The Curse of Emotions – overcoming negative emotions

The Curse of Emotions – overcoming negative emotions

 

You were feeling great… and then you get an email or your partner/boss/friend says something that really upsets you.  And suddenly you’re on fire!

 

flame2

And suddenly you’re on fire

You feel full of justified rage. Even if you know the thing that has upset you is rather trivial, possibly not even true. You don’t quite know where it all came from – all this emotion – but you are totally consumed. And it can take days, weeks to get over it – sometimes an awful lot longer.

Even worse when you discover you’ve completely misconstrued what the other person wrote or said. How could you even think they would say/think such a thing about you? And then you feel the embarrassment of realising that you’ve revealed yourself in a not too flattering light,  shown them a part of yourself that you go to extreme lengths to keep hidden away.

The Power of Emotional Triggers

You have just been HAD by one of your emotional triggers. A trigger that can unlock a very powerful force that lives inside you. Except it’s probably not the kind of power or force that you want to have.

In a recent article THE CURSE OF BEING TOO NICE I named this force the volcano of repressed emotion that has built up over time. And every so often the lid gets accidentally lifted off, as it did on this occasion, and you got a little glimpse of what lies inside your volcano. No wonder most people want to get the lid back on as soon as possible, so they can resume some kind of normal life.

And for a while that’s exactly what happens. The emotional incident passes on and is forgotten about, until the next time the trigger gets set off – and then the whole process starts all over again.

So whilst the emotional trigger does serve to relieve the pressure inside the volcano, it does not serve to heal or resolve or release the suppressed emotion that is the cause of the problem. For whilst this is OK for the everyday irritations of life, it is not OK for your more deep seated patterns and emotions.

Living Under the Volcano

Depression - Isolation

Depression

For many years I sat on a volcano of repressed emotion. I didn’t know it’s what I had. But the truth is that I was half dead and I was just getting through life. I hid out in books and seriousness. I was the quiet girl on the fringes of the action, getting by but having very few expectations of what my life could be.

And by the time I got to young adulthood I started going down with depression. And then I felt even more of an outsider, a smile would have cracked my face, I couldn’t operate socially, it was agony going out with my friends and pretending I was having a good time and I was unable to face any kind of work challenge.

I was training as a nurse at the time and I couldn’t cope with working on the children’s ward. It was just too distressing and I spent a whole summer off sick during one of the hottest summers in the UK, when everyone else was enjoying the sunshine and having fun, I was lying on my bed feeling absolutely terrible.

In the niceness article I made the point that however much pressure may have built up in their emotional volcano, most nice people don’t explode.

In Haiti we have seen the tragic devastation that can be caused when the turbulence beneath the earth erupts. We’ve seen images of it plastered all over our television screens night after night. This is what naturally happens when the pressure builds up to such extent that something’s got to give.

What Happens When You Don’t Explode

So what happens when the explosion doesn’t happen – as in the case of people who have learnt to repress their emotions. If all that volatile material is kept under wraps, it’s got to go somewhere.

It goes within, it goes underground. The explosion is happening and the devastation is occurring… but within you. It is not being released. It is just causing havoc inside. No wonder I spent that whole summer feeling so awful.

Scientific Evidence

There’s overwhelming scientific evidence that emotional repression causes stress, and prolonged stress releases a very harmful toxin into our system called Cortisol. This is what happens when the supply of adrenaline is exhausted – the flight or fight hormone that enabled our ancestors to respond to danger either by meeting the situation head on (fighting) or by running away (flight). For our ancestors this was quickly resolved, the danger passed so that all could return to normal.

But in modern life the pressures are very different. We experience most of our challenges internally, stress levels can continue for a very long time so it all gets turned inwards. So the result is that Cortisol builds up in our system which in turn weakens our immune system which can show up in all manner of minor health problems, low energy levels, depression, chronic fatigue and … some very serious diseases.

I am reading a fascinating book by Candace Pert at the moment called Molecules of Emotion. Candace has proven scientifically that emotions show up in the body as biochemicals called peptides which pass into our cells through little mechanisms called receptors. And the emotional peptides use the same channels that recreational drugs, opium, and heroin do. And in the same way these peptides can either make us feel great or absolutely crap. When there’s severe build up of negative emotion then we can become biochemically toxic and over time this makes it more difficult for our cells to operate properly.

So no wonder as humans that we don’t feel very good when negative emotions are triggered. No wonder we feel low in energy and our system doesn’t operate very well.

Clearing Out The Toxins

But as Candace points out – this actually makes understanding how to heal the toxic effects of emotional stress very easy. There is no big mystery. These toxic biochemicals need to be removed from your system, and then you are soon going to feel an awful lot better. This is too why talking about emotions is not going to be powerful enough to shift the toxic peptides. Physical action is needed for the toxins to be removed. In the same way as you would put a hose on your car if it had accumulated a lot of crud. Physical action (high pressure water coming through the hose) removes the muck off your car in seconds.

Another piece of good news. The body also produces it’s own biochemicals – the endorphins, which are the natural feel good chemicals which can help a lot in the release of toxic emotional peptides.

It is of course a lot more complicated than that. Particularly when dealing with long standing emotion, but I hope this gives you some insight into why your emotions effect you the way they do and what you can do about it. At the end of this article too I’ll give you an opportunity to receive a MP3 recording of a process I have developed, which will activate your endorphins to remove toxic emotion from your system. This process has bee inspired by William Bloom’s excellent book THE ENDORPHIN EFFECT which I also thoroughly recommend.

How Can It Be Safe to Express Negative Emotions?

I received an email from a woman (Liana) who had read the Niceness Article who asked,

I have the volcano, and it seemed for MANY years unsafe to express/release, for all the reasons you said,…can you tell me how myth-a-drama makes it safe, to ease the volcano? Plus…there’s something fun emerging about myth-a-drama, which I’ve seen in your tagline, and that sticks out. Somehow, a way to safely distance from how serious we take ourselves, objectify the murky parts, and be able to accept them back more easily or something… LIANA

Angry face - CartoonSo in answer to this question let’s start with the emotion of anger which causes a lot of problem for many people. Particularly in our society where the expression of anger is not acceptable. (And guess what there is an increasing levels of anger being expressed in schools, pubs, nightclubs and on the street. In UK pubs they are even bringing out an indestructible pub glass to stop the terrible injuries caused to people who have been hit pub glasses.)

So let’s say you’re a woman and you’re angry because your father left at a critical stage in your childhood and so in your adult life you keep on recreating that situation. Your partners are constantly leaving you for other women, which sets up a vicious circle of abandonment and pain which escalates the anger. None of your friends or family can understand why this keeps happening to you and even you begin to give up hope that you’re ever going to meet someone who’s going to stay with you.

So let’s say that this anger has been stored away in a number of very heavy suitcases. With every fresh incident the suitcase just gets heavier. Or more suitcases are need to hold it all. You are aware that you been carrying these suitcases for some time, but its become such a part of your life that you don’t even notice you’re dragging them around with you. Even though it’s exhausting you.

Pile of suitcasesAnd then you get so heartily fed up with this situation, you decide to do something about it. You find a counselor or therapist or healer or start doing some transformational work. And in the process of that you realise you have indeed been carrying these very heavy suitcases around with you and what’s more you’ve been getting your partner to carry them too, so no wonder after a while he finds it too much.

Emptying the Suitcases

The most obvious thing to do to sort his out would be to empty the suitcases. However you’re dealing with emotions and this is easier said than done. Emptying the suitcase is a bit like opening Pandora’s Box. All that repressed anger starts flying everywhere because to shift to another metaphor – the lid has been taken completely off the volcano and now all that volatile material is spewing everywhere.

Your anger is coming out everywhere both consciously and unconsciously and it is creating havoc. Your friends wonder what’s happened to you and it is sabotaging your work relationships. As Liana pointed out there are many situations in which expressing emotions is not safe.

There are many therapies that get you to re-experience the source of your anger and this can be very effective. But I have worked with many people who find some of the more cathartic therapies too much. Particularly men. Their system just can’t cope because it is just too overwhelming to experience that level of pain. They have lives to lead, jobs to go to and they don’t have the luxury to take time out of their life to see this through, so they give up the therapy. The lid goes back on the volcano and all the repressed emotion goes back underground.

Molecules

This is what our molecules look like. Who would think that when we feel emotional that we are actually experiencing a toxic reaction in our cells!

How to Overcome Negative Emotions Safely and Easily

But there is another way – that is much safer, more fun and very effectively clears out the toxic biochemicals fast.

So lets say you found yourself in a myth-a-drama workshop – and you came for other reasons because you want to feel more confident standing up in front of groups, or you want to make a breakthrough in your career or you’re just in the mood for a creative workshop.

And you start off just having fun. It feels good to discharge some of the pent up emotions through the physical and vocal exercises but you don’t think that’s going to make any lasting difference to your emotional life. And then the whole thing moves onto the playacting, well it’s all a bit like returning to playschool, listening to a story and then dressing up.

You find yourself choosing to play one of the rather devilish characters because no one else seems very keen on doing it. But you find it enormous fun. It is rather enjoyable feeling the reaction of everyone, and even though this character does get his come uppance, it’s even rather fun being killed and dying. At the end you just feel very good and rather pleased with yourself, and you get feedback from other people of how much they enjoyed watching you and just how terrifying you were in that role.

That night you have lots of turbulent dreams and you hear from everyone that this good. This is your unconscious clearing out all the junk. Over the course of the weekend you play many different characters and each begins to show you a different part of yourself. And at the end you find yourself dancing in celebration with everyone else, and feeling more alive than you have in ages. You’ve had a good time, it’s done you some good and yes you have surprised yourself a few times but you don’t see that it’s got to any of your really deep seated problems.

Emotions Releasing

And then the next few days you notice that you feel rather emotional. You cry and cry and although it’s a bit disconcerting it feels good to let all that emotion out. And then over the next few weeks all kinds of funny things begin to happen. They seem like coincidences, you bump into people you’ve been wanting to see, unexpected opportunities come your way, and things happen that remind you of some of your experiences in the workshop.

And men/women are beginning to notice you again.

And then much later you find something happening that would normally have you in a terrible mess, except you find yourself expressing yourself in a very different way – and you notice people are taking you more seriously, treating you with more respect. You’re not being let down by your friends. When normally people would avoid you you find them being drawn to you.

This is a fairly typical experience of a myth-a-drama workshop and its after effects. It does what Liana says: to safely distance from how seriously we take ourselves, objectify the murky parts, and be able to accept them back more easily.

This is exactly what happenings. It’s a way of emptying the suitcase safely and by degrees, so that that it just gets lighter and lighter. There are no damaging after effects and so you continue with your life. Processing goes on for weeks and months after the workshop, so does not hit you all at once.

Many people report that they experience a revelation months later, when they realise the place they were in when they did the workshop has completely shifted, and they experience a new dawn with new pathways opening up for them. They feel happier than they’ve done for years which they attribute to being in the workshop.

Solo Performance

A Making Moves participant playing the monster and releasing bucket loads of emotional toxicity safely whilst at the same time having fun

How Does It All Happen

You may notice that for this person, not once have they dwelt on their emotional history. But through out the workshop they were releasing emotions. They were being discharged second hand through playing the different characters and the person was able to do this with relish – so they were actually able to work more deeply on emotions that normally they would avoid – like the rage of the really nasty character. All the time they were in fact releasing their own rage and if felt fun, even joyous to let that out. It is not personal which is what makes it so freeing. This is the power of this way of working.

And at the same time they were also releasing the toxic peptides because they were moving and expressing and this was effecting a physical release at a cellular level. They were also able to see aspects of their own behaviour that they didn’t like or habitual roles that they fall into and this gives them an opportunity to choose different ways of behaving.

The fact too they’ve been working through powerful archetypes in the myth, means they are calling on all the potency and transformational effects of Jungian Therapy – because the myth connects them up with their own unconscious material, which is why they didn’t notice that anything was happening.

Want to overcome your negative emotions. Check out the events I have currently offer or transform your emotions/”unfinished business” in an individual session.  I would suggest booking a series of 6 for best results.

I hope you have enjoyed this article. I am also always delighted to hear from you for any reason so do write to me if you have any questions,  comments or just want to share anything. I’ll answer as soon as I can.

 

© Claire Schrader 2010
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Anger as positive power

Anger as positive power

How to Express and Channel Your Anger in Empowering Ways Without Hurting Other People

When were you last angry? How did it feel? Did it feel good/powerful to express your anger? Did you feel heard/understood/released?

Or did you feel embarrassed by the fact that you were so angry, ashamed that you should have such powerful feelings?

Were you afraid of expressing them…. Wished you weren’t feeling the way you did…. did your best to hide it – but knew perfectly well that everyone else can see that there’s something up with you.

Angry face - CartoonOr did you “lose your rag”, you couldn’t help yourself and said some things you probably shouldn’t.  Or because it was the honest truth of how you felt, and your trying to be more authentic in how you communicate. And now you’re paying for it, trying to pick up the pieces of the havoc that this little outburst has caused because other people can’t handle your anger.

Either way it seems you can’t win!

The Power of Anger

Anger is powerful. Anger can be destructive. It destroys families, relationships and lives. Anger is contagious.

Have you watched a clever speaker manipulate a crowd using the power of anger to stimulate them into action.  Such anger can start wars, fuel conflicts that can last decades, effect generations and nations for many years to come.

No wonder we as humans are so frightened of anger and go to lengths to avoid it.

And yet anger is natural. It is our body’s response and way of releasing emotion that could otherwise cause damage to our internal system. The reddened face, the raised heart beat is just a sign that our body can’t cope and is looking for a way of discharging this toxic energy – or we will literally burst a blood vessel.It was also the way that primitive man survived. It is the “fight” response that enabled him to kill a dangerous beast so his tribe could eat. Anger fueled the fighting instinct so he could overcome his fear and meet a situation with all his power and strength. He needed to be angry enough with the beast to achieve this and his biology produced super human energy for this purpose.

Primitive Man - Statue

Positive Power

So anger is not all bad. When channeled correctly it can be extremely positive.

It is the energy that enables you to achieve your goals and bring about change in your life. Have you achieved things in your life, that were deemed impossible because you wanted to prove someone wrong or because the stakes of not achieving them were just too high?

Anger too fuels countless heroic acts. Our history books and newspapers are full of accounts of situations, when against all odds men risked their life for the sake of others. It is the same energy too that enables a mother to save the life of her child by lifting a car off him.

Martin Luther King said:

“When I am angry I can pray well and preach well”.

Anger enabled him to change the course of history for millions of black people, through channeling his anger in powerful ways. He didn’t achieve what he did by being angry but through finding a powerful outlet for his anger as a preacher and speaker.

Great black americans - Martin luther king

Anger has done as much good as it has done harm. Anger has brought about political, moral and social change. Anger has fueled the peace movement, has saved whales, children, victims of torture…. the list goes on.

Many People Don’t Know How Angry They Are

Many people do not know how angry they are. Because it has become such a habit to suppress their anger, and they have lived with it so long that they don’t even know it’s there.

Certainly that was true for me. I had sat on my rage for years, and it was buried so deep in me that I really had no idea it was there.  As a result I was in a state of numbness. In fact I was half dead, going through the motions of my life and – deeply unhappy.You may have heard me talk about the volcano. This is the metaphor for the way in which your system deals with anger when you are unable to express it. You stuff it down so it can’t be seen and it doesn’t take long before your anger becomes a volcano, full of molten lava and extremely volatile. Anything could set the volcano off so it takes a lot of energy to keep the volcano from exploding.

One of two things are likely to happen. Either your volcano explodes and comes out in all manner of inappropriate ways, or you repress the volcano even deeper and turn the energy in on yourself.

This soon turns into depression. Because repression ultimately leads to depression.

Passive Anger

But the volcano is never as dormant as we would like to think. Little bits of anger are coming out in covert ways. They are dressed up in other ways – in what is commonly known as passive anger.

I was an arch-fiend of passive anger. Anger was creeping out all over the shop. Other people were seeing it, or feeling it, except they didn’t know it. They just felt uncomfortable around me and so they stayed away. Thus I spent a lot of my time on my own, unable to share my true feelings and thoughts with anyone else, and I immersed myself in books – because that was the only place where I knew I was safe.

In fact I was depressed.

How Anger Can Be a Positive Force

So how do you use your anger so it can be a positive force in your life?

And so for me it was very important that I began to reverse that process. Drama became a powerful way for me to do that, because drama enabled me to take everything that I deemed as being unacceptable and to bring it out.

Anger, rage, jealousy are the stuff of drama. It is acceptable for anger to be expressed in drama – it is even entertaining, thrilling, cathartic for an audience to watch. Thus through drama I had permission to express  anger in countless different ways, and the more I did this, the more my own anger began to diffuse. All that old, baked baggage that had lain at the bottom of the volcano at last had an outlet, and the pressure in the volcano began to reduce.

And at the same time my anger was being witnessed. And the more it was being witnessed, the more satisfying it was, and the more freeing and releasing it was for me.

My anger had a purpose. It was no longer a destructive force but an instrument of transformation and catharsis. And it didn’t matter that the situation bore no relevance to the original source of my anger. My anger was being seen, witnessed and welcomed – and that was enough.

I have observed this so many times in groups and workshops. That witnessing brings a healing power of ten. That when anger is seen, validated and approved of, and can even bring healing to other people – then at last it has a powerful role to play.You may remember me talking about Rob who was consumed with road rage. Whilst he may have had a guess as to what his anger was all about, knowing that didn’t help, because this anger was not logical. It could not be neatly explained away. This anger came from a very deep source – maybe beyond language.

Rob discovered a way of getting to the unconscious source of his anger through the Breakthrough Group, and it didn’t involve beating pillows or flailing around. But it involve him channeling his anger through archetypes that became a safe way for this energy to release. In most cases he didn’t even know it was happening. A lot of the time he was having fun playing characters that were anarchic and powerful.

Why Many Anger Exercises Don’t Work

Anger is complicated. Most people are frightened of the power of their anger, so it is not surprising that they clam up when they think they are going to do some anger work. This is why working directly with anger often doesn’t work.

I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve told a group that we’re going to work with anger, and seen everyone shut down. A much better tactic is to tell them we’re going to play a game (often with newspaper) and the results are very different. People happily express anger and aggression with alacrity, in a joyful, spirited way through the medium of newspaper. The room may be strewn with torn up newspaper, which also is rather satisfying, but no other harm has come.

speakingwithconfidenceparticipantIt is only much later that they realise how much better they feel, how much release has occurred, how much fun they have had and how much energy is now at their disposal.

And anger for many people is a camouflage for much deeper emotions – hurt feelings or grief. And so there can be many things within anger. This is why working with archetype and myth is so powerful – as there is so many opportunities within the story to express so many different things, so many different characters to choose from expressing a wide range of emotions.

And this is how Rob achieved such a powerful healing.

My sense was that the deepest release came – not when he was flailing around expressing anger, but when he was doing some much quieter work. In that way he was able to work on the many levels of his anger, in all its shades. And he was also able to work at a non verbal level too, getting to unconscious source of his original wounding.

And he didn’t have to experience the original pain, the principles on which many therapies work on. The pain just melted away.

EXERCISE
There is a very simple exercise that I do in almost all of my groups and workshops that can very powerfully clear anger – or any emotion that is troubling you. Whilst a group or workshop is a much safer and more effective place to clear anger, because of the supportive power of the group and the presence of witnessing, try this simple exercise.

STEP 1
Find a place were you have some personal space and if possible where you can freely express noise.

STEP 2
Stand and connect with the anger you are feeling. It is much better if you stand because this will allow the emotion to flow freely and to be released through the whole of your body.

STEP 3
As you connect with the source of where you are feeling the anger, let you body move with the anger, let it go wherever it needs to go. Let any sounds that want to be expressed. Move around the room if you need to. Let your imagination play. Imagine you are a beast, or a fearsome warrior – what ever comes into your mind as you are exploring this. Enjoy feeling the power of this character/energy. Explore this character as long as you need to – until they come to rest.

STEP 4
When you are complete, take time to be still. Notice what is happening in your body. Then let the character go. Shake them out of your body. Shake anything that needs to be shaken out.

STEP 5
Then step away from the place. Let it go. Go for a walk, or do something that you really enjoy.

I hope you found this article insightful. I am also always delighted to hear from you for any reason so do write to me if you have any questions,  comments or just want to share anything. I’ll answer as soon as I can.

© Claire Schrader 2010

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