It wasn’t until I was a student in an experiential counseling program that I learned there were healthy and unhealthy expressions of anger. At first, I was baffled by this idea. It boggled my mind. It was like someone telling me the sky was purple and not blue as I had thought. Then I felt a huge relief as though the world had just been lifted off my shoulder. I could finally learn how to release years of built-up resentment and rage in a healthy way. Mostly, I had directed my rage and hatred toward myself. Self-blame, self-punishment, and selfdestructive behaviors were my coping mechanisms. In that moment of realization, while sitting in the counseling program, I had hope that one day I would be free of it. I was determined to release every last bit of anger and resentment. It was interfering with my ability to love and receive love. So what does a healthy expression of anger look like? This is a question I tried on for years personally as well as exploring it with my clients. I have learned that even if we give ourselves permission to express our anger verbally at the moment that the energy of anger can be processed in as little as fifteen seconds. Something as simple as saying, “I am feeling angry because ... ” is sometimes enough to clear it from our mind and body. It is important to just let the thoughts rise up and out as words without censoring them and feel the emotions behind the words. When we do this, the words we say to ourselves are meant to feel emotionally charged; that is how we free ourselves from the anger and upset behind them. Here are some examples of this exercise; you can do it on your own. “I feel angry because no one seems to care about my needs and everyone is so selfish.” "I feel angry because my parents never loved me the way I wanted them to.” “I feel angry because my boyfriend is cheating on me.” “I feel angry because my life is falling apart.” “I feel angry because no one listens to me.” Owning how we feel is empowering. There will be times when we also need to voice our upset or anger to others, which means finding the courage to have those sweaty-palm conversations with the individual directly. Alternatively, it could mean talking about how you feel with a trustworthy friend who can hold space for you to express yourself.
AT FORTY FIVE MAGAZINE /17 One of the most effective tools I offer my clients to move anger and dense long-held emotions, thoughts, and beliefs is an “expression session.” This is where I hold space for them to bring all their hidden thoughts and beliefs into the light for healing. They get to share, express, say, yell, scream, growl, swear, and cry; they say whatever they need to say in order to release what they are holding inside. There is no conversation, just a nonjudgmental space for expression. If the anger is directed at a specific person or situation, I encourage my client to use language that makes it sound like they are speaking directly to that individual. This type of session is extremely cathartic as all the unspoken thoughts and feelings that have been plaguing a person come to the surface and are released. It works well for expressing all of our internal critical thoughts as well. Sharing our negative critical self-talk out loud exposes it and releases it. I often say it is like throwing it all up. I encourage clients to keep going until they feel as though they have emptied it all out, to the point where there is nothing left to say. Most of the time, there is an underlying fear, grief, or a sense of loss hidden beneath the anger. An expression session is a powerful tool that requires a compassionate witness who can be fully present, nonjudgmental, and who won’t get caught up in the words and the story. If you need support in releasing anger or other pent-up feelings, contact me for an expression session. to say. Once you feel you have emptied out all the words onto paper, burn the copy or delete it. I cannot stress this enough—it is for your eyes only! When you burn the letter or delete it, set an intention to let it all go. It may be helpful to follow up your eff-you letter with a forgiveness letter. Stay tuned next week for chapter 8 ~ When Life Bumps Up Against Your Leftovers ***This is an excerpt from Sue Dumais' book "Stand UP Stand OUT Stand STRONG ~ A 30 Day Guide to Navigate Life When the SHIFT Hits the Fan" (Published in 2018) Published on atfortyfive.com with permission from © Sue Dumais Read More Read more articles from Sue Dumais Another way to release what is bottled up inside you is to write an eff-you letter. It is a letter to the individual that is NOT to be sent. This is for your eyes only. Let it all out and say what you have always wanted to say or need
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