Welcome to Awareness Counseling
Elle Garfield, LMSW

Anger Part 2


Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness. -James Thurber

Summary of Anger –Part 1:

In Anger Part 1, we saw that a lapse in self care often precedes feelings of anger. As we examine our triggers for anger we have the opportunity to discover patterns of behavior that may have begun in childhood. Our yoga practice can help us to look at anger in its context and take responsibility for all of our feelings. When we are able to compassionately observe the sensations in our bodies with C.O.A.L., (curiosity, openness, acceptance and love)* we are able to take better care of ourselves, changing patterns and behaviors that are no longer serving us.

Ready to fight?

Now let’s take a look at what occurs in your body and brain when you are angry. First your senses pick up a threat of some kind. This is a perception of a threat.  This can be in the form of a thought or memory. Next, chemicals and hormones are released in the brain to cause a burst of energy that increases heart rate, blood pressure and rate of breathing. Blood flows to your extremities in preparation to take action. Then your attention becomes focused on the threat so much that it’s difficult to think of anything else. Now you are ready to fight or take flight. This is nature’s way of helping us to stay safe. not stuck in painful feelings or fighting with the people we care about.
Most of us never learned to take care of ourselves when we are angry. Since our bodies and brains are signaling us to take action we have the urge to lash out and depending on what we learned about anger as children we either lash out or repress our anger. We know that either reaction can be harmful.

Deepen the breath

So what is a better way to respond to anger? First take a deep breath. As you begin to calm down notice the sensations in your body. You might notice heat rising in your body, a tightening of certain muscles, a clenching in your jaw or pressure in the eyes. As you pay closer attention to the sensations you will learn how your body reacts to anger and be able to attend to those feelings as they arise. Remember to have a sense of curiosity because with curiosity there is no judgment or criticism. Acknowledge the anger, you can even say to yourself, “I am angry right now.” See if you can notice your thoughts. Often a memory or a thought about something that happened in the past contributes to the perception of a threat to us physically or emotionally.

Say “no” to hurting

If your anger involves another person or people remove yourself temporarily from that situation. Make that a bottom line that you don’t engage with another person when you are feeling angry. Then allow yourself to go to a safe space. Use the breath, try a stairstep breath- taking short sips of breath until you fill up your lungs and then slowly exhale all the breath out. As you further calm down you may notice other feelings as anger can protect us from even more uncomfortable feelings like sadness, grief and fear.

Allow yourself to feel these feelings by crying, making sounds and moving as you need to without hurting yourself or anyone else. Be open to the feeling as if it where a child like version of you who needed love and attention. Be gentle with yourself and tender. This new way of responding, like all advanced practices, takes time and effort yet the benefits are even more rewarding than it is challenging. It takes patience, courage and compassion. All qualities that are cultivated in your regular yoga practice.


It’s good to get support with this but not from the object of your anger. Talking about what your feeling with someone you can trust is a way to ‘take action’ without causing harm to you or anyone else. Learning to comfort yourself as you feel intense feelings is an important part of self care. This is not the time to make life changing decisions as your mental clarity may be affected by this emotional storm. Mental clarity will come as you stay in the process and become more and more familiar with the care and feeding of you. If the feelings continue to overwhelm you and/or repeatedly come back affecting your ability to function don’t be afraid to seek the help of a professional trained in therapeutic mindfulness and yoga.



THE GUEST HOUSE

This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice. meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes. because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
-- Jelaluddin Rumi,
    translation by Coleman Barks


Road to JOY

Yoga helps us to see even anger with new eyes, beginner’s eyes.  As we see our reactions and patterns we are able to choose a different way to respond. We cultivate a compassionate present moment presence by paying attention to our breathing and noticing all the sensations in our body as we move from pose to pose. In the present moment we notice that there is more to us than the anger we are feeling and that we have the capacity with support to care for ourselves in new and more productive ways.  An underlying stream of joy is ready to be tapped into as you welcome these unexpected guests and let them go.

Look for Anger - Part 3 next


*From Dr. Dan Seigel, The Mindful Brain, 2008


Contact information:

Elle Garfield, ACSW
Awareness Counseling
248-961-4081
mailto:egarfield10@gmail.com
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