There are many unique ways that we experience or express tightness due to anger, impatience, irritation, intolerance—or holding onto anger. It’s a mini-miracle whenever we can shift from being against what we don’t like to being supportive and passionate about what we need. We generally haven’t as a society found ways both in the outer world and the inner world to find a way to contain or slow down our resistant emotions like anger, frustration, accusations, and judgments, which has led to war, alienation, distrust, and an inability to communicate. Acting out anger or resistant emotions or suppressing them dramatically reduces our capacity to trust and creates personal, religious, political, and global separation.
This podcast will help you stay aware of where your anger resides and how you express it. Awareness is neutral, not critical, nor judgmental. Don’t suppress it; direct your anger to the source or the need you have that is being frustrated in a safe place away from the immediate situation. You will be supported to express it to yourself in a harmless and constructive way, deeply feeling it without acting it out directly. If you can’t get away from the situation when it arises, there are four skills you can use:
- Recognize the feeling.
- Understand that expressing it at that moment won’t be helpful.
- Find a way to delay it without revealing your feelings through facial expressions or the tone of your voice.
- Go to a place where you can do the work.
Find a way to honor the feeling, but not in the heated moment, to whatever degree is possible. See if you recognize this as the start of the path toward self-love, conflict resolution, and inner and outer peace.
Note: Below, you’ll find timecodes for specific sections of the podcast. To get the most value out of the podcast, I encourage you to listen to the complete episode. However, there are times when you want to skip ahead or repeat a particular section. By clicking on the timecode, you’ll be able to jump to that specific section of the podcast. Please excuse any typos or grammatical errors. For an exact quote or comment, please contact us.
Awareness That Heals, Episode 112.
The Awareness That Heals podcast helps its listeners learn to develop the capacity to have a more healing response to emotions and situations rather than becoming stuck. Your host, Robert Strock, has practiced psychotherapy for more than 45 years. He wrote the book “Awareness That Heals: Bringing Heart and Wisdom to Life’s Challenges,” to help develop self-caring and the capacity to respond in an effective way to life’s challenges, especially at times when we are most prone to be critical or to withdraw together, we will explore how to become aware of our challenging feelings and at the same time find alternative ways to live a more fulfilling and inspiring life.
Robert Strock (00:47):
Thanks again for joining us at Awareness That Heals where we always start things off with doing our best to bring heart and wisdom to our life’s challenges. We start with what’s most difficult for us, recognizing that these difficulties are universal; even if we don’t notice them very much, they’re inside all of us, whether we recognize them or not. And we look at, and we are devoting ourselves to how we can care for ourselves at these crucial times. Today, we’re going to continue to develop seeing how you can support yourself by being aware of your anger, feel it deeply and also safely. At the same time as you feel your anger, you’re starting to look for what is the need or needs that have been thwarted or frustrated, unmet underneath that led me to be angry in the first place or frustrated or impatient. Now, it might be needs or might even be desires.
Maybe we wanted something and somebody else wanted to go to a different restaurant and we’re annoyed because they always do that, but we’re seeing what the original need or desire is, and we’re getting a glimpse of what direction we’re going to move. Instead of acting out the aggression or the anger, we’re starting to see what are we for? What direction do we need to move toward and how do we need to do it? How do we not pollute the need by adding the anger and frustration to it? Then we’re going to do a guided meditation where you are being asked to be at the very center of the guided meditation because only you are the authority to your life. So for you to put yourself in the center and really see your relationship to aggression and your awareness of needs, is it going to be really beneficial beyond just your head, actually possibly entering your heart, your wisdom, your intuition, your sensibility? This is not easy as most of us have been taught to either express our anger or frustration or suppress and deny it, but very few of us have been taught to pause, to learn how to do it safely so that we have a chance to be able to create benefit rather than harm.
And this is truly a mini miracle. Every time we’re able to make this shift from being against what we don’t like to being supportive and perhaps even passionately for what we need. This is truly something that the world hasn’t been able to do, that this inability to find a way to contain, slow down our resistant emotions, the angers and the frustrations, accusations, judgments, and we can see that it’s led to war, alienation, distrust, and certainly inability to communicate, even the lack of desire to communicate because the distrust has eroded so much has become such a monopoly that domination and control and tyranny believes that it is the best way to guide. Either acting out our anger or resistant emotions or suppressing it greatly reduces our capacity to trust. It creates a sense of separation as individuals, you, groups, religions, countries, political parties. This isn’t just a list; this is a living tragedy. If we can’t discover our humanity and our anger and how we deal with it and find the universal needs that are embedded inside the anger, it has set us on a course to destroy ourselves and each other. On the other hand to the degree we can learn to discover and express what we need from our anger, we can find a profound peace, trust, and caring that has alluded us for so long.
