Discipline #2 - Anger Workout

What to Do: Spend five minutes a day [not more than twenty minutes at a time]

· focusing your awareness on your most intense feelings of anger

· while you are doing something physically active

· that is safe.

Why Do It: Paying attention to our feelings connects us to ourselves...to what is going on with us. But we don't like the feelings of being angry and we stuff those feelings until they spew out in an over-reaction to a situation or they fester and poison us and our relationships with others. Anger is simply the feeling we have when we are hurt by what we experience to be the choices of others. Anger is a natural and normal response to life. But we don't like what we do when we are angry. We don't like what others do when they are angry. We don't like how others treat us when we are angry. So we stuff it...and stuff it...and stuff it. And then, when we give ourselves permission to be angry and so reach for a pinch of anger, we instead pull up a fist-full.

The anger workout is a way to empty the anger bag so that we are not burdened by carrying all that around with us everywhere we go. It frees us to be able to feel our anger and to express it appropriately.

What it will get you: We have spent many years learning to deny our anger and to stuff it. We have very few models for how to be angry in creative ways. Don't expect there to be a rapid shift in how you feel or express your anger. At the very least, you should expect to do the anger workout every day for a couple of weeks before you will begin to see a change. But look for these three shifts in your feeling and behavior:

· You will become less likely to over-react. When you are angry, you will only be angry about the event that just happened and not all of the other events that it reminds you of that you haven't addressed.

· You will be more aware of being angry. While this may not seem like a good thing at first, you will be able to address issues before they become so overwhelming.

· You will be able to be more creative with how you express your anger. You will be more comfortable with the feelings of anger. This will assist you to become able to try new ways of being and not go back to doing the same old strategies.

Suggestions:

· Try to do the anger workout at the same time everyday. Build it into your routine. Many people find that doing it in the morning as a way to start the day works best, but find your own rhythm. Try to do the same activity at the same time. Walking is probably the best thing to do, but it is possible to do an anger workout doing anything that is physically active, even breathing. Just remember, it has to be something that is safe. Don't rehearse violence. Don't put yourself at risk.

· Don't get lost in thinking about the events that make you angry or in trying to figure out what to do. Stay in the emotions and sensations as much as possible. Problem solving comes later. This is not about developing a strategy, but about becoming more connected to yourself.

· This is not something to do only when you notice being angry. It is fine to take a walk to cool off when you are angry, but this is different. This is spending time every day to go and look for the anger, feel it as intensely as you can, and then put it down and go on with your day.

· It may help to think of your anger as being like a big dog, a working dog. It has a job to do and it is happier when it knows what its job is and how to do it. The anger workout is the time each day when you work on training your anger dog. Take it out for a walk and be fully present to it, but in a way that you both know you are in charge. The problem is that sometimes your anger dog leads you around instead of you leading it around. It will take some time to train it but if you don't spend time with it everyday it will get restless and start chewing things up.

· Some people have too much anger and some have too little. The anger workout serves to moderate anger one way or the other. People with too much anger harm their relationships with others, but people with too little anger get harmed by others. They can't take care of themselves. The anger workout helps them to know their own anger.

· Anger is the feeling most of us are having when we are doing the strategies that we will later regret. But there are other feelings that can be a problem for us. You may want to do a workout around other feelings as well. In general it is best to try to feel the feelings you most don't want to feel. Those are the feelings that are the most repressed and are likely to do the most harm.

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2 Comments

But we don't like the feelings of being angry (so) we stuff those feelings...

Anger is a natural and normal response to (parts of our) life.

This will assist you (in trying) new ways of being (vs being stuck with) the same old strategies.

"It may help to think of your anger as being like a big dog". I find this metaphor runs counter to my experience. Dogs require an alpha male, discipline, control, focus - at least thats what Caesar Milan says on tv. My anger workouts are about letting that beast that is normally suppressed, run wild for 10 minutes, like a dog at a dog park maybe. No master, no rules, no leash, go crazy fido, get it all out of your system, blow off steam and then come back to me able to think straight and follow my lead again. Ok so maybe i am throwing out a dog park metaphor :)

My understanding of the anger workout / its personal value to me is that in freeing the repressed, unrealized anger and letting it flow unabated (albeit for a limited period of time in a safe manner) that i can then A) see it clearly and understand its nature and source better and B) after getting it out of my system I can then think more clearly and creatively and have a much greater chance at applying a new and smarter set of solutions to the challenges i face.

in this / my context the analogy of taking my anger dog to the dog park fits well. My dog is cooped up in the house all day, lots of pent up energy, can't trash the couch, can't pee on the rug - lots of self control and lots get repressed to fit in to this human world.

if the master then comes home and expects this dog to learn a new trick and show lots of discipline its unlikely. if on the other hand the dog gets to go to the dog park / anger workout for 20 minutes and blow off steam then he is much more likely to settle down and learn the new trick or chill out at home that night.

Straight from The Dog Whisperer on Discovery Channel (so what) but it dovetails with how it works for me. I understand that the end game is to gain control over the anger but it seams to me that the critical step for most people is getting it out first in a safe (dog park) environment.

whew, lots of typing for a dog metaphor - woof :)

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