Tag Archives: family violation

Anger #05 The Other-Than-Conscious Mind

Comment: Most of us live with many internal conflicts — for me, the metaphor of this post is highly useful as a frame for this style of conflict. Unfortunately, for most human beings, especially those who have not exposed to the skills of living necessary in our complex culture, the other-than-conscious mind is a place of mystery and mutiny. It can be managed, and when successful, the conscious and other-than-conscious can be a powerful team.

MacQuarrie Email Program #05 — The Role of the Other-Than-Conscious Mind

Sailors in mutiny
The internal mutiny by which we live.

Much has been written about the other-than-conscious mind (the OOC mind — I don’t like the term unconscious; it is too confusing and misunderstood). Some of what has been written is actually very valuable, but relatively little has been written about the value and importance of integration of conscious and other-than-conscious. Together they are a powerful team.

So, in this email, I’m going to introduce you to some of the most important metaphors I use about the OOC mind (remember please that a metaphor is simply a way to think about something else). Also please note that two images are attached to this email.

Task: Your task associated with this email is simply to watch yourself in all you do, checking out to what extent the following ideas are useful to you. I suggest you read this email several times a day, especially before you undertake the daily practice of awareness as described in a previous email. I’ll expand the ideas in later emails.

The first image Sailors On A Ship [above] is based on a loose interpretation of the writings of Plato, and as a metaphor is over 2000 years old. Imagine an old-fashioned sailing ship (sails only, no fossil-fuel based engine):

The human mind is very much like a ship where the sailors have mutinied, and locked the Captain … in the cabin [brig]. Each sailor believes himself free to steer the ship as he pleases. First one sailor and then another takes over the helm, while the ship travels on a random and erratic course . . . these sailors cannot agree on a goal and, even if they could, they do not know how to navigate the ship to reach it. . . . The task of the individual is to quell this mutiny, and release the captain . . .  Only then is he free to choose a goal, and steer a direct course to reach it.

Most people can easily recognize that this metaphor describes their daily life in detail — that they make plans, and then sabotage themselves in various ways. Over subsequent emails, you will learn much more about these sailors, and how to manage them. Eventually you will develop a powerful Captain.

shipatseaThe second image is called A Ship At Sea. Again, imagine an old-fashioned sailing ship, with sails, helm and rudder, potentially managed by an effective Captain and a crew of well-organized Sailors. What would happen to such a ship if there were no helm or rudder? It would drift with the wind. Or such a ship without sails? It would go nowhere. No wind, and even with sails and rudder, it would flounder. Plus the ship needs a good Captain and a well-trained crew.

Now — considering yourself as the ship, what within you corresponds to the rudder and helm? the sails? the wind? a Captain? the sailors? My answers — please check your own answers (further details will be developed over the course of this program):

  • the helmsman-helm-rudder system: the conscious mind, able to guide the ship once effective decisions are made (and mutiny is no longer an option).
  • the sails: the other-than-conscious mind, that component of myself that actually does the work, the source of my life energy and my vitality.
  • the wind: from whence comes the origin of my life energy. Depending on interpretation, this could be a deeper realm of the other-than-conscious, or it could be an interface with Spirit/Creator/… (your choice).
  • the sailors: principally the means by which I are aware of my other-than-conscious mind. The transformation of the sailors from that of mutiny (this is a very common situation for many people) to that of an effective working crew is one of the major skills to be developed in this email course).
  • the captain: essentially my decision maker, ideally my wise one. Who would you be if you functioned in the way which really satisfied you, a person with authentic personal power? Potentially that occurs when you have developed your own Captain, that part of yourself able to integrate all parts of this ship into authentic living.

Please note in all this the goal is that of integration of conscious and other-than-conscious (much can be done in 90 days, and it is a life-long task).

Coming next: The Mind — A Pot of Stew.

Anger #04 The Triune Brain


MacQuarrie Email Program #04 — How We Function: The Triune Brain

angry04-thetriunebrainCommentary: A huge advance in knowledge of the brain has occurred in the past century; it is astounding what we have learned. However, at the same time, we have learned relatively little about the mind. An assumption of the modern neurosciences is that mind and brain are synonymous (a reflection of scientific materialism) — it is not an assumption with which I agree (nor do I agree with scientific materialism). But I don’t often know where to draw the distinctions, so I often use the term mind-brain when I am unclear.