Let yourself get in a comfortable position and ready yourself for the guided meditation. Guided meditation is for so many people, the best way to truly gain benefit in your response to personal challenges. As you invest and bring your own experience to the guided meditations, you’ll give yourself the best chance to change longstanding patterns from suffering toward a state of wellbeing, peace, and healing. It’s important to put yourself in a comfortable body position in a private space where you’re not disturbed. Turn off your phone and be ready to really be alert. So start off by just allowing your attention to be aware of the depth and the flow of your breathing and just naturally find a rhythm that for you feels relaxed and flowing. If you can see what’s in your mind, just gently suggest I’d like you to be quiet now and notice that the way that’s being said is kind, it’s not critical. I’d like you to be quiet now and be sensitively present as you let your body move into positions that foster relaxation, peace, less pain, less tightness or, discomfort of any kind. And now let your attention focus sensitively on asking the question.
Where your anger or other aggressive emotions are most appearing in your life, and can you find them and look for them now? Take your time and look especially at your closest relationships, your partners, your ex-partners, your family, which is where it normally comes from, where we care the most, we usually are also the most aggressive and insensitive at times. It could be anger itself or impatience, irritation, intolerance, perhaps passively holding onto your anger and just being tight and distant. There are so many good choices the way we uniquely experience or express our tightness. So look carefully for yours and see if you can tolerate, accept, or maybe even appreciate the awareness and especially the stabilizing of it. I can see it, I can see it, I can see it, I can still see it, and the stabilizing of it makes it so useful and not allowing it to be just a fleeting awareness where it’s going in and out quickly and see if you can say, I’m glad. I’m aware. That will help you differentiate between awareness and judgment. If you say to yourself, yeah, I can see my awareness, then that’s not awareness. That’s seeing the judgment of being the way you are.
See if you can find a voice. Ah, I am aware, I can be aware. And as much as possible, let yourself stay really aware of where your aggression, frustration, agitation, anger, resides. How you express it. If you’re quiet enough, you can notice and just be aware and once you’ve discovered it, see if you can develop and have a response that’s much more like, oh, good, I can see it and see that this emphasis that we’re giving on the acceptance, the tolerance, the goodness of being able to observe is a crucial part of awareness. It is very different than judgment, and it’s truly your honesty and awareness working, and you don’t want to fall prey to stopping with just your futile and unconstructive criticism. You want your awareness to see, ah, I had my original frustration and then I have this futile and unconstructive criticism. Ah, now I’m aware, because awareness in the way that it’s being used is never critical. It’s neutral. It may have a little bit of caring, but it’s never judgmental. It doesn’t mean it’s not going to say this isn’t beneficial, but the tone is going to be for you, not against you.
Next, allow yourself to look for the place inside you that wants to move toward caring for the anger and also find a way for how you can experience it and express it, very likely not directly to the source that you’re angry at, in a way that is the most harmless. That means you might go to your backyard or your car or to a park or the beach and let yourself really feel it, and at the same time recognizing that it’s not dangerous because you’re not acting directly out, but you’re amplifying it and if anything, exaggerating it so you can see it clearly, but at the same time appreciating that you’re not doing it in a way that’s creating harm. If you find yourself in a situation where you can leave, so you wouldn’t be in a car or with other people at a dinner table to lay the expression of the anger and know you’re going to take it somewhere else, perhaps you’re going to bring it to a best friend that’s going to help you with how to communicate in a way that’s constructive and recognize that this fully experiencing your anger or frustration is a healthy thing. When it’s not acted out, it’s life energy, it’s vitality, it’s passion with negativity, but the passion carries the potential to be aware of what’s needed that was thwarted.
So you don’t want to suppress it. You want to find a way to experience it as fully as possible away from the situation. Now, there are going to be other times where you can’t get away. You’re in a car and you’re with your partner or you’re at a dinner table with your family and you’re really angry or you’re really frustrated, you’re really impatient, you’re really intolerant, and you know if you express it, it’s not going to work out well. So it requires developing a skill, and the skill is number one, is you recognize you’re feeling. Number two is you recognize expressing it. It’s not going to be helpful. So number three is you’ve got to find a way to delay it, and in that situation, you may have to alter your facial expressions, so it’s not obvious and that’s an art form, but you’re doing it for the right reasons. You’re not being fake. What you’re doing is you’re not drawing attention to yourself so you can find a cleaner way of expressing it, and then you go to the place and you do the work.
