Releasing Anger

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    I have a few suggestions for ways to work through anger. This is one of the topics I receive the most questions about, so I know that many people struggle with carrying a lot of anger and rage around inside them and don’t know how to relieve it.
    Two key points about anger release:

    1) The release needs to be quite physical in order to work.
    2) You need to be feeling powerful while you release it, or at least not completely powerless, or the anger won’t get out.

    With respect to my point #2 above, many people spend hours screaming and yelling without feeling any relief from their anger, and that’s because they are feeling too isolated and too powerless while they’re doing it.

    As always, I recommend working with a partner if possible. You may be able to release anger successfully alone if you are feeling generally well-supported in your life in the current period. In other words, if you can picture a specific person being with you, someone whom you feel close to and whom you trust, that may work well enough if they can’t be with you in person at the moment. Having someone with you on the phone is another good option to pursue rather than being alone.

    Here are some ways to help yourself feel powerful:

    1) Stand up tall, take a powerful stance (feet at least shoulder width apart), hold your head high but your chin in.

    2) Use a voice that is strong and powerful, not screechy or whiny. Try to sound like someone who is giving orders, not someone who is pleading or begging.

    3) Stomp on a pillow or cushion, or pound cushions on a couch or bed. Another great device is a plastic baseball bat that you can hit things with (without harming anything). Speak loudly and forcefully while you pound, but don’t yell your loudest or scream — not because there’s anything wrong with doing so, but because ironically doing so tends to make us feel less powerful, not more so.

    4) If you are working with a co-counseling partner, take frequent quick breaks to make eye contact with your co-counselor and take in the fact that s/he is there. Keep absorbing the support and caring.

    5) Ask for reassurance periodically if you need it. When we’re releasing anger, we often feel ashamed or embarrassed about doing so, or feel that it looks kind of ugly. These barriers can be even greater for women than for men, so keep checking in with your co-counselor to see that s/he is still approving of you and accompanying you.

    6) Imagine that the person you’re enraged at is present in the room, and direct your anger at that image. (It might be multiple people.)

    7) Keep the words simple, and say them over and over again with great force. This technique tends to work much better for releasing anger than giving a speech about all the things you’re angry about. Choose one or two short phrases (perhaps things like “Get away from me!” or “Don’t even think you can get away with that!” or “F*** you!”) to use repeatedly.

    8) Remember that the phrases you’re using may go against what actually happened; for example, you may be yelling “You can’t get away with this!” at someone who actually did get away with what they did to you at the time. This contradiction will tend to release anger more successfully, as it will help you feel more powerful in the present.

    9) Follow on into other feelings that come up. When anger is successfully getting out, it will commonly lead to moments of crying or laughing, or even of cycling between laughing, crying, and back to angry storming again.

    10) Take pride in your outrage. You are right to feel enraged and bitter in the face of the injustices you’ve experienced. You of course need relief from your anger because it’s eating you up inside, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you for how angry you are; anger is only an unhealthy reaction when it’s used by violent or abusive people to frighten or control others.

    11) As always when doing deep emotional work, take plenty of time at the end to bring yourself (ideally with the support of a co-counseling partner) out of the painful feelings into positive awareness and into looking forward to the rest of your day.

    Please write and share about your experiences trying these approaches out!!

    Demi Marissa Giro

    This take on anger and how to utilize it positively was something I definitely needed to hear! When the injustices I have experienced eventually developed into pure rage that began to eat away at my happiness as it flooded every aspect of my life, I started to actually hate anger in and of itself. I researched and read much that has led me to believe that anger is strictly toxic to growth and goodness in anyone’s life, but still it lingered. After having read this, I have gained some perspective on the differences between abusive anger and anger at injustices and how the latter is not only healthy, but a part of the healing process, as well. This seems to go hand-in-hand with the PLN belief that we don’t need to be fixed, only healed. I can now stop trying to rid myself of this basic instinct, anger, and start moving towards releasing it, rather than reverting to bottling my emotions up, trying to find unsuccessful, unrelated outlets, or trying to cover the anger up by telling myself that I shouldn’t be angry at all.

    I do have a question though for you, Lundy. How can an abusive man separate healthy, rational anger and methods of releasing it without causing harm to others from his current tendency to hurt and control others by means which stem from and only strengthen his anger?? In short, how does an abusive man release his anger without harming others? Are his methods and practices going to differ from the practices mentioned above?? Are there additional steps he must take to release his anger?? What if there were injustices to him as well? Is the anger justified, whereas the abuse is not?? If you could shine some light on this for me it would be much appreciated! Thank you.

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