Have you ever thought this, or said it out loud?
“I just want to hit something”
“I’m going to ignore that person so they know I’m mad”
“Nothing good ever happens to me”
“I am so alone, no one understands me”
“I don’t care about my body I’m just letting myself go”
“Why did I spend money on that?”
“Nothing has any meaning to me anymore”
“He is such an idiot! I want everyone to know that it’s all his fault”
“I have been bingeing on weekends to the point that I feel out of control”
These are some common ways we cope with anger. These are impulse responses and don’t produce healthy outcomes. We all would like to default to helpful reactions, but we don’t know how to. Because we are so angry we can’t think rationally. We also haven’t been coached or taught how to process, identify or come up with creative beneficial responses. We can’t even name this feeling! (Click HERE to read our last post about identifying angry feelings and actions)
Once anger is acknowledged and identified, it’s time to find healthy expressions for it. There are meaningful ways to express and release anger without doing emotional or physical harm to yourself, someone else, or your environment.
Dr. James Pennebaker, a pioneer in the study of using expressive writing as a route to healing, has shown that short-term focused writing can have a beneficial effect on everyone—from those dealing with a terminal illness to victims of violent crime to college students facing first-year transitions.
“When people are given the opportunity to write about emotional upheavals, they often experience improved health,” Pennebaker says. “They go to the doctor less. They have changes in immune function. … People will tell us months afterward that it’s been a very beneficial experience for them.”
If you feel some things are too deadly to say aloud, go for depth journaling. Unleash the words without sensor. Scream on the page. Keep writing until it’s all out. Dr. Scott Brady believes that many chronic conditions are the result of unexpressed anger. In his book Pain Free for Life, Brady prescribes a six week course of depth journaling and outlines simple prompts for daily 20-minute sessions to write out personal anger. This Positive Practice is based on some of Dr. Brady’s prompts.
Positive Practice: Release Anger through Writing
- In your journal, write down the intensity of your anger on a scale of 1-10 and why. You may notice a change in intensity over time.
- When writing about an event or issue, focus on the emotions the event caused, not just the event itself.
- Keep your journal with you at all times. When you feel a flare up of intense emotions, journal about them wherever you are.
- If you are not comfortable writing about strong emotions such as anger or rage, work your way up to it by writing about less intense emotions such as frustration or irritation.
- Feel free to discard or keep any or all of your journal entries. Some people find it helpful to reflect on their journals; others do not.
Excerpts from The Small Guide to Life’s Big Changes
More Positive Practices will be coming next time for releasing anger in healthy/helpful ways. Keep telling us about personal experiences with this topic. We can all relate.