The Triune Brain

One area that seems fairly clear is the concept of what is called the triune brain, referring to the layered structure of the brain, and the apparent layering of the mind. Simplistically, the mind-brain acts as a set of filters of incoming data. Think of sunglasses — they are a filter to reduce the glare of sunlight. They serve a purpose, but they also change what you see. Similarly the filtering aspect of the mind-brain serves a purpose, and distorts how you behave. (What follows is relatively simplistic, but accurate enough to be useful.)

The Filter of Safety

Neurologically, 99% of the data that you have been observing in the Now I Am Aware Of exercise of the last email enters the base areas of the mind-brain, the brain stem or Lizard Brain, where it is selectively scanned for your safety. If you not safe, you will immediately go into survival mode to protect yourself; this takes about 200 msec or 2/10th of a second. When in survival mode, the words that would be used to describe you might include serious, anxious, cold — it is from this level that you would violate others. In survival mode, others don’t matter! You are in action to defend your very existence.

The Filter of Life Energy (Emotion)

Most of the time this mode of survival is not necessary, so the incoming data advances through the Lizard Brain up to the Mammalian Brain (or Limbic System); the other 1% data (smell) goes here directly. Here the data is assessed (in about 300 msec) for whether the result will be pain or pleasure, pain or gain. It is at this level that most of our emotional experience develops:

  • pain may lead to some kind of moving against or away from, manifest as anger, fear, sadness, disgust, and other so-called negative emotions, or
  • pleasure/gain, with a movement towards, manifest as excitement, interest, enthusiasm, et cetera.

If the emotion is really intense, the information is processed at this level, and it appears in your awareness together with as the inability to think clearly. This is especially so with the emotions of powerlessness such as rage. Then, in an attempt to get back to a place of power, you may move into survival mode, and violate from a stance of righteous indignation.

In any event, information is sent back down to the lizard brain (the seat of all movement) for movement into action.

The Filter of Choice (Awareness)

Finally, if the experience is energetically less intense, the data rises still further to the cerebral cortices, the Human Brain, the seat of memory and language, the ability to “think,” and make choices. This requires about 400 msec of processing time. Almost all of this brain processing takes place at the other-than-conscious mind level, and seems to be under conscious choice, but like a pot of stew, what surfaces is only a small part of that actually present in the pot.

Again, information is sent back down for the initiation of movement into action.

Safety precedes Life Energy precedes Choice (S > E > C)

It is essential to recognize that this entire process is a bottom-up processor: safety is more important than life energy, which in turn is more important than choice. Consider, for example, what happens with New Year’s Eve resolutions — the vast majority fail. Why? Suppose you are a smoker, and you decide to stop New Year’s Eve. Almost certainly some part of you wants to smoke (derives pleasure from smoking), and you then attempt to impose the “choice” of not smoking onto that part of you than does want to continue. It doesn’t work! The emotional mind-brain is far more powerful than the human mind-brain.

If you really want to stop smoking, you need certain requirements:

  • Can you find an alternate way of satisfying the emotional system?
  • Can you have a goal of health (in a felt pleasurable sense) rather than a get-away from mode of not smoking?
  • Can you find ways to reward yourself, both intermittently (small pleasures to replace the momentary cigarette) and long-term (something desired to purchase with the money saved)?

All this and more will allow safety and pleasure to support choice, rather than conflict with choice.

Task for this email: Write down two or three instances when you have wanted to change something about your life, and have been unsuccessful. What happened? How did you attempt change? How did you deviate from the goal you set for yourself? Consider to what extent the ideas of safety, pleasure-pain and choice entered into your lack of success? Knowing all this, what could you have done differently.

Coming next: The Role of the Unconscious

Anger #03 Awareness and Discipline


The tasks in this post: the development of awareness (task #1) and discipline (task #2).