You do the work of feeling it and starting to ask yourself for what you need. If someone that you’re with notices that you weren’t able to stop yourself and one little frustration slipped out, or your facial expression is not very pleasant, then it’s fine to say you’re a little bit upset, but you’d rather deal with it later and be understated. That is another way that if you’re caught in a situation where you can’t get away, that you can delay it. Those are very important skills. When you’re alone and in a safe place, let yourself say the words with the strongest tone possible. Or if it’s natural to you, you can stomp, scream, whatever way feels like it’s your way, you’re not performing, you’re just allowing yourself to feel wherever you are as fully as it’s there. Now, because this isn’t what we were taught, it’s very likely that you’re going to feel this is contrived. Oh, the real way is to be spontaneous and let them know what I feel. That is what we were taught. But this other way is actually the way to let yourself feel the full-bloodedness of where you are and start to discover how might I communicate in a way that is going to have the best chance of working out for everyone involved?
It’s also helpful if you can notice what other vulnerable feelings might you have, and by vulnerable feelings, I mean feelings like fear, helplessness, aloneness, rejection, abandonment, anxiety because when you notice those more vulnerable feelings that are always somewhere there underneath the aggressive feelings, it makes it easier to find what your needs are and instead of being a nuclear bomb that you’re less harmful. It’s a preparatory stage for discovering how you can express your healthy needs. It may also be part of the communication to share some of your vulnerability as well. So we’re talking about less dumping and less suppressing, and just see it’s that clear to you. You’re finding a way to honor the feeling, but not “live” to whatever degree possible. You’re delaying it so you can have time to discover and express your needs in a way that have the best chance of serving you and the other. And just see as you’re letting this into your heart, can you appreciate that this is a path you want to follow because you want to find a way to get to what you need, rather than acting out against what you don’t like. See if you can recognize that this is the beginning as a form of love, self-love, peace, and conflict resolution.
This is a major turning point and a pivot from being against what you don’t like, from leaning into discovering and working for what you do need and letting yourself remember so you can have access to it. Recognize this is an evolutionary step in developing a sensitive heart and fostering peace. So keep feeling in these safe ways, your unique depth of anger and patience, frustration, openly and privately. And if anything, when you’re there, keep exaggerating it so you can feel it fully. This is live, vital, good energy when it isn’t dumped, it’s a major step in being angry without creating harm. So how much can you pause even for a few seconds and appreciate this sincere way of moving toward taking care of everyone involved instead of being impulsive or instead of burying your feelings, while feeling the agitated feelings, pause and see if you can get a glimpse of your vulnerability more clearly. Because as mentioned, that can be very helpful to see your fear, to see your insecurity, to see your feelings of abandonment or inadequacy, hurt, and letting this help you find your original need and then ask yourself, what is it you wanted in the first place that you didn’t get?
And look for glimpses of your needs that weren’t taken care of. It could be something like kindness instead of anger, or tenderness instead of being treated in a rough way, understanding rather than obliviousness, or perhaps empathy instead of a cool reception, communication rather than just being judged or withdrawn from. So now, let your attention really zero in on finding that original need and stabilize your attention to look for it. If you find it, maybe you might even go, ah, this is my original need that I want to support. Recognize that you’re attempting to reverse decades, if not centuries of conditioning and habits in all of our cultures. Most of us were raised with a completely different model, recognizing that you’re attempting to use the wisdom to want to not create harm, which supports a different kind of capacity for strength and intimacy. Every time you do this, see if you can be a bit touched by your own commitment to foster love, peace, and finding real strength for your benefit and those around you. It is an act of peace and trust that will serve and enrich your life and those closest to you. May it be so.
It’s so important after you do this guided meditation or any of them to see where it actually leaves you and not have the illusion that you’re going to completely get it, because to get it requires decades for most people of practice to reverse this centuries old conditioning. However, many people, maybe even most people get a glimpse and maybe more than a glimpse, they actually see the beginnings of how they want to change their life. Do you have a sense of where you are with this? You have the basics now of the direction that you want to move toward and what you need and not so much protest about what you didn’t get, and the next meditation will take you step-by-step, slowly, to make this clearer and more viable and tangible. See if you feel the motivation to be able to make this tectonic shift, this dramatic shift from the way we’ve all been taught to create this pause at the time when we could be most destructive to learn how to move toward intimacy, real strength and real boundaries. If you’re not seeing the direction of moving towards your most important needs and caring for others, ask yourself if it’s because you’re not committed or you have little faith in yourself.
If it’s a lack of faith or a lack of commitment, your core need will lead you to focus on, I need to focus on more faith or commitment. See if that’s true for you. If that’s true for you, that’s a tremendous shift. My wish is we all give this more and more to ourselves and to each other, and my prayer is that wish is shared by you and passed on to those that you love.
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