Healing Through Being With Anger

by Karl Smerecnik on April 4, 2012

Let yourself feel it to heal it. Photo by William A. Clark

For the past 2 days I have been in a deep state of anger. It wasn’t directed at anyone nor was it directed at myself. I don’t quite know why it was there but it was intense. I found myself seething throughout the days. The littlest things would set me off internally – I wasn’t expressing it outwards towards anyone. I didn’t want to talk to anyone nor did I want to do the things I normally I enjoyed. I didn’t know what I was wanting or needing, all I knew was that I was angry and that I didn’t like it.

As the anger persisted, I knew I had to eventually face it. This past year I have been on a journey of exploring my emotions. I have been allowing myself to feel my emotions more fully and not repress or ignore them. I have been committed to the approach of “If I feel it, I face it.” It has been both painful and incredibly healing, and is ultimately leading me towards the way I want to be in the world.

Anger is not an emotion I often experience, I am more prone to frustration, shame, guilt, or sadness. But here anger was, staring me in the face. Even though I didn’t face it right away, as my pain and confusion made it difficult to approach, it became so unbearable I needed to do something about it.

There are two approaches to facing painful emotions I have been exploring lately.

The first approach is to allow myself to fully experience the emotion, accept it wholeheartedly without judgment, and then focus on the beauty and joy of what I am longing for as I have it in the moment. The idea is that by focusing on the beauty and joy in the present moment you shift your energy level into a state of love. This transforms the pain into momentum to move you towards that which you love and as some would say, it draws more love towards you.

The other approach is similar but different in a significant respect. I allow myself to fully experience the emotion, accept it wholeheartedly without judgment, and continue to be with the emotion, or mourn, until it passes through me. I maintain full connection with the emotion and unmet need/desire until I feel it released. I then become a clear channel. When the painful emotion releases, love, creativity, and joy naturally flow through me without needing to intentionally focus my attention on it.

As I have experimented with both, I find myself continually drawn to the latter. I find that if I focus on the beauty, as with the first approach, while still in the midst of pain, it only temporarily covers the pain. I may experience the beauty in the moment and my energy is temporarily shifted, but the pain-energy is still underneath just waiting to erupt again. It also feels a little uncomfortable and stressful because I start telling myself, “I should be connecting with a higher energy rather than feeling so shitty.”

In this anger situation I was facing, I followed some advice from a wise friend, and took time out to be with the anger. I was finding it so difficult to work as well as do the things I enjoy. I went into my room when nobody else was in the house, I sat on my bed, put my face to my pillow, and started cursing and yelling and raging as fully and intensely as possible. I pounded on my bed with my fists in my full rage until I ran out of energy – which actually only took less than a minute.

The anger naturally gave way to sadness. I felt the sadness of my having been angry for two days, the sadness of my own career challenges, the sorrow of having felt so alone in my anger, the sadness of not having had the flow I was wanting, and the fear of the unknown future.

The sadness was gentle and comforting. There was a certain sweetness to just being okay with how I was feeling, as opposed to the resentment I had been harboring towards my anger.

As I laid there on my bed feeling vulnerable and uncertain of what to do next, a sudden impression entered my mind and body: “I want to write about this.” I didn’t need to motivate myself to write, I didn’t need to tell myself I “should” be writing, nor did I need have a good reason to write, I just felt this natural pull to write. I felt like I was being led to my creativity and passion.

Once I started writing, I was even graciously provided with an opportunity to test if my anger was still present. The first draft of this article was completely erased when my word processor unexpectedly shut down. Instead of getting furious, which would have most certainly been the case before my mourning process, I was able to just accept it with very little emotional impact and start rewriting.

I like that I am writing this. I like that I am sharing my experience. I like that I am being open and honest about my emotions with the hope it will inspire others to be more connected to their emotions and be encouraged to share them with others. I like that I am healing through anger and finding other ways to transform my pain into aliveness. Though I still feel a certain vulnerable softness to my being, I also feel a new acceptance of what is and the hope to move forward with whatever arises.

My vision is that we create communities of people that learn how to honestly encounter their emotions, express them to one another in full authenticity, and support each other in fully experiencing and healing them. The more I go through this healing process of fully being with my emotions, the more open I become an empty vessel ready to be filled with love, aliveness, creativity, and flow.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mark April 4, 2012 at 18:14

Very open and honest, I enjoyed your thoughts on this subject. I always find that truly releasing anger (for me, punching a heavy bag) is the fastest way to move forward and back to happiness.