The work of change may seem massive, but really it’s just one step after another, and once you know the steps, you simply keep stepping (and find ways to keep yourself stable in the meantime).

However, it is easy to get into despair and/or overwhelm. What follows are primary skills, both for personal growth and for getting out of feeling overwhelmed.


Awareness is “attention to my spontaneously emerging experience.” Awareness is NOT thinking — it is experiencing, noting what is actually happening, especially in my body. Fundamentally, I can be aware of three areas:

  • what is happening outside me (my so-called five senses),
  • what is happening within my body, and
  • third, the story I am creating as a result of these two ongoing experiences (generally what I call my thinking).

Awareness allows me to be present NOW, HERE! My story is usually about the past or the future — potentially useful, but not awareness, and not with any of the power of awareness.


Discipline is “doing what I want to do, even when I don’t want to do it.” I want an outcome, and yah, it takes work to get it. Discipline is doing the work because I want the outcome, recognizing that often I don’t want to do the effort, but I do it anyway.

The skill is to make it easier. For example, I practice yoga. I enjoy it, I want the benefits, but often I don’t really feel like doing it. So my discipline is to do “two minutes of yoga.” Not much, eh! Well, every day, I do my two minutes of yoga, even when I don’t want to do it. And, by the end of two minutes, I often feel better; I like how I feel, so I do 45 minutes, because I like it. But, if at the end of two minutes I don’t like how I feel, I stop, and congratulate myself — I have kept my commitment. No self-criticism, ever.


For 20 consecutive minute each day for the next week, sit quietly and repeat the following: “Now I am aware of …” and name a body sensation. Don’t describe it, just name it (one or two words), and move on to the next sensation. “Now I am aware of … my fingers tingling … the coolness of my toes … the tension under my eyes …).

You will lose track. You will drift off into thoughts, day-dreams, etc. That is what the mind does. When you notice you have done so, gently come back to NIAA (now I am aware of …).


As you get used to the process, lightly give attention to various components (mainly to sharpen your skill): external body sensations (what you feel at skin level), internal body sensations (those truly within), external sounds, internal sounds (including talking to yourself), external visual (with eyes open), internal visual (with eyes closed, including mental images). I say lightly, and I mean lightly — no one does this practice perfectly. The nature of the mind is that it wanders, and the discipline is to gently bring it back, without criticism of self.

If you will do this for 6 months, I guarantee you will change your life. This skill of awareness is subtle, and powerful. Essentially as you become aware of what you are actually doing, there will be occasions where you don’t like what you are doing. You will choose to stop, and you will change your life for the better, a little bit. The results accumulate over time, and eventually you are in a much better place.

In a later email when I describe the skill of knowing your own truths, I will say more about this. For now though, how do you know when you are speaking your truth, and how do you know when you are telling a lie.

Ideally, you will continue this practice of awareness for the rest of your life — because you want to! You may eventually change it to what is today called mindfulness practice or vipassana meditation, all just variations on a theme.

My personal choice is a vipassana retreat (I suggest 10 days) — largely because I can recommend such a retreat to anyone. Vipassana is a Buddhist practice, but as compared to other “religions,” Buddhism does not emphasize belief systems, only practice.

Vipassana also operates from a principle called dana — the teachings are free. If there are any changes for a retreat, they are minimal, and only to cover costs; sometimes the entire retreat (days to months) are free, and costs are covered by donation. If able, sign up for a retreat.

Coming next: How We Function — The Triune Brain

Anger #02 What Is Anger?

This is the second of my email anger program so that the program is not lost. It is a duplicate of a previous sampler post of 20160809.

Anger is a masque of deeper issues.

This one is fairly long. Apologies.

To begin: Are you still reading your outcome title (Email #01), at least once a day? If yes, great. Congratulations. If not, that is the difficulty of discipline — you are not wrong, your behaviour is not wrong, but to the extent that you made a commitment, you did not keep your commitment. And people who do not keep commitments are much less likely to get outcomes that they want. Simple, yes; painful, yes! I did not say this program would be easy; I did suggest that it is effective. Please continue to read your outcome statement each day.

