Holding onto anger feels awful and it’s no good for you physiologically. The other day a foul-mouthed oaf masquerading as a concreting contractor yelled expletives at me at 6.30am in my back yard, for a reason that was nothing to do with me. I was left shaking with anger, tears threatening to pour down my cheeks at any minute. Rather than carry this anger with me and hold that sick feeling inside me for the rest of the day, I went into my kitchen and made some pesto in a most unladylike fashion.
As I annihilated the basil leaves I screamed out expletives that would appall my mother. As I pulverised the pine nuts I yelled out the withering comments that would have left him begging to apologise. I took out my anger out on some poor unassuming greenery with a granite stick, in my own kitchen with no one else around except the cat (who ran away pretty quickly). And it felt GREAT! I let all the remnants of that unpleasant encounter go. I didn’t let it spoil the rest of my day. (Side note – I did make a bit of a mess).
As a somatic psychotherapist I help people release anger in a safe, confidential, therapeutic setting. Sometimes they hit a giant foam cube with a foam mallet, sometimes they stamp their feet and scream. I encourage them to let it go. You do not need to carry that anger inside you. Better to let it out in a safe, therapeutic space rather than keeping it inside you and risk it leaking out later onto someone else (usually your nearest and dearest). And best of all, when you let go of the anger there’s more room inside you for love, pleasure and joy.
But you can’t always queue up a handy therapist appointment at the precise moment of the anger, so here are my top tips for letting out it out in a safe way:
Choose your location and time
Don’t have a dummy spit in public like this lady in China .
Find a quiet, private spot so that you can let rip without scaring or offending anyone (or making a complete tool of yourself).
If you are worried about noise put on some loud music. I live in a Queenslander which has zero sound proofing so I put on loud music so that I don’t scare the daylights out of my octogenarian neighbours (pretty sure they’re deaf anyway…)
Get grounded and ‘present’ first
Letting rip whilst you’re un-grounded (not feeling like you’re connected to your body) is a BAD idea. Doing some squats against a wall is a quick and easy way to get grounded. Do whatever you need to in order to feel connected with your body, safe, strong and present. Then…
Choose your method for expressing your anger
You want to let the anger out in a satisfying but safe way. You don’t want to hurt yourself or break something that you’d later regret. Here are some suggestions:
- Have a tantrum on your bed. Lie on your bed and have a dummy spit just like a toddler would. Kick your legs and flail your arms. Shout out what you wanted to say but couldn’t, or possibly just “ffffffffffff ##%@@!” Keep going until you’re exhausted.
- Smack the sofa with a cushion (or the bed with a pillow). Hold the cushion with both hands, take it up over your head and then repeatedly whallop the sofa as you yell out what you need to. Or maybe just punch the shizz out of some innocent cushions.
- Buy a granite mortar and pestle and annihilate some innocent vegetables. (Tip. The ceramic ones will shatter if you hit them too hard – granite is stronger).
And finally – rest…
When you feel like you’ve vented your anger, take an equal amount of time to let your nervous system settle back down. Don’t miss this step – your body needs this. An easy way to do this is a pose called the waterfall.
Bend over and touch the floor with your fingers, bending your knees if your hamstrings are tight. Breath slowly and deeply, letting that energy you’ve built up drain out of you into the floor. Let your energy drip down into the ground like a candle melting. Breathing in through your nose and sighing out through your mouth. Using your breath is an excellent method of telling your nervous system to go back into the parasympathetic (rest and digest) state. When you’ve finished, roll up slowly, giving your blood pressure time to equalise, and then go about your day, safe in the knowledge that you’re not going to take it out on your mother in law (although it may be tempting!)
So remember…Get grounded, find a safe space, let rip, drop the f-bomb and then it all go. Don’t carry that shizz with you. There are more pleasant things to carry around (like a bowl of Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food).