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2 Karl Smerecnik April 6, 2012 at 11:56

Hey Mark, I’m glad to hear it resonated with your experience.

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3 stephen April 4, 2012 at 19:22

this is my favorite blog of yours that i’ve read thus far!!!!!! undoubtedly because its a theme that’s been on my mind a lot lately…i had a mystical night a few weeks back where i experienced an immense peace beneath the [high and low and ever-changing] waves of emotion. rather than feel the thought ‘i’ll be at peace when my emotions are healed’ (and thus being in a perpetual state of resistance to the flow), i was blessed with fully experiencing an ever-present peace that’s ALWAYS here, underneath whatever’s happening. so trippy. while it’s easy for me to intellectualize now, having the emotional and intuitive memory of that experience has helped in re-minding myself: it’s not the emotions that need to be corrected, it’s the resistance to fully experiencing them that needs healing. the emotional highs and lows that grab our attention will settle, as they always do, once they’re experienced (and judging anything in the way we often do is certainly a way to resist feeling/knowing it).

oh and…i love what you said about the first approach, and how it can arise a thought of ‘i should be feeling higher than i am’. that theme seems to come up for a lot of people with a meditation practice, including myself. moments of feeling ‘at home’ and present for a time, and then losing the presence as the blissful emotion leaves. it’s the resistance to the lows that’s at the root cause of suffering in my experience. and the funny thing is, there’s also an unconscious resistance to the highs that i’ve found goes hand-in-hand. Joy can be emotionally experienced so much more fully when you’re not at emotional odds with sorrow. if that makes sense.

i love it brotha. this was lovely to read.

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4 Karl Smerecnik April 6, 2012 at 11:55

I love these lines: “it’s not the emotions that need to be corrected, it’s the resistance to fully experiencing them that needs healing” & “joy can be emotionally experienced so much more fully when you’re not at emotional odds with sorrow.” I added those to my quote list :) . Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm and excitement as well as your encouragement!

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5 Lynn Brice Rosen April 4, 2012 at 21:31

Dear Karl–my own heart is more tender from having taken in all that you’ve shared with us. What a gift you’ve offered. Thank you for that, as well as for returning to steppingintowonder.

But there’s a clear part of me which is disagreeing with you. My sense[ing] is that it was not your anger which healed you. Rather it was the compassion and love with which you turned towards your anger. It seems to me that you were able to experience this paradox in ways which allowed compassion and love to provide a vessel within which anger was able to be honest—to be honestly experienced and expressed. And then to be able to depart, having been heard/witnessed/honored by the ways you allowed it to be there—just the way it was.

Blessings to you and each of those feelings which eventually guided you, returning you to writing. L

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6 Karl Smerecnik April 6, 2012 at 12:00

Hi Lynn, I love the point you are making. I would agree, it’s the compassion, love, and acceptance that create healing. I suppose the title could be revised. I’ll put some thought to that. Thank you for your encouragement and kind words, it’s so incredibly supportive.

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7 Jayne April 4, 2012 at 21:45

Happy to be the first to leave a comment.

I’m celebrating your grief! I particularly like what you say about straight after having the instinct to write about it as it came easily. This for me is the place to live from. x

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8 Karl Smerecnik April 6, 2012 at 12:03

I’m enjoying the connection and support here Jayne, thank you for sharing your words.

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  • 9 hailey April 5, 2012 at 03:19

    Hi Karl,

    We don’t know each other first-hand, but your blog was recommended to me by a friend who blogs at throwingbacktokens through wordpress. I really related to what you wrote here: “I felt the sadness of my having been angry for two days, the sadness of my own career challenges, the sorrow of having felt so alone in my anger, the sadness of not having had the flow I was wanting, and the fear of the unknown future.” I am feeling EXACTLY like that these days, but have been fighting it off, pushing it away, and then when it comes back, feeling bad for feeling bad. I am trying to just let go – but that’s a contradiction in itself! ha! I don’t know what state I’d be in without my daily meditation and frankly, my effexor (anti-depressant). This too shall pass, but in the meantime, perhaps I can just be with it and figure out what it/they (sad/angry emotions) are telling me, and what I am needing right now.

    Thank you for sharing!

    Reply

    10 Karl Smerecnik April 6, 2012 at 11:51

    Hi Hailey, I’m really moved by your experience. Thank you for so sharing your struggles so openly and honestly. I wish you well on your journey of self-healing and look forward to further interacting.

    Reply

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