Task for this email: After reading this email, monitor your emotions for a few days (don’t attempt to change them, just monitor them). When you notice an obvious anger-based emotion, answer the following questions:

  • Do you have a sense of power? Can you move forward with it? If so, likely it is anger.
  • Do you feel overwhelmed? Is there an underlying powerlessness? If so, likely it is rage.
  • Do you feel indignant, determined “it” should not be. If so, likely it is self-righteousness.
  • Where in your body are you feeling this emotion.

What is anger? Most people know that they are emotional, but often they do not know what emotions are. Most people know when they are angry —  you, for example, wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t angry, but you do you know what anger is. In this email, we clean up some language. (Suggestion: if you will pay meticulous attention to your language for six months, I guarantee you will change your life for the better. More in another email.)

What are Emotions? There are many definitions, but my best definition of emotion is “a biologically adaptive action tendency.” What does that mean? Well, you are designed to respond to your environment, and when things change, you as a biologic organism adapt — usually very effectively! When something happens, you (your mind) processes what is happening, usually at the other-than-conscious level and with amazing speed. Your mind then sends a signal to your body to react, to move into action. The very beginning of the experience of action is the felt sense called emotion.

Another definition of emotion I use is “energy to which I give meaning and direction.” In the so-called pleasurable emotions, I move towards something — I am excited or interested. In the so-called negative emotions, I move against or away from — I am angry, afraid, sad, et cetera. Check it out: notice what you are feeling right now, give it a name, and point to where that feeling is in your body. (Don’t be surprised if you cannot do this — when I first started my own therapy work, I could not do so.) How or to where does this emotion want you to move?(Suppose you are hungry. Where in your body? To where do you want to move?)

So, what are feelings? Aren’t they emotions also? Sort of. Again many definitions, but I want to make a clean distinction. Examples of emotional words are: angry, excited, afraid, et cetera. Emotions point at my body, and can be described in a single word. Yes, they can refer to something else, but the felt sense is in the body, and can be pointed at. Feeling words point to my relationships: hostile (towards), included (with), ignored (by), etc. Again, one word, but they point outwards. There is usually an underlying emotion, but the feeling points outwards. Then, to make matters more confusing, there are also the feeling judgments — my thoughts about my emotions and feelings: I feel that … (finish with the thought, e.g., “this is wrong.”). There is an underlying emotion or feeling (unnamed), but the description is a thought, and always more than one word is required.

What is Anger? Anger is an emotion, one that shows that my beliefs have been disrupted, without my intention or permission. Suppose someone in a crowd pushes me — my mind processes this, says this should not be happening (a thought), and sends a signal to my body that I push back: I’m angry. But perhaps I don’t — I also know, perhaps unconsciously, that the consequences might be less than pleasant, so my mind send a second message, very quickly: Stop! Be cautious instead. Angry and afraid at the same time. Did I say emotions, especially anger, were simple?

Now, suppose the same crowd, only this time we are friends, and we playing football. If someone pushes me, will I be angry? Not likely — because it is expected and allowed as part of the game. Same actions, but different emotions, depending on my beliefs! Complicated, again.

What about rage? Think about your own rage. Rage is also an emotion, this time more complex. When angry, I feel powerful — I can do something with my anger. But in rage, I feel powerless; I’m overwhelmed, and I puff myself up so as to get back to a state of power. And I don’t think clearly — a dangerous combination. At this point, I am likely to violate others — to violate someone is a behavior — to restrict them without their permission, to hit them, to block them, to scare them, etc. Not fun — for anyone!

Note carefully! Emotions and feelings are not wrong, or bad; they simply are. They are the way in which my body gives me information, sometimes information that I do not want to recognize. They always have a positive intention — the “negative” ones usually to protect me, in some fashion. What is potentially inappropriate is what I do with my emotions. This behavioral response can certainly be dangerous, unacceptable to yourself or to others, and much else.

Safety: So, anger and rage can be dangerous, especially if we are unaware of the complexity of what is happening (we will be exploring this in detail over the next weeks). My bottom line is safety, for myself and others — always, and to the best of my ability.

