What Everyone Should Know about Anger. Part 5: The healthy way to express anger.

 The urge to smash something is a common reaction people have when they are angry.  Many people, men and women, have smashed their phones, when they hear what they don’t want to hear.  Sports people smash their rackets, clubs, hockey sticks and other equipment. This can be expensive, not to mention inconvenient.

In the movie, The Godfather, Michael Corleone’s pregnant sister smashes many dishes as her husband, for sinister reasons of his own, provokes her into a nasty fight.

In the February 2009 issue of Psychology Today there is an article about a smashing business in San Diego, called the Smash Shack, started by Sarah Lavely.  While going through a difficult divorce she found smashing items on her driveway helped her to dissipate her rage.  Now, her business provides a safe outlet for others to handle their frustrations and let go of anger and rage.

Many years ago I saw a documentary done in Japan that showed people going to places where they could break three foot high ceramic vases as well as plates and other dishes.  I saw men hitting old TV’s with sledgehammers.  (I do not remember the name of the program.  If anyone knows of it please tell me.  It certainly impressed me at the time.)

I believe there is something about smashing that allows the cells of the muscles to release.  It is both the action of smashing as well as the sound of smashing that creates the release.  When the cells release, anger dissipates.  Then people are able to let go of their anger rather than hang on to it. Note: if you do fear going completely out of control, do not attempt this. Seek professional help.

One time I was working with a police officer who was containing a lot of rage and feared ‘losing it’ on the job.  We got a large garbage can, lots of bottles, stones and protective eye wear.  The officer found it difficult to start smashing, but once he started, he found it easy to continue.  He experienced the exercise as very therapeutic.

Another time I worked with a woman who was having images of holding a hammer over her finance’s head.  Acting violent was totally out of character for her.  She was horrified that she was having such images and feared she was going crazy. She told me she was frustrated because her finance was taking so long ending his previous relationship.  But when she was with him she wanted their time together to be good so she did not express her frustration to him. She did not realize that she was enraged at him.  Once she acknowledged her anger and found a safe constructive way to express it, the disturbing images went away.

Act rather react.

If you feel anger building up inside you or are having disturbing images, take action, plan a way to allow yourself to smash or do other attacking motions. Have one or more people with you to act as a container.  Just their presence will allow you to express anger without going out of control.

Letting yourself express anger is like preventative medicine.   You are much less likely to spontaneously ‘lose it’ during the day-to-day problems of your life because the anger does not build up.  You are much less likely to harm anyone.

Check out the rules and conditions for expressing anger and rage.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea.

What Everyone Should Know about Anger. Part 4: It’s OK to be angry. It’s what you say and do when you’re angry that matters.

Scenario: Jack was furious at his boss for undermining his authority yet again. He wanted to quit! He felt powerless.  He met with a business colleague and was telling him about what had happened. The business colleague had offered him a job before and told him the offer was still open. Jack was interested. That would serve his boss right if he quit. Still furious Jack said he’d like to think about it and get back to him.

Jack went home. He rolled up a newspaper and put duct tape around it. After making four more paper bats he went down into his basement. He found a pole and wailed on the pole until all five of the paper bats were in shreds. He was exhausted. His anger was gone. As he rested he realized that he did not want to leave his current job. He realized that besides liking the job, he valued the people he worked with and would miss them. He decided that he would find a way to address his issues with his boss.

When people are angry they want to attack or defend – anger has a purpose – to make something happen or stop something from happening.  There are many ways to express anger constructively and productively.

Allow your body to do what it needs to do.

Four rules:

1.       Do not hurt anyone else.

2.       Do not hurt yourself.

3.       Do not damage or destroy anything of value.

4.       Do this alone only if you are confident that you can control your impulses.  If you are not sure, seek out one or more people you trust to act as monitors for you. Or, seek professional help.

Types of attacking motions:

Slapping, hitting, pounding, chopping, stomping, swatting, poking, throwing, smashing, slamming, grabbing, kneading, kicking, shoving, squeezing, pushing, pinching, pulling, screaming, ripping, tearing, cutting (with knives, scissors).

