Restoring Water

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Merritt Benz, LCSW

A client I met with today shared with me a beautiful experience he had. He was dropping off his best friend at the airport and knew it would be a year or longer before he saw him again and he felt sad. Really sad. He said that in the past he would try to avoid the sadness but this time as he looked at his daughter in the backseat, he realized how lucky he was to feel sad and how grateful he is to feel the permission to feel sadness because it does not mean that everything is wrong but that a lot of things are right.

 He described letting the feeling of sadness wash over him like, “drinking a glass of cool clean water he had been thirsty for, for a long time”.

Friends- this is why we do the work. This is why we turn into pain and into feeling. It’s like a glass of cool, clean water that restores us.

Anger is Easier than Sadness

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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.