I sum up safety with two statements: No SAD and STOP. No SAD means:

  • I will not intentionally Scare another human being,
  • I will not Attack another biological creature, and
  • I will not Destroy in anger that which I would not destroy when peaceful.

My experience, after 25 years of being a therapist (including as I resolved my own issues of anger) is that, if I stay within the parameters of No SAD, I can be fully expressive of my emotions, and both I and those around me are totally safe.

However, that does not mean that those around me will feel safe (more accurately, they do not feel secure) — my actions may still scare them — what I am doing may remind them of painful times in their own past. I do not intend to scare them, but that does not mean they are not scared.

STOP responds to this. STOP means that if I am told to stop, I stop immediately (no questions, no argument). Someone is scared — always inappropriate. Then I find another, safer way to deal with my anger. Usually this means I will take a time out  to briefly separate myself from others, and thus allow them to recover from their scare (more about time-outs later).

Coming next: Awareness and Discipline

Anger #01 Why Change? Personal Power

As indicated in the last post, I will gradually post my email anger program so that it is not lost. Although many people signed up initially, and feedback has been positive, there has been little in the way of continuing interest. Hence — this series of posts, one every few days until completion (30 emails) …

I will add additional posts between the series, with a page under Postings dedicated to the anger program for those who want to follow it without having to sort through other posts.

Is this you? Is this how you want to be?

Why Change? Personal Power

Welcome again. Welcome to a program that can change your life.

I believe the above statement is absolutely true, partially because the tools I am offering are powerful, but more importantly because I trust the basic goodness of human beings. I believe in the principle that every human being is ALWAYS doing their absolute best at ALL times, and that when they are unhappy with their lives, what they need is not criticism but better resources, better skills to accomplish what they really need. Email me (dave.macq@icloud.com) if you do not believe me, and I will explain my rationale.

These first few emails (the first eight or so) will provide simple tasks, but more importantly will give you some concepts that I believe are very useful to your progress. Play with the ideas, and if questions, email me as above. But do not attempt to accomplish the 90-day program in two weeks — it doesn’t work that way. Many questions I will defer until a later email when the answer will become clear.

Also, be aware that, although this program is designed for anger management, almost all of it is applicable to every other emotional experience of your life. So, if you want to work on something else (low esteem, grief, et cetera), simply use your own word  any time you encounter an “anger” word.

So, your first task, your first skill development. Take out some paper, and answer these questions: Why are you taking this program? What are you wanting? And if you get this (i.e., what you want), what else will you get? And if you get this next piece, what will you get that is even more important? Expand your answers until you can go no further (either you cannot name anything more important, or you are cycling back into previous answers).

Now look at your answers, and see if you can answer these further questions about what you want. These questions are called the RPMS! of change. (I don’t expect that you will be able to answer them all — if you could, you would likely have what you want already.)

  • Is what I want realistic? (Can some one person, anyone, get this?)
  • Is it practical? (Can I myself get it?)
  • Is it measurable? (Do I have a way to know when I have it?)
  • Is it specific? (Do I know how to get it, the actions involved?)
  • !? (What is the first step for me to get it?)

Why are these questions important? Basically for two reasons:

  • these questions are the basis of effective outcomes, and
  • people who set goals (outcomes) are more effective in life than people who do not. The likelihood of you completing this program is higher if you set a goal for yourself.

Now, to complete this task for now, re-write what you want, using your above exploration.

What outcome do I want?

Give your description a two or three word title, and post the title (with or without the details) somewhere where you will read it every day: on the mirror where you brush your teeth, at the head of your bed, et cetera. Make a conscious choice that you will read it every day for the next five days, at least until you receive Email #2 of this series.

As part of the description, add a brief description of yourself, your self-esteem, your sense of personal power. I want you to be able to look back at this description each month and note how you shift in the next three months. Also, be sure to date when you write this goal. If you wish, you may show this information (and any subsequent information) to another person (your life partner, for example), but think carefully before you make that choice — do not set yourself up to be criticized or judged by another person.

My reflection of this process: I believe that every human being wants power. But power comes in two forms: it can be external power, wherein I dominate others, or personal power, wherein I influence others by my effectiveness as a human being. With personal power, I have a sense of aliveness, personal integrity, authentic relationships, and the ability to contribute. This form of power is available, but it takes skill development to achieve it. I trust that is why you are here.

