Anger: the canary in the coal mine
I’ve said earlier why I do anger management. I am not an advocate of anger; rather I am skilled at its management. I also believe that there is little effective teaching in our society as to how to manage anger. Most of the time, we are told we should not be angry, we should be able to contain it, and we should be able to work through the conflicts wherein we are angry. Or: “Let’s talk about it so we can understand why you are angry.”
I will say again that I have little use for the word “should” — see my previous posts, six in all on sloppy language. And in general, I suggest that understanding is the booby prize; it is only useful if it leads to effective action .
In the past, when I was in the early stages of my own therapy, I could easily out-talk most therapist, and talking about my anger did nothing for me. Fortunately I chose to work with therapists who would not put up with my bull. Early on, one of them said to me I was going to have to pound on a lot of coaches and push on a lot of doors. I took that to heart, and eventually built it into the system I call Blowing Out®, which became my workshop Blowing Out The Darkness! There are four basic principles to Blowing Out:
- create safety, summarized as No SAD and STOP. Safety is absolutely essential — no compromises here.
- No SAD: do not intend to scare any human being, do not attack any biological creature, and do not destroy in anger that which you would not destroy in peace.
- STOP: if anyone feels scared (not intended) and says “Stop,” stop immediately, and find another way to deal with your energy.
- release the energy anyway that works. learn the message of the energy. Is the anger a manifestation of your powerlessness or is it a result of truly inappropriate actions (lies, promises not kept, etc.) on the part of the other.
- resolve the conflict, either work on your powerlessness or work on the relationship.
A question on releasing anger
Having said this as preliminary comment, let me now address a question I received today, from someone familiar with my work.
Good morning. I co-facilitate an anxiety and depression support group, and last night was a particularly heavy group. Lots going on in people’s lives. A few of my clients spoke of being very angry and not knowing what to do with their anger. I knew in that moment that the blowing out process would be a very effective skill. I have made the weekend workshop fliers available and shared my personal experience as far as the weekend goes.
I was wanting in that moment to do energy release work with them. I didn’t, but I did offer the skill of screaming into the pillow and pushing in the doorway. What else can I offer with safety and health.
Some thoughts in response to your question of: “What else could I do in the support group I co-facilitate.”
First of all, some assumptions I am making. I assume that you emphasized the primary need for safety of all concerned (especially “No SAD [no scare, no attack, no destroy]” and “STOP” — I know you understand these terms, so I won’t define them further here). Second I assume you have previously discussed my work with your co-facilitator, so that the group leadership is not in conflict with my suggestions. In your indicating that you have shared your personal experiences of the blowing out process, these are both logical assumptions for me.
I’m not sure what you mean by “I was wanting in that moment to do energy release work with them. I didn’t but I did offer the skill of screaming into the pillow and pushing in the doorway.” I assume you talked about the release methods, perhaps demonstrated them. In general, people do not learn from instructions; they learn from experiences, which can then be discussed. Normally what I do is to demonstrate screaming into a pillow and/or pushing in a doorway, so as to show:
- how easy it is to do, and
- how to do it safely (for example, make sure you emphasize pushing from the pelvis, not from the back or screaming with an open throat, not a close one).
I also generally demonstrate a) silent screaming and b) management of anxiety by the Valsalva maneuver or square breathing. As you know, there are many other options.
Once demonstrated, I ask for a volunteer, ideally someone unfamiliar with the impact of energy release, to explore how to do it (whichever method they choose) and how it feels. Then I coach the volunteer (who may still be very reluctant) to engage as fully as possible, perhaps again doing my own demonstration. I emphasize that the process of release is not mechanical, and ask the individual truly to put their emotion into the release. To the best of my ability, I make the process playful — we learn better when we play. If the release is effective, frequently the individual will say something like: “I never knew before that I could feel like this!”
I then ask the individual about the felt sense in their body, and what memories it brings up — seeking to explore the message hidden within the anger. Is the feeling familiar (powerlessness of self), or do they have the sense that the other person or situation is truly inappropriate (inappropriate to both themselves and to an average person)? The actual release work is only the tip of the iceberg; eventual empowerment of the individual is the goal.
From that message, I would then explore what needs to change for the individual. Does the individual need to work on their own powerlessness, or do they need to find ways to deal with the external conflict with the other? (Usually, the distinction between self and other is quite clear. The individual might need further coaching or therapy with either of these.)
So, what else? First, I would return to the subject of blowing out at the next meeting, reviewing the principles and asking if any questions. Repetition of information is essential in our fast-paced world. And, did anyone explore energy release at home? The difficulty with self-exploration here (at least in early attempts) is that we human beings are masters of avoiding our own issues. Depending on answers to these questions, I would ask people:
- what is the positive intention of your anger?
- what is the positive intention of avoidance of your anger? and
- what would you lose if you gave up your anger?
Although the question of positive intention seems a simple question, it is a powerful one, and one that many people have difficulty answering. And most people can tell what they would gain if they gave up their anger, but what would they lose requires deeper thought (because they hold on to it for good but generally unconscious reason). Just asking these questions invites people to take personal responsibility for their own issues, and eventually to shift into exploring how much they avoid what life offers.
Also, at the next meeting, I would indicate that there are many other ways to release. I would emphasize that what is essential is the engagement in the emotion, and moving to exhaustion of the energy, SAFELY. Tell your own personal stories of when it helped you, and how.
Finally, you can remind people:
- some release methods are noisy; others are very quiet. In all, they can be safe.
- do it safely. If not safe, they generally won’t do it, and they will likely generate more problems if they attempt to release when not safe for both themselves and others.
- they can do it anywhere, for example, in their car with the windows closed.
- of how unhealthy the general population is.
- “shoulds” are a measure of the social norms, and that people ‘should’ others as a way to sooth their own anxiety.
- the more effective their changing, the less people will like it.
- attendance at the Blowing Out The Darkness weekend would give them more details, and a host of other skills (and remind them there is a sliding scale for costs).
So, I hope all this helps. Ask more questions as needed.