Most people have mixed