Most people have the mistaken idea that emotions are to be managed. When you process your emotions, they do not need to be managed, they naturally shift and change in healthy ways.
To make this shift, you need to understand the physiology of emotion. The brain and the body are complicated. The following is a simplification of the mind/body connection in regard to emotion.
The right-brain, limbic system and the body create the emotions we experience. The left-brain analyzes emotions, but it does not create them. We express emotions from our right-brain; we talk about emotions from our left-brain.
Emotions come in waves. When emotions are pleasant, such as experiences of contentment, satisfaction, happiness, and joy, people tend to breathe normally, rarely noticing the waves. Feelings do not stay the same – they come and they go.
What goes wrong?
When emotions are uncomfortable; such as experiences of high excitement, fear, grief and loss, people change how they breathe, often without realizing it. As the emotion wells up, people tend to hold their breath and then shallow breathe. They shift into their left-brain and start to question what is happening (What if ? What’s wrong? OMG, Etc) Holding the breath blocks processing of the emotion so the wave cannot crest, it cannot recede, and therefore, it cannot dissipate. Now the emotion has to be managed. Unprocessed emotions tend to build over time, like a stack of coins, as other situations create similar feelings. There is more and more emotion to manage. There is less and less energy to manage or wall off the emotions.
When emotions are distressing, such as intense love, fear, grief, and rejection, people get into the habit of trying to avoid them. What they are trying to avoid are the sensations of the feelings. The actual situation that created the distressing sensations, usually gets lost. Now life becomes about avoiding the awful sensations. This complicates life because people become so focused on trying to avoid, they cannot live freely. Also, by trying to avoid feelings, people often behave in ways that actually create the very feelings that they are trying to avoid.
The breath is the key to processing emotions.
As an emotion wells up, breathing through the emotion allows it to crest and recede. At first the waves may be intense. By breathing through the waves they dissipate and get smaller and smaller until, like waves on a beach, they are gone. There is nothing left to manage or avoid.
By facing a feeling and breathing through the sensations of an emotion you will learn that you can handle it. Knowing you can tolerate and handle difficult sensations, will free you up to make the decisions that you want to make. You are less likely to experience difficult feelings and, because life can be difficult, when you do, they won’t last as long.
Embrace all the moments of life. The capacity to experience the full range of emotion, from the depths of despair to the heights of ecstasy, creates a sense of being fully alive.
With care & concern,
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,
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.
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).
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,