The skill of anger management is the ability to turn your power of domination into personal power whereby you influence. The intention of this program is to honor your anger — it is a signal to you that something is wrong, something is happening that is inappropriate to your current situation. But your anger will not tell you what the problem is! It may be that there is something inappropriate with those around you, or it may be a warning to you that there is something inappropriate within your own beliefs.

Consider for a moment: Are you worthy of what you want? Do you deserve to get it? Do you deserve to be in charge of your anger? Honestly — you do not need to tell anyone else, just yourself. (I believe you are worthy, but do you? Many people don’t! And therefore, they don’t get what they want.)

If you are one of these people who hate yourselves, who are constantly criticizing yourself, Or perhaps you are constantly criticizing others, at least to yourself? (It is the same problem!) Explore how you learned this? Who told you? How did you learn this? And what gave these others the right to judge you in this way?

If applicable, I also invite you to put another sign along with your outcome statement:

God don’t make no junk!

(You don’t need to be religious — just recognize what it means! about you!)

Coming next: What is Anger?

Acedia and the Climate Lie, Part 2

The desire to give up! Caught in despair.
The desire to give up! Caught in despair.

The Climate Lie

I take this term from what I read in The Climate Mobilization website — it refers to:

Our society is living within a massive lie. The lie says, “Everything is fine and we should proceed with business as usual. We are not destroying our climate and, with it, our stability and our civilization. We are not committing passive suicide.

The lie says we are fine—that climate change isn’t real, or is uncertain, or is far away, or won’t be bad enough to threaten humanity. The lie says that small changes will solve the problem. That recycling, bicycling, or closing the Keystone Pipeline will solve the problem. The lie allows people to put climate change in the back of their minds. To view it as someone else’s issue—the domain of scientists or activists. The lie allows us to focus on other things. To proceed with business as usual. To be calm and complacent while our planet burns.

… [The lie is] sustained by people living within the lies. Our lie is a lie co-created by the government, corporations, the media, and the people. These organizations encourage the lie, but it only exists because we, the people accept it and choose to live within it. The basic lie is “We should continue with business as usual, for everything is fine. There are three  major ways that the Climate Lie operates: intellectual denial, emotional denial, and environmental tokenism.

I agree that all this is the climate lie, and I suggest the problem is even bigger — it should be called the Culture Lie, subsuming scientific materialism and consumerism.

The Difficulty of the Climate Lie

It is so hard to write about — it is so big, and so entangled, that I cannot do justice in this small space. Yet I strongly urge the reader to take the time to read the key documents on The Climate Mobilization site. They are well-written, but long, and require a lot to time to digest.

And that is the weakness — the intricacy of the Climate/Culture Lie is such that the average person is likely to give up — it takes too much effort. Frequently I give up — I am forced by time and despair to accept descriptions that I cannot adequately validate nor can I understand their complexity, but yet the descriptions seem to make imminent sense in how they describe the complexity. Examples for me include my attempting to understand the older Keynesian economics and how they were replaced by neoliberalism, both of which have led to the destructive consumerism of modern culture.

Acedia and the Lie

It is this giving up that pushes me towards my own acedia, and I suspect underlies the vast acedia of our culture. In my PhD research, I proposed that the internal conflict that precedes acedia is a force field of many factors. On the positive side are the processes that could lead to resolution (phronesis): wisdom (sophia), discipline, hope and playfulness, all of which are disparaged in our present culture.

A balance of forces, heavily weighted to acedia
A balance of forces, heavily weighted to acedia

On the acedia side are the ways in which we treat ourselves. Inherently we are pain avoiders (basic biology), but our cultural models generally push us to self-deprecation (especially self-criticism when we do not fit the cultural models of size, shape, success, etc.), familial trauma (as families struggle with many internal and external demands of success, personal satisfaction, finances, etc.), and cultural trauma (in the many subtle ways in which we struggle with the failed promises of technology and economic life). And from this stance, we treat the planet: we allow world hunger, the maltreatment of women and children, the subtle maltreatment of men (witness the farmer suicides of India), environmental disaster after disaster — the list goes on.