Sports

Many sports provide us with outlets for anger by doing attacking motions. Hockey, soccer, tennis. Racquetball, badminton, football, volleyball, basketball, boxing, wrestling, archery, darts and more.

Martial Arts provide excellent ways to do attacking motions.

[Many of these sports involved running or skating yet those activities are not attacking motions, they are fleeing motions.]

Attacking motions that can be done at home.

Roll up a magazine or newspaper and put tape around it. Pound the kitchen counter with it.

Punch or kick pillows, throw rolls of toilet paper at the bathroom wall, throw a rug over a railing and pound it with a broom. Tear or cut up an old bed sheet. Rip up a phone book. Stomp on bubble packing material or up and down stairs.

Household chores: Scrub the floor. While making bread, knead the dough.

Gardening: pull weeds, dig, prune trees and shrubs, etc.

Workshop: pound nails into wood, sawing, hammering, pulling nails out of wood, grinding, chiseling, etc.

Express anger and clear your mind.

By doing attacking motions anger is dissipated and does not build up. Afterwords, people may still be angry yet no longer want to attack. They think more clearly. They are better able to access the underlying vulnerable feelings that are generating the anger. They are better able to deal effectively with whomever or whatever is making them angry.

Because the anger is not building up it is easy to handle or manage. Now, when an upsetting event happens there is a response rather than a reaction. Small events generate small responses and more serious events generate larger responses. That is, the response fits the event.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

What Everyone Should Know about Anger. Part 3: It is healthy to channel your anger in constructive and productive ways.

Anger is energy.

Anger expressed positively can convince a lover or a child that he or she is loved. It can help you get a job done when you’re tired.  It can be motivating. Tiger Woods, one of the top golfers, says, “I sometimes lose my temper on purpose to fire myself up.”

Anger expressed negatively can devastate a child of any age, but especially when they are tiny. Anger can destroy relationships and ruin things of value. People can hurt others when they get angry but they often hurt themselves.

There are times when it is appropriate and productive to get angry. But often getting angry can be dangerous, even embarrassing. It is helpful to know the difference and have the impulse control to carry out the choice. Most important of all is how a person acts when angry.

Scenario:

Lesley pulled into her garage after a long hectic day at work. As she got out of her car she heard glass breaking. She went around the corner of her home and saw the shattered living room window. Her son and his friends stood on the street frozen. One of the boys had hit the baseball through the window. Lesley was enraged! Last time it was the neighbor’s bedroom window. She’d told them many times to practice in the school yard nearby. She wanted to scream at them and slap them silly, every one of them!

Lesley knew that she was too angry to deal with the boys right then and she told them so. She sent her son to his room and sent his friends home. She changed into her jeans and a T-shirt, went out into the back yard and chopped some wood. As she chopped, her rage dissipated. She was still angry but not enraged. Then she  got her son to help her put some plywood over the broken window. Later that evening she and her husband sat down with their son to deal with the problem.

Lesley did not blow up, nor did she block her anger. She allowed her muscles to do what they needed to do – attack. But she did not attack her son or his friends, she attacked the wood. She actually destroyed something and created something simultaneously.

When people get angry, their bodies pump adrenalin into the bloodstream, preparing their muscles for fight or flight. Their muscles are primed to act and as they do the adrenalin is processed. However, if the anger is blocked then the muscles do not do what they naturally do. The adrenalin stays in the muscles often causing side effects, such as shakiness, until it is eventually processed. Blocked or unexpressed anger builds up over time. The brain and the body need to deal with it in some way. Some people blow up because they can no longer tolerate the tension. Others suppress and repress their anger, which can lead to physical and emotional illnesses. Depression is often the symptom of repressed anger. Neither is healthy and both can cause a lot of harm.

It is not very easy to find wood to chop but there are lots of other ways to express anger constructively and productively.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea