Irrationally Furious — Our emotions and feelings are as much a part of us as our thoughts. We profit from learning to express them, as opposed to judging them, and then shutting them down.
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So, am I doing a good job stuffing it???
A client said, “For the last few days, I’ve been losing things. This morning, I couldn’t find a sweater, and I got irrationally furious.” I thought, “Hmm. Blog article!”
I said, “What would rationally furious look like? Your mind keeps you from feeling by declaring most of your big feelings to be irrational. Of course they are! They’re feelings!”
Down the rabbit hole, this.
Socialization messes with our heads. Literally.
It’s funny how most people are socialized by learning to tighten up and push down. Parents, doing the best they can, teach their kids to repress themselves, and always in a culturally correct way. We laugh about British stiff lips, and marvel at cultures that dress their women restrictively. Others insist that their kids be loving and huggy all the time, and have little or no room for sadness and anger.
Our cultures each have “go and no-go” emotion lists. There are lots of cross-cultural similarities. (Anger is usually on the no-go list, while “happy” is on the go list.) You’d likely not hear someone saying, “I am irrationally happy,” for example.
The reason all of this is tricky is that there are compelling reasons for not expressing emotions all over the place, especially the “no-go” ones. We really don’t need to see people yelling and screaming while standing in a long check out line, although many in that line are quite angry. Socialization structure keeps such outbursts from happening, and when it does, it’s newsworthy.
The rabbit hole part is that we think a suppressed emotion goes away.
Bodywork theory is all about how we repress our emotions through tightening muscles. If you’ve ever watched a kid “hold back anger,” for example, they are just standing there, and literally shaking with unexpressed rage. The emotion is held in by tightening down the muscles.
In This Endless Moment, I told the story of the guy who seemed, to me, to be filled with anger. He denied it. I suggested he buy a heavy bag, and go home and punch it. He laughed. One day after a session he decided to “gently” test my theory about his repressed anger. He started banging his fist down on the car door arm rest. In 3 minutes he’d pounded it right off of the door.
He bought a heavy bag.
And it’s not only things like anger. I see blocked passion a lot. Sometimes it’s resistance to doing what you know you are called to do. Sometimes it’s blocked sensual and sexual passion.
In Bodywork, a bit of breath and a bit of movement, and poof, passion all over the place.
But again, since our culture dictates repression of passion, what happens is that the person moves less and less, and clamps down on their jaw, biting off letting sounds out. So, we encourage continuing to breathe, deeply. We encourage letting the body move spontaneously. And we encourage the letting out of sound, words, noise. All things we’ve been conditioned to repress.
Our minds can come up with a million reasons not to let go. Rationality, after all, is all about living in your head. Bodies are seen as transportation devices, and occasionally pleasure devices. And yet, beneath all of the muscular tension is a pulsing of energy, and “stuff” waiting to get out.
When people think about emotions or feelings, all that they really do is come up with an excuse for not doing something, not implementing something. Thinking was what our parents taught us to do when we were getting wound up. They wanted is to stop doing something, and to start doing something else, so they taught us to tighten and to explain the feeling away.
The structure of release
The way past all of this is to find the time and the place to express what is really going on. The client with the “irrational fury” also grinds her teeth. Her body is quite tight. She’s quiet. She doesn’t move much. And she’s got a lot of back and pelvic pain.
After years of on and off Bodywork, she’s starting to explore. Last time, I was working on a couple of acupuncture source points on her feet, and she liked the feeling. She then said, “Wow! My jaw just tightened right up.” I suggested that she wiggle her jaw and massage the jaw points. Her jaw let go.
She could then feel the energy, and was soon talking about the “irrational fury.”
The key is permission, and it comes from you
This is the missing piece in our cultural conditioning. All of the “do it this way, not that way” stuff is essential. What is missing is, “Now that you have learned to behave in public, let’s work on getting stuff out in private.”
In Wayne’s world, parents would be showing their kids how to pound a mattress when angry, to curl up in bed and sob when sad, to come for a cuddle when scared.
There would be open and frank discussions about feelings and emotions, and teaching opportunities would abound.
A few months ago, my new computer started acting up (I ended up re-installing Win7…) and after a day of lockups, I said to Darbella, “I am about to lose it with this *&^()*^ computer.” One minute later, the keyboard froze.
I drove my fist down onto the keyboard tray. I smacked it right off of its tracks, the keyboard went flying, and keys broke loose and flew everywhere. Dar just watched, with attentiveness.
I shoved the chair back, stormed out of the room to our bedroom, pounded the mattress and screamed. For about 30 seconds. I then came back, and remembered to keep breathing.
I said, “I hate this! I should toss the whole thing out!” Dar said, “And what are you really going to do?”
I said, “Re-install Win7.” I picked up the keyboard and reinstalled the keys, repaired the keyboard tray, and grabbed the install disk.
Now, needless to say, all of that was “pre-programmed.”
Dar and I have talked and “set boundaries” around the expression of everything, including anger. Key rules: No touching another living being, and don’t destroy stuff mindlessly. We can say anything, and we can stomp, yell, and hit designated objects. (We no longer have a heavy bag, and now use the mattress.)
Dar is not “afraid” of my emotions, and I’m not “afraid” of hers. We’re open to each other’s need to enact what we are feeling, and we often do quick Bodywork on each other just to get something out. Might take 5 minutes, or 10.
If you are near a good Bodyworker, you can use Bodywork this way. All sorts of blockages and resistances can be explored, opened and released. But only if you are willing to go there.
This week, have a look at your body. Notice where you hurt, what and where is tight, and what you think you can’t express. Discover your own “irrational fury,” and set up ground rules for expressing it. If you’re not sure how, or want to share stories, use the comments section of this post.
More on this next week.