Updated: Jul 11, 2022
I have been having my own ‘journey’ with anger recently.
We are often, especially as women, taught that anger isn’t pretty, that it can affect our ability to be/have a relationship. That we are ‘too much’. So we repress it. Feel guilt and shame if we dare to recognise it bubbling up inside us because as children we were admonished and possibly punished for expressing strong emotions. For expressing ourselves. For expressing our authentic self. For expressing how we feel about a situation. Because the caregiver couldn’t cope with that. Because the caregiver felt overwhelmed by the strong emotions. Because the caregiver took those strong emotions personally, because their own childhood wounding is projected onto you. So the cycle through the generations continues - do as I say, not as I do.
While training to be a Sex, Love & Relationship Coach, our teacher, Layla said that we need to be aware of our own triggers and projections. The reason we covered shadow work and had to work on this is so we are aware if any of our own shadows ‘get in the way’ of our ability to coach. Recognising and understanding them means we can work on them, and not project onto a client.
She said our sessions with clients will often open up opportunities to learn about ourselves. Already I have seen this to be true. I recently coached 2 people which involved them 'speaking to their parents', in a symbolic sense, not literal. It is an opportunity to unleash everything they felt about that caregiver. The purpose of this is to say the things that can’t or may never be said, both where the caregiver has been and hasn’t been what the client needs from them.
The client is then walked through a process where they create and then embody a caregiver inside of themselves who can take the place of the actual caregiver and meet their needs. This internal caregiver can be someone the client goes to for support should they need it.
During this practice, I noticed that as both clients were talking, one to her father another to her mother, that they weren’t getting angry. The one speaking to her father had lots of sadness and I invited her to explore what was under that sadness, with some time and dropping further into the process she reached her anger and began to let it flow.
The other woman when speaking to her mother, there was a point when she was speaking and the anger began to surface and she shut it down again. At the end of the session we explored anger and she said that she had problems accessing it during the practice but also in life too, so as part of her practice to do during the following week, I gave her a practice to connect to that anger.
Coaching both women through this practice and seeing them struggle with anger it highlighted in myself where I was also struggling to display my anger. In my 20s I didn’t have this problem. I remember arguments with ex boyfriends, the rage, I remember shouting from the pit of my stomach. I remember kicking furniture. Back then, I was trying to be seen, that my rage would somehow make them notice me and maybe trigger a reaction in them that showed they cared. If you have read my previous posts about attachment styles, this ‘inappropriate’ way of reaching out to be seen is linked to an anxious attachment style. Due to my attachment style I was drawn to via trauma bonds to avoidant attached men, so they would shut down with these outbursts, going within themselves, a learnt response to familiar behaviours from their own caregivers. The issue was, it would upset me further.
I was constantly being told to be less angry. Which was partly correct and not. I was reacting via my attachment style and automatic nervous system response to behave in this way. To ‘throw a tantrum’. I had never learnt to regulate my emotions and no one had ever shown me. Because I hadn’t been shown at any stage how to channel the anger in a more health way, I began to shut it down and become passive. This contributed to me having anxiety.
My personal journey with anxiety that you can find on other posts is that blocking my ‘negative’ emotions or having them invalidated created my anxiety. Blocking my emotions, including anger and not being allowed to express all range of emotions, including sadness meant they got trapped in my chest and strangled my throat. My chest would pulsate as the trapped emotions tried to burst themselves out - but I feared, not worrying what might happen if I do let it out, but how other people might perceive me if I did. Would I still be loved? Would I still be safe? Would I still belong?
In conscious parenting we are told all the time to validate our children’s feelings that they are welcome. We just ensure that they are supported in a way that they don’t hurt themselves or others (physically and emotionally). However, we don’t give that grace to ourselves.
So how can I express my anger? Something I am learning to do is when I feel the rage is connect to it. I tense and breath deeply and maybe express with grunts. I explain to my children that I’m angry and it isn’t directed at them, that it’s an emotion I’m working through physically. I listen to my body and respond to its cues. It’s important for the body to work through an emotion when it’s surfacing, including anger. I will sometimes find it’s enough, depending on the intensity of the anger to connect to the sensations. I concentrate on where can I feel it in my body. Is it moving or stagnant? I welcome it. I don’t judge myself or the anger. We were given anger for a reason and it does serve a purpose.
I invite you to try it. To connect. To welcome. I write it often and I mean it - you are welcome here.
All of you.
Carla Crivaro is a trauma-informed and certified Sex, Love & Relationship Coach, she works with men and women internationally to reach their goals in delicious sex, profound love and authentic relationships. Carla helps men and women understand themselves and each other, sexually and relationally, in and out of the bedroom. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.