Judith Leary-Joyce has been a teacher; social worker; Gestalt Psychotherapist; set up and run a Psychotherapy Training Centre; been a Management Consultant; Author; Speaker. Then most importantly – wife, mother, granny, friend. And secretly – giggler, Graham Norton fan, Abba lover, health foodie, bookworm and lover of smart new gadgets.
Dr Seuss has it licked in ‘The Places You’ll Go’. He knows just how self work runs. Sometimes:
‘You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.’
Then come the days when:
‘you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.’
Anger drives some amazing ‘slumps’. Feelings rise up and take us by surprise. How irritating is this – we just want clearing, not more rage. It’s tempting to wheel out the positive affirmations and focus on what’s good. Except that anger has so much power wrapped up in it. If we keep damping it down we lose out.
So – what to do with it?
First – know where it’s coming from. It will be from one of three sources:
1. Anger from self work that relates to the past – this life or others.
2. Anger evoked by a present situation – maybe relationships, kids, work ……
3. Guilt – anger directed at yourself.
Second – never pretend it’s not there. It’ll only come from another angle when you’re not looking. You do need to manage it, depending when the energy hits. Spraying anger over the boss or kids can be recipe for disaster. Work out where it comes from and decide on your best action – then get angry if you need to. Doing it this way will help you develop mastery – which means not being afraid of your own power and having effective mechanisms for managing yourself when the power hits.
Let’s begin with anger that rises out of self work.
Anger will always be sparked by something in day to day life. If your button is ready to be pressed, anyone can do it. It might be your partner, the bus conductor, kids, a TV programme – something will let you know a discovery is on the way.
I recently got furious at an inanimate parking barrier that hit my bumper. How dare it be there, when I needed the parking space and how dare it scrape my brand new car. May sound ridiculous, but I can tell you the red hot fire hit me – I was incandescent. It was clearly not my fault. The owners of the parking space hadn’t left enough room for a proper car; the vehicle behind had put me under pressure to get out of the way; the appointment I was going to made me rush – nothing to do with me, guv!
Once I calmed down and had a cuppa, I looked at the circumstances around the event. My daughter in hospital ahead of delivering me a lovely new grandson, me unable to take away the pain or make her better, masses to do because the swollen ankles hit before the nursery was prepared. So good reason to be emotional, but why anger?
On sitting quietly, the answer soon came loud and clear – this is about control. I was angry that I couldn’t make it all better; that I had to bear with the pain of watching a loved one suffer; that the universe was putting her through such a tough time. It just wasn’t fair.
OK – so this is what it’s all about. Taking responsibility is one of my life lessons. I’ve felt hard done by, sad, broken up, hurt – you name it – every emotion that leaves me the victim of my fate. Anger is just one more way of pushing the blame onto someone else, but this one also puts power, energy and determination at my disposal. I can choose to use the anger for change.
As the Serenity Prayer states:
‘Grant me the serenity to accept the
things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to know the difference.’
I had no power over the pre-eclampsia, but I had total power over how I managed it. My day to day reaction was something I could absolutely control by setting boundaries about what I could and couldn’t manage in the time available.
There are clear steps to follow when the red mist hits:
1. Take yourself out of the situation as soon as you can. Sit down with a pen and paper to list out all the factors that lit your fire. Include people involved, the words you want to shout at full volume, the unfairness …….. write it all down until you are empty. No one will see the paper (unless you choose to show them) so let rip.
2. Now sit quietly and ask the question – what do I need to learn from this anger/ what does this situation remind me of. Sit in the stew and listen – you know the answer, you’re just not used to the question.
3. If the answer is that you need to deal with the issue in real time, read the next blog, which will give you a formula for doing just that.
4. If the trigger is in the past, find a quiet space where you will be undisturbed and where you won’t disturb others. Imagine the offending person or situation is right in front of you. Tell them just how you feel. Use your body and hit a cushion, beat a punch bag or stamp your feet. Use your voice and let rip – once you let go of feeling daft, you’ll have a great time. Your body will tingle, you’ll feel energetic and wiped out at the same time, but most important of all, you’ll have released the tiger. Now you know who you are at your most powerful. If the thought of this scares you, ask someone who is comfortable with their own anger to support you.
Remember – this is just another part of you, no better or worse than your sadness and fear. Owning up to it and letting it see the light of day is the only way to get to mastery. That which you resist will rule you; allow and you can grow.
5. Once you have cleared the air for yourself, consider what this tells you about how you live your life right now. Maybe there are conversations that need to be had in real time; maybe the conversation is with yourself about how much you swallow back and repress; maybe it’s time to make active changes by using your power and drive. The answer will come more easily once the mist has been diffused.
Most important – don’t beat yourself up. You have just accessed a real and important part of who you are. Nothing to be afraid of – just another useful form of self learning.
Please note: if this is just too far out of your comfort zone, you may need to ask for help. If due to a past life, ask for clearing. If something from the past in this life, look for a therapist who will be comfortable with all forms of expression and deal with your pain/fear/anger you are holding onto.