us process information and deal directly with our environment.
The dislodged anger works for us instead of against us.
Practice using your Nerf bat to swing at a mattress. Yell at the politician of your choice. Get loud. Stop after 30 seconds and breathe. Notice your thoughts now.
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