June 4, 2021

What To Do With Anger?

by christopherabdo

Anger is not an emotion I've felt a lot of in my life. Its a tricky emotion, so here you'll see me "practicing" turning anger, (which tends to lead to creating enemy images out of people, yourself and/or your situation) into hopefully compassionate committed action. 

If it's really difficult for me to get a garden successfully producing food, if its difficult to get yard space close enough to me that I can daily attend to, if its difficult to get the resources I need to move forward...how much more difficult is it for someone with more commitments and constraints? We must make this easier. I feel anger with my situation, but also because what it means for others. 

Someone with less financial resources than me, or with children, or with disabilities wanting to turn their life around through nature? Yeah, forget it. Homeless people? I guess they'll just live under the bridge while some others with more resources complain about it. Great. 

We are in Austin, and the homeless people are growing in numbers under the bridges while I hear and see all these articles about "Austin being the greenest city"?! Oh yeah? Why can't we feed the homeless? Why do we have all these lawns sitting around STILL getting sprayed down with pesticides and other poisons? Meanwhile, people like me, trying to make a difference, can't even get access! 

Alright now hold on! This is a story. 

So I feel anger about my apartment-stuckness-story, and I feel anger about social and ecological injustice...

So what do I do with all this anger?

Alright Dr. Yvette, let's walk through this. I've taken this from Yvette's blog, you can read the whole article here and make sure to attend one of her talks! They aren't awesome though...they are "aha!-some". 

"1.  Neutral Observation: Watch when anger arises, practice noticing it without acting it out and without repressing it.

Are you more of a repressor or a rager? Do you feed your anger with judgmental thinking, entitlement, or self-blame? If so, Stop It."

I like to repress it. I watched my parents rage out all the time and saw it got them nowhere except to a divorce. So when I feel anger, I spend a lot of energy saying to myself how useless it is. Since it has nowhere to go, I just feel tight and tired and burdened.


"2. Feel It to Heal It: Allow yourself to actually feel angry. Emotions rise and fall in about 90 seconds; they live in your body and they ebb and flow. They want to be metabolized.

Where do you feel anger in your body? Is there a hot flush? Constriction of muscles? Surge of energy? Feel Angry and become aware of the thinking associated with this anger." 

So I vented this all out yesterday...to a potted Fig tree. The tree was totally understanding I loved it.


3.  Work WITH your judgments: Identifying and expressing judgments and stories is a critical step to meeting your own needs for awareness, presence to yourself, self-understanding and self-compassion.

Do it alone (out loud or in a journal), or with a therapist or a good friend. Embrace and express your judgments: this is part of theprocess of metabolizing and integrating them with awareness. They want to be seen, heard, considered and valued. Do not resist them.

Thinking something doesn’t mean

That this is “who you are," or

That you even believe any of the stuff coming out.

So, go with it. (Without taking it out on anyone! Including yourself.)

Nonviolence is about working WITH whatever arises, not censoring anything. The more I embrace all (judgmental) aspects of myself, the less powerful they become. The more I metabolize angryenergy through movement and self-expression, the more clarity and tenderness I have to offer myself and others on the other side.

(Last Friday, I spent an hour on my treadmill, screaming judgmental and horrible thoughts at my four walls. I imagined various people and situations that recently irked me and gave myself permission to say all the things I would normally censor and repress in the service of being compassionate and nice.)

AHA! When I hear all these judgements coming up in my head about what I'm doing wrong, what other people are not doing,  about the powers that be, about the situation, civilization, about nature not cooperating by attacking me with bees and running me out of the garden, etc....

I realize the judgements aren't me...so I ignore them. Yet, those judgements are there to help me realize what's important to me...

So this is what I needed to do. Let myself say all the terrible things that I don't believe and know aren't helpful...to my friendly fig enjoying the carbon dioxide and really wanting the people in this world to succeed in protecting and nurturing more life on this planet. 

4. Identify Unmet Needs:Anger brings your attention sharply to what you deeply value and need, so reflect intentionally: What deeply valued and unmet needs of yours are being activated? Make a list of all your unmet needs.

The more I can have access to land, the more I can meet the following needs with better, more sustainable strategies: 

-Clean water, with enough to share with others when an ice storm/power outage leaves our water unsafe to drink without boiling first (which doesn't work if you have no electricity in an apartment where there is no real way you could use a generator....) 

-Food: There is so many reasons our food should be safe to eat, full of nutrition and close by. I have so many articles on this already, so let's move on. 

-Power with one's world: I can't express to you how powerless I felt during the ice storm in Austin. My sprouts were one of things that we had to eat, but I was very quickly made aware that there are many fragile systems, water, power, government and corporations, that are not as dependable as we pretend they are. 

-Community: It's quite lonely to buy everything, and quite satisfying to share and give. I've had glimpses of community, and I miss that in my soul. I deeply wish that on my deathbed, I have a community to see me on my way. 

-Acknowledgment: I want more acknowledgment of the social injustice that is created when we don't participate in growing our own food and protecting green spaces, and how even the rich people deeply suffer with isolation and poor health when they don't get the benefits of community, connecting with nature, giving, etc. Very few of us are NOT suffering from some mental, emotional, relational or other problem that is directly rooted in the reality that humans no longer live in their own natural habitat. You are suffering right now and most likely don't know it yet...or maybe you do since you're reading this! haha 

-Equality: What if there were so many green spaces with so much lush, edible life in Austin (and in every city) and so much education on how to eat plants (I have to confess I'm still struggling with figuring out how to process garden harvest) that should you "lose everything" you wouldn't be worried about food...because remember food used to be free and was growing everywhere...and nearly everyone had the skills to gather or hunt for that food. 

-Contribution: I'm trying to contribute here. Can we make it easier for everyone to contribute? 

There are likely more universal human needs, but that's just a start! 

5. Go with the Shift: As you place your attention on the unmet needs, you are likely to feel a shift to sadness, grief, mourning, pain … Go. There. Surrender to it.

(Near the end of my run (with much walking interspersed!) I had a sore throat, a lot of insight into what was really bothering me, and a lot more grief surfacing. Venting and running turned into crying and running. And relief and clarity: It was wonderful.)

The key to this exercise lies in using awareness, felt-sense experiencing and a deep connection with needs to metabolize and transform the energies of anger.

Anger tells you about what is precious and valuable to you. It also tells you about your limits and capacity.

Harvest that information instead of repressing it. But do it in a way that stays committed to coming out on the other end with no enemies, and instead, with an expanded sense of shared humanity with others

I feel sadness, hope, grief, despair and fear that I'll die before I've made any impact or contribution that can make it easier for others in their path through life. 

That's underneath all the anger. But there's something else: 

There is a lightness, and open-ness inside, I'm ready to listen. I'm ready to look at my options, to move forward and I'm not angry anymore. I'll likely feel all this again, feel this anger again, because none of my roadblocks have disappeared, but instead of pushing against them, when they feel immovable, I'm now taking a step back, which now means I'm more likely to see a way around them. 


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