“If we are holding back from any part of our experience, if our heart shuts out any part of who we are and what we feel, we are fueling the fears and feelings of separation that sustain the trance of unworthiness.” ~Tara Brach
A WhatsApp message arrived this morning and immediately sent me a furious text. On the surface the message didn’t seem inflammatory or dramatic; it was a simple request from another parent asking me to do something that wasn’t convenient for me. On the surface it didn’t seem like this message warranted such rage.
My anger burst into my body and I wanted to call the person who messaged me. I wanted to scream at them. They were my fault.
I didn’t ring them. Conflict is what I loathe more than anger. I find it terrifying to call someone up and throw blame and anger at them.
I also wanted to stomp and shout, “This isn’t fair! I hate you! Why are you so selfish?”
I didn’t do that either because I felt so silly having this reaction to a small, insignificant message. The flood of judgment was quick to come: “Why should I, a grown woman, get so ridiculously upset over a small social arrangement organized over text message? What kind of stupid person am I?”
It is amazing how emotion can make you judge or belittle others!
In the back of my mind, in a small but annoyingly reasonable voice, someone was saying, “You’re angry. Even if you want to shout at that person, it wouldn’t help. The anger isn’t about them really, is it? You know that about emotion, don’t you? Don’t you…?!”
It was almost as if I could have screamed or punched someone, but instead I just started to pace. The person I was ranting to became a loud, persistent, and quiet rant. I attempted to talk to my husband to get some relief from the pressure inside me, hoping he’d say, “Oh, they are awful! You’re right.”
However, he worked. To be honest, I was too.
But still, this anger that was in my body—so uncomfortable! This is so unsettling! Because I feel so unsafe letting out the energy, it is scary! I feel like a bull who smashes a china shop to pieces trying to keep the energy in me.
After a while I settled into myself and started actually doing what I know to do with anger—feel it and work with it instead of trying to remove it from my body by complaining or ranting. Instead of focusing on what caused the anger, I began to observe how my body was reacting.
What I know about anger, and all emotions, is that they are rarely caused by what’s happening in the present. An emotion exists before any situation triggers it. If we don’t work to release it, it will be there after the situation, waiting for something else to activate it, on the off chance we’ll finally pay proper attention to it and release it in another way.
There is no one like them Make sure toAnger can make us mad. That’s not to say people don’t do hurtful things sometimes, but they are not to blame for the unprocessed emotion that was already there. I was not the one who sent the text message to me that made me feel selfish.
Emotions are often triggered by similar frustrations or challenges. When we don’t know how to release an emotion, it gets stuck in our body and is activated again and again, because we don’t work deeply, at the very core, to release it.
Emotions are often activated in situations where they don’t meet the needs. I have felt anger at the same thing over and over again, but it is clear that something needs to be addressed. The need I feel is not being acknowledged or expressed by me.
The anger was so physically uncomfortable that I stood up—I needed space to fidget and move around—and I tuned into the sensations in my body. It was how anger was manifesting in my body that I focused on.
It was like there were many fires burning in my chest. It was a flurry of intense, invigorating energy. The fires felt like an inferno of sadness and fear.
All of this was very uncomfortable. To help me keep with the sensations and allow myself to feel them, I began to hold my body and rub my arms. It was a time when I felt a lot tenderness, love and empathy for myself.
“I’m here for you,” I said to myself. “This is really tough, Di. It is so hard to feel this anger in your body. I get how hard this situation is for you, how it brings up such big, deep, old feelings.”
The sensations began shifting as I tried to hold myself in love and give myself the space it needed. It did.
My hand was on my heart, and I allowed it to all be. I was terrified by the anguish. Fear can cause nausea and deep feelings of terror.
Emotions want to feel held. They want to hear and seen. They must be felt. However, emotions are not common in today’s society. A friend will try to lift us up if we let them know we’re feeling down. Sometimes we try to distract ourselves when we’re upset. We might attempt to persuade our partner when we feel upset.
We often judge and blame others. They were very irritating! They made me angry! They scared meOr we complain and rant. We can rant and complain, or we may suppress our emotions and ignore them. They must be run far and far from us.
But the truth is, they just want you to feel them. They want us to say, “I see you! I’ll stay with you.” Emotions want to just be allowed to show up in our bodies and to move through them, like clouds in the sky. This is the really tricky, painful, or scary part for most of us—learning to be with those sensations that emotions bring.
It became less intense as I dealt with anger with compassion and love, instead of judging it.
The anger was slowly fading and I began to question it about what it was telling me. And I heard that it was trying to tell me to stand up for myself, to say to the person who messaged me, “No, I am not happy with that arrangement.”
I have learned that so often my anger is trying to give me the courage to say “no.”
It wasn’t about blaming another person; it wasn’t about forcing someone to do what I want or disagreeing with their requests. There was nothing I could do about anyone expressing themselves, and that’s okay. My anger just wants me to state in a clear, strong voice, “No thanks, that doesn’t work for me.”
Anger wanted me to feel comfortable speaking my mind and expressing my needs. That’s what the anger was trying to help me do.
I saw, though, that the reason I didn’t just say what I wanted and needed was because underneath the anger there was fear—fear of saying what I needed.
It was scary to feel in my body, despite how passionate I felt about what I wanted. What makes me feel afraid of saying the things I desire? The only thing I was looking for?
Many people, including myself, learnt to cope with their emotions and needs early on in childhood. NotBeing able to express our desires. We learned to defer to other people’s emotions and needs, to allow their emotions to take up more space. It felt safer, and still feels safer, to think about other people’s needs and emotions rather than our own.
But our emotions don’t want us to defer to others; they don’t want us to not express ourselves. They desire us to express ourselves fully as human beings who can say exactly what we want and who we really are.
And that is why anger kept showing up in my life over and over again when I was asked to do things for people—because my default would be to agree and do whatever anyone asked of me. And anger wanted me to say instead “NO!”
This anger about being asked to do certain things kept going until I finally stopped listening and started saying what I wanted.
My inner self was in dire need of attention.
In the midst these emotions, to be fully me. Genuinely me.
After checking in again with my body, I felt that the anger had diminished somewhat. The flames seemed to have receded to a small pile of glowing embers. The fire was still raging, so I moved over to the flame and laid down.
I said, “Fear, I get it. This is why I understand your feelings. It’s hard. I appreciate your efforts to keep me safe. I get why you don’t want to say what I need. You’re afraid I will be rejected, right? You’re right. I must say exactly what I want, even though there are chances of rejection. Otherwise, I will feel angry again.”
After I admitted what I had to do, my sadness and fear seemed to let out a sigh. My body felt lighter. It was over, but the fire and nausea were all gone. It was all gone.
I took the time to sit with myself and put my hands on my heart. Then, I calmly answered the message confidently.
Diana Bird is a neuro emotional coach and writer, helping people release unhealthy emotional patterns and deep overwhelm. To receive her free workshop on building emotional resilience, sign up for her newsletter here. You’ll also receive invites to her free webinars on subjects like releasing shame and soothing overwhelm. Diana works with clients in her coaching practice and in online workshops and lives on the beach in southern Spain, with her children and photographer husband.
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Tiny Buddha published the post My Anger Has Helped me Learn To Speak Up About my Needs.