If you’ve been resting – and I hope you have! – you may find yourself rapidly overwhelmed with unprocessed emotion. In my experience, it comes in waves, and it is never more than I can handle. However, I’m often not convinced of this at the time it is happening! I feel overwhelmed, unable to process the sheer force of emotion coursing through me. Left with no outlet, I have often found myself nearly debilitated – able to go to work, and that’s about it. I have found, though, that finding an outlet and processing emotion physically drastically helps and lets it flow through (read: get the heck away from you and stop sucking up your whole life) significantly faster.
Anger and rage – along with grief, which we’ll talk about next week – were some of the first emotions to come up for me in the whole therapeutic/resting/healing process. Growing up, my dad was nearly perpetually enraged, but rarely actively expressing it, and I felt like I was living with a powder keg that might explode at the slightest provocation. As you might imagine, we tiptoed a lot in our house, and anger was always my most feared in emotion. I feared it in myself, and I feared it in others. Not so any more! Anger is one of my favorites! Healthy anger is just a messenger – a boundary has been crossed, and it needs to be addressed. When I can hear it in the moment and correct my course, it is sheer joy.
If you’re resting, though, and releasing some stored rage…well, there is no real course correction. It’s old rage, and it’s still valid, but having been repressed for so long it’s no longer carrying an action step with it. For me, it was carrying action steps that would have been fabulous twenty years ago, or action steps that were completely outside my control, in the case of childhood rage. This is where things can suck. Yes, this stuff needs to come out – otherwise it is stewing around inside us.
If there is no outlet, though, it boils over into current life and starts messing things up. This is when I find myself going into one of two modes. The first is, “I may explode at the slightest provocation”, which is deeply unpleasant for me and all around me. You may be able to identify with this state. It’s the type of state where you find yourself screaming uncontrollably at some poor, random customer service representative after being put on hold for thirty minutes. Then, if you’re like me, spending the rest of the evening embroiled in deep shame about doing so.
The second state is a hideous pseudo-depression, where I turn all that rage upon myself without being aware of it. I find myself overwhelmed, barely able to function, occasionally wishing for death, engaging in compulsive behaviors, and frequently craving hard, crunchy foods. That’s usually my first clue, actually – a sudden desire to eat something that allows me to bite viciously and makes satisfying noises of breaking. That might just be me, though!
If you happen to find yourself in either of these states, I have fabulous news to share. There ARE ways to express your anger that don’t hurt you or anyone else. Even better…they’re just freakin fun, and the amount of relief after doing any of these things is nearly indescribable. Here is a laundry list of ideas – some from me, some from my therapist, some from my friends. All rock, in my opinion, but different ones work in different situations for me. See if any of them work for you!
- Scribble violently. I know, I know, this sounds so wildly lame. It’s not, I swear. It’s FUN. Especially if you have childhood rage going on, this one is just a blast. Grab a giant sheet of paper and either crayons (I personally like oil pastels, they smear better) and just let it rip. Be prepared for flying crayon tops all over the place, and to go through crayons quickly! Have plenty on hand!
- Rip paper. Sounds just as lame, yes. But also fun – not as much as the scribbling in my opinion, but still fun. The best part about this and the first option is that they are perfectly doable in confined social environment, such as apartments with thin walls or your home with multiple kids in the next room.
- Go somewhere – the woods, your car in a deserted parking lot – and scream at the top of your lungs. Primal grunting, obscenities – whatever works for you. This one seems especially effective if my rage relates to not speaking my truth in a situation, and often gives me the energy to do so.
- Go to your local auto parts dealer and buy a radiator hose. (Word of caution – they will ask you what type of car you have, etc. Check it out online beforehand so you are not as fantastically embarrassed as I was when buying mine. They were out of hoses for my car, so I finally had to say, “look, dude, I don’t care what it fits, just give me the cheapest radiator hose you have and make sure it’s long enough.” Who knows what that man assumed I would do with it.) Then, get a phone book. Go into a quiet place where you will not be disturbed and will no one can hear you. Then, WHACK that phone book with the radiator hose, preferably while screaming or yelling. Fabulous. Just fabulous. Just writing about it brings me back to that place of deep peace that arrives once you’ve finished!
- Creative, unrestrained dance or other physical expression. Some of my best rage release has been through pole dancing. Seriously. There’s something about being able to move with music that is so phenomenally healing. If dance is not your thing, running, jumping, martial arts might be an outlet for you.
- Go to the local thrift store and buy very cheap plates and dishes. In a safe location, throw them against a surface so they break. (Some of the downsides…use caution, possibly wear goggles, and then you have to clan all this crap up.) I’ve never done this, but a friend of mine has, and said it was the most fun she’s ever had for $2!
- If you have even a slight ability, go to a slow-pitch softball batting cage and just hit the ball. This is my personal favorite. I can’t always hit the ball, but even trying has a type of visceral release that is just pure joy.
I hope that this helps. I would also love to hear about methods you have found for processing rage in a healthy way. Please leave comments if you have any. We would all benefit from hearing them!