I Was So Mad! Finding peaceful ways to deal with difficult emotions.
One of the things that always surprises me as I share more and more of what has gone on in my head and heart, and life in general, is that most people had no idea. Especially anger, most people never would’ve guessed that I was angry. I guess I’m a better actress than I gave myself credit for. I didn’t let on when I harboured resentment towards my loved ones. I tried to suppress my anger so no one had to be subjected to my wrath. I hid what I thought would be perceived as unacceptable or unladylike. I tried to bend and twist myself to make others comfortable. They didn’t ask me to. I just lacked enough self love to discover and be who I truly was. But this facade often made me nervous and I’m sure at times my behaviour was awkward. I very rarely showed a full rage of emotion to anyone. And if I did it was only to the handful of people who I felt I could actually be vulnerable with, and really bare my soul. I have always been more sensitive then I let on. And I had in fact trained myself to feel less. Because feeling so much can be exhausting, especially when you don’t know how to deal with it. So I developed coping mechanisms, to deflect or insulate myself from heavy emotions. I secluded myself or used humour to get by. But as I delve deeper into this self awareness journey I’m discovering that some of the coping mechanisms we build to help us survive weren’t necessary designed to help us thrive. Or at least not in the way we used them previously. When we are dealing with big emotions like anger, grief, sadness, bitterness, resentment and the like, it’s much more likely that we use our coping mechanism to suppress these overwhelming emotions. But by suppressing them, they have the ability to keep returning. They will eventually take center stage in our life as our thoughts will keep returning to them. Many in my family tree have tried and failed to escape these emotions by numbing them. Which generally just led to another rabbit hole, alcohol and drug addiction. I am thankful every day that I found outlets like the arts to turn to. But I am not perfect by any means, I have swallowed a lot of bitter pills through the years. And regardless of how amazing your boundaries or coping mechanisms are, eventually some of the bile you keep swallowing is bound to spill out. Possibly into the body as disease-or possibly you’ll pour it onto some poor soul, who’s most likely battling their own demons in their own destructive way, and have found them self in your path.
To be honest even though I’m doing the work, there are times that I still employ my acting skills. Because I’m still healing and still facing my demons, so to speak, I still lean into those old habits from time to time. And honestly I think that, that is ok. There are times, like when I’m parenting, that I still put on the mask. I do this to shield my children obviously, but also because my children have been a motivating force. One that not only pushes me to look in the mirror and face my inadequacies, and those darn demons so they don’t have to. But also one that pushes me to reach higher, to strive for my highest self in the hope that I will be the example that they need. A good example that is.
So what does one do when they are faced with these overwhelming or potentially “dark” emotions?
Now I’m not a psychologist. But I have developed a certain set of skills through a lifetime of trial and error, mostly error. Along with therapy and mountains of self help books. This is a combination of a few methods that I have found most helpful in dissolving these rather difficult emotions.
So—when you’re struggling, upset or disturbed, simply look at yourself and say:
“I love you (insert name), I’m sorry you’re struggling/hurting, what can I do for you right now to make you feel better?”
Sometimes I need to go for a walk, sometimes I meditate, or cry, or nap, sometimes I realize I need something nutritious to eat or that I simply need to drink some water.
And so, if possible I try to do whatever I think my body is telling me. This is a very important practice. Always, always check yourself before you wreck yourself. Ha!
But seriously, by taking this time to check in with myself, I take some time to pause. It allows me to ask myself why I really feel the way I do. And ultimately by asking myself what I need and how I can love myself more, I find I’m feeling less reactive towards other people, situations and struggles! It’s been life changing for me.
As well if you feel like there are situations or people that really trigger you, possibly they’ve treated you poorly or they are affecting your life in a negative way. I really suggest you take a look at this next step.
Start by looking in the mirror and saying “I love you.”
It’s ok if you feel silly. If it’s hard to say that, try “I’m learning to love you.”
Or, “I’m willing to love you.”
If you find yourself blaming, judging, jealous or just generally angry at someone, look at yourself and say whatever you feel you need to say in that moment, pretend to yell at them, cry, punch some pillows, write it down then shred it or burn it. Do whatever you can to get that emotion out. Once you’re done, go inward, sit quietly with your eyes closed and imagine the emotions flowing out of your body, (I like to imagine all of those dark emotions flowing into a box). Acknowledge that the reason most people act the way they do is usually because they are in pain. You don’t need to excuse their actions, or make what they do/did ok in your mind. I simply say “I accept everything that has happened,”
“I accept you, as you are.”
“I was there, but now I let it go.”
You may not believe it at first. And you may feel yourself resist as you do these things. I promise it gets easier with practice.
As you practice you’ll begin to see that people only do what they can, with their level of understanding. You don’t need to waste your energy trying to make them understand.
Next if you can, imagine sending love to the object of your anger and imagine your love dissolving the disharmony between you. Remember how we filled that box with our dark emotions. Now it’s time to dissolve it. I like to imagine my love as a fog of light, and the moisture dissolves the box like a sugar cube in the rain. I try to imagine good things happening to the people that I’m struggling with. As we do this, we remind ourselves that whatever feelings come up, they’re simply trying to tell us something. By recognizing them we can possibly see where we can do things differently on our end. Maybe we need to find better ways to communicate. Maybe we need to let people know how we expect to be treated. But ultimately we need to try to understand why we allow someone else’s behaviour to affect our own inner piece. Again this isn’t about excusing some one else’s behaviour, it’s about figuring out how to shine a light on your own self worth or lack thereof and filling yourself up with so much love you don’t even notice the things that once bothered you.
Once you think your anger is dissolved, if you still feel you need to talk to them, (and it’s safe to do so) think about questions to ask them. Why did you do that? As opposed to, how dare you do that? We are meant to connect and learn from one another. Our emotions simply guide us to where we need to heal, this is where we need to do more work. As we ask questions though, know they may not have an answer for you. Or, you may not like their answer. Again, remember this is about you. Not about them. You have no control over what they do or feel. They may have never thought, or even care about how their actions have affected you. But you get to control how you react and move forward. If you feel overwhelmed by anger or emotions, it’s ok, but before you lose it or rage on them, step away. Repeat the above steps.
Say “it’s ok to have these feelings. I felt angry/sad/disappointed/ resent etc. But I’m willing to let that go.”
“I (am willing to) forgive”
“You are free, I am free”
A little trick I like to use is to put my emotions on a sticky tab as they come up, especially if I’m busy. Then when I can I do the above schpiel, I do. Plus I really enjoy ripping them to shreds or burning them after. But before I light fire to my troubles I say to that emotion in the mirror, “thank you for this experience.”
“Thank you for helping me to discover what I needed. Now I release all feelings of (insert emotion)in all directions of time. I forgive and accept myself and others in order to heal and for the highest good of all concerned”
“I let it all go.”
“I’m thankful for every experience.”
“This life is amazing.”
“I deserve all the good this life has to offer.”
“As I love myself I can share more love with others.”
“I love you!”
Incorporate your own affirmations. As you move past those dark emotions, think about what you want. Fill yourself up with love. And as you do this, expect to feel about ten billion percent lighter (in your mind, body and spirit). There are new experiences coming your way today. Give thanks and go get them!