Post # 3

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Anger is Easier than Sadness

Michael Shahan, S-MFT

As I was driving alone late one night, my mind was ruminating over some of the difficult circumstances in my life. It was time where I felt a genuine, all-encompassing sadness. There was a physical churning in my stomach. I could feel a heaviness and a stillness in my body, demanding that I make no quick movements.  I just wanted to sit, driving in the darkness, staring straight down that lonely highway, letting my mind wander. You might know that kind of sadness – It hurts.

After a while, the car in front of me began to drift slowly into another lane without bothering to use his blinker (like a decent human being).  Apparently, the driver decided it would be a good idea to just sit in the middle of two different lanes.  He was in no hurry to make a decision, nor was he too excited about following traffic laws. I immediately felt a bubbling of anger begin to rise in me.

And you know what the crazy thing was? As soon as I began to feel anger, my sadness stopped hurting!  I could feel it dissipate very quickly in that moment.  The emotional and even the physical pain that came along with the sadness just melted away.  I would even go so far as to say the anger felt good.  How interesting is that! That’s when I realized how much easier anger is than sadness.

Sadness hurts. Anger feels good.

Sadness feels powerless.  Anger gives you power.

Sadness takes away your energy. Anger gives you energy.

But it’s not just sadness that anger can cover over.  Anger covers of a multitude of emotions that are uncomfortable to feel. It’s so easy to slip from our hurt, our impatience, our fear, or whatever else that we don’t want to feel into anger.  Often times, I think we make this shift to anger without even realizing what the negative emotion is that is being covered up.  And we do ourselves and those around us a disservice when we use anger to cover up our discomfort. 

So, how do we take a step back from our anger and recognize what is underneath?

  1. Name it:

When you name an emotion, it takes the power away.  Dr. Dan Siegel, a psychiatrist who studies the brain, coined the term, “Name it to tame it.”  He has found that if we stop and say the name of the emotion we are feeling, it moves the brain power to the logical, thinking side of our brain and away from the feeling side.  So, wherever you are, stop what you are doing and describe out loud the anger that you are feeling.  Say, “I feel angry” or, “I feel furious.”  Whatever describes what you are feeling most accurately.


  1. Get curious:

Now that the power of the anger has been taken away, ask yourself, “What is this anger covering up?”  What do you not want to feel right now? What do you not want to face at the moment? Are you hurting? Has your interaction with a certain person left you feeling inferior or less than?


  1. Respond (Be kind to yourself):

What comes up in these moments may hurt, and it will probably be uncomfortable. Try as hard as you can to be kind to yourself and give yourself grace. Pretend that a really good friend of yours is feeling the same emotions that you are feeling.  How would you respond to them? What would you say to them? How would you comfort them?  Often times, we are much kinder to the ones we love than we are to ourselves.  Speak life to yourself in the ways you would to the ones you love.


Now, this isn’t a cure all that I’m presenting.  This isn’t some three-step solution to solving all the emotional difficulties in your life.  What it is, though, is a way to challenge yourself and begin to learn more about your own emotions.  It is a way to begin pushing past the automatic responses that you have developed over your life and work toward the best version of yourself possible.


So you want to Change?

-Michael Shahan, S-MFT

How often have you wanted to make a change in your life, but you just don’t think it’s possible?  It seems too hard, too scary, too unnerving.  The deepest part of you wants to finally confront that person who has been taking advantage of you, or you want to finally start saving money, or you are sick and tired of saying you will hit the gym only to find yourself making excuses a week later.  I’m sure you feel all kinds of shame and guilt around the inability to make these changes in your life.  We ask ourselves, “Why can’t I do this? What’s wrong with me? Will I ever be able to be the person I want to be? Why can’t I just stick with my commitment?”

It’s easy to decide to make a change, but when you are in the thick of things, it is easy to forget why you are doing what you are doing.  When you are in the thick of things, when you are tired, when you are lonely, when you can’t do what you used to do, when you are constantly being shaken to the core as you are trying desperately for your old beliefs and habits to not resurface, it’s easy to lose touch with why you started.  Our minds zero in on the present and refuse to look at the big picture.  When we do this, the only thing we are feeling is the uncomfortableness that comes with our change.

So instead of focusing on the how, and how things are currently going, do your best to take a step back from what’s going on and remind yourself of the why


Step 1: Figure out your “why”

Find out why you want to make the change you are wanting to make.  Ask yourself what you want your life to look like, and then ask yourself why you want it to look that way.  What rewards are you getting?  How will your life look different?  How will it feel when your life is different? How will you feel about yourself if you make this change?


Step 2: Write it down. Everywhere.

Write your “why” down on paper.  Condense it into one or two sentences.  Journal about it for pages and pages.  Make it your phone background.  Put it on little pieces of paper and shove them in your wallet or stick them into various clothing pockets throughout your closet so you will find them later.  Make it your desktop background on your computer.  Set reminders in your phone.  Put it on your calendar.  You starting to get the idea here?  The more you are reminded of your “why,” the easier it will be to take a step back from your current, difficult circumstances and see the big picture.

Optional, yet encouraged Step 3: See a therapist

See a therapist! Give someone at Bedford a call.  Having someone to guide you and walk with you during a difficult change is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” – Friedrich Nietzsche