What a mess! It is the mess that requires long-term correction to take us to a culture that intrinsically values all human life, and all of creation.

But the first order of priority is to stop global warming, and its immediate antecedents, the fossil fuel industry in its many pervasive forms. If we do not do that, the rest doesn’t matter.

I have therefore joined the Climate Mobilization in its pledge of action.

Coming next: Acedia and Evil.

A question of how to release anger!

The skill is in knowing what to do.
The skill is in knowing what to do.
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.

My answer:


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.

Why I do anger management

So sad.
So sad.

In one sense, this post is a digression on my current theme of visioning a mature society. But it also gets to the heart of the matter of how we are to get to this vision. For me, anger is the canary in the coal mine, and it has movement.

First, what a blog offers me.

In doing a blog, I am forced by its structure: It needs to be short and fairly concise, neither of which really suits my need to present depth. However, I go in a number of interesting directions.

  • I give major attention to how blogs attract people, a significant learning curve for me.
    • I use more lists and more subheadings — they apparently attract more attention. (Because of information overload, people seek very brief bites of information, thus very stressful and dysfunctional. Efficient, but sad!)
    • I keep the posts relatively short, forcing me to be more precise. Likely a good thing.
  • I use my meditation practice (approximately 40 minutes a day) as a way to reflect; thereby, I access my other-than-conscious mind, a very powerful workhorse for me.
  • In having pause time between blogs, I develop very interesting (to me) side-branches to the themes I want to present.

So, why anger management?

I focused on anger management as a therapist largely because anger was so much a part of my own life. With this, I soon came to realize that anger is a part of every life issue. Thus I had the opportunity to study the whole of life.

In that sense, anger is a window to cultural issues, and is a canary in the coal mine. If you want to improve any situation, augment the positives and diminish the negatives. As applied to mine conditions, for example, you work on a) education for better conditions, and b) improving the ventilation system. But if you don’t change the ventilation, education does little good. From my perspective, if our culture does not deal long-term with the underlying anger in healthy ways, much (all?) of the positive movement is ineffective.

In addition, anger has movement; it is a push against the environment. Eventually in my therapy practice, I realized that the people who were stuck were either lazy (they wouldn’t do the work) or fearful (they were afraid of the consequences of the work) — I’m not being critical here, simply attempting to identify. So in retirement, I decided to research laziness and fearfulness as the focus of my PhD. (Eventually I subsumed laziness and fearfulness, plus self-righteousness, into the ancient word, acedia.)

There are two problems with acedia:

  • there is no movement; acedia is a stuck state, and requires an existential choice by the individual that they will not stay stuck; they will move through whatever the issues are.
  • acedia is the dominant factor that has lead to the issues of climate change. As a culture, we have been unwilling to do the work of choosing a world based on justice and health.

Thus, for me, anger management has been my path to health, both individually and culturally. I’ve learned much thereby, both about the negatives and the positives.

Now, back to cultural visioning (unless I develop another digression). :)))

This post is part of what I am calling the core posts for understanding what I am attempting by this blog. For other core posts, click here.

Blogs I Follow: Richard Rohr


As you will note under Blogs I Follow, I subscribe to the blog of Richard Rohr at Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC).

I do so because I find him to be the most spiritually mature individual of whom I am aware. (Overall my previous mentors, listed in my most recent post, also fall into this category.)

Richard Rohr is a Catholic priest, a Franciscan monk. In 1986 he envisioned CAC as a place where opposites (action and contemplation) are held together, bridging gaps between the spiritual and the justice communities. As a priest, his language is often religious, but the underlying content of what he is writing is deeply spiritual (see my next post for what I mean by spiritual, and how I think it differs from religious).

Especially I recommend his most recent post: Unconditional and Conditional Love.

How much do you know about the American 2nd Amendment?

And what would you like today?
And what would you like today?

A very interesting article, reminding me that “believing is seeing.” I will soon be presenting a post on Beliefs and Values.

Opinion: What America’s gun fanatics won’t tell you.