We’ve leaned out of the window to bang pots and pans out of gratitude for the essential workers around us.
But how many of us feel like leaning out the window and hollering the famous line that Howard Beale screamed in the movie Network: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!”? If you listen to his full speech, you can be forgiven for thinking the movie came out last year, not in 1976!
So what does that release of anger do for you? And what does it do to you?
When the science of psychoneuroimmunology came out, it was scarcely believed. The study of how our brains affect our physical bodies seemed like something out of science fiction. Could certain proteins called peptides really affect our emotions? And could our emotions really affect our bodies? But the truth of that work, the science behind it, and what that means for you and me, is an important key to keeping us healthy.
We know about stress. We know it causes disease. We know if we go to the doctor, more than 80 percent of what she finds wrong with us can be directly connected to stress. But we never learned how our emotions cause stress. Or how to release the stress our emotions cause.
We just want to run to the window and scream!
But before you head off to the psychiatrist’s couch or the meditation cushion in your well-intentioned desire to get rid of your emotional stress, listen to this: Your emotions carry information. Important information. It’s this very information that causes that flood of chemistry through the body that motivates your every action.
That anger you’re feeling because things are crazy in your life or in the world, and that trapped feeling of being unable to find a way forward, let alone a peaceful way forward, are showing you what’s valuable to you. You’re finding what is worth fighting for; what is worth standing up for. If you don’t express that anger in some way (more on that in a moment), then you can fall into depression or anxiety.
Anger is a powerful force. It makes people act in ways both crazy and brave. It causes wars and endless retribution. And it creates movements for equality and overthrows dictators.
You can take the powerful energies associated with anger and create positive and equally as powerful actions in the right direction. Instead of defaulting to “fight mode,” you can recalibrate and move into “right action mode.” The work is in finding what the anger is pointing to, and then discovering the appropriate actions to take to mitigate the situation.
Learn how to decipher what your anger is telling you:
- Take out a pen and paper and write down the top 5 things you’re angry about.
- Zero in on the ones that are directly in your life, versus anger at things in the world.
Notice: While you’re writing, you might feel the anger rising right away. If this is the case, cover your hand over your forehead and keep writing. This keeps you from going into stress response at your anger.
- Once you finish writing, stand up and do these Energy Medicine Yoga poses:
– Transform anger to assertiveness: Expel the Venom
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend forward and reach down to the earth, making fists as if you’re grabbing weeds from a garden. Imagine all the things that make you angry and pull them out by the roots. Now bring your arms up overhead as you stand, and then throw your hands down in front of you to the earth — as if you’re throwing the weeds into the compost pile — and exhale with the sound Shhhhh. Do this three more times.
– Release anger: Wood Hold
Hold the heels of your hands over your temples and the fingers over the forehead. Hold as long as feels good to you. Take several deep breaths, exhaling with the sound Shhhhh, and continue to hold your temples.
- Now take up your paper again and write down any solutions, ideas, or inspirations you have. Is there anything you can actively do to shift the situation?
Moving the energy of anger out of the body by Expelling the Venom, and then continuing to calm the anger responses in the physical body with the Wood Hold, both help you to process the energy of your anger, release it, and transform it into positive action.
We’re all angry at the moment at one thing or another. But fighting isn’t the answer. We need to find creative ways to solve our problems, and that’s difficult to do if you’re boiling over.
The next time something really ticks you off, try these techniques and see if you can come back into calmness and to finding the right actions to take. You’ll feel better, and you’ll also be more effective at changing the things that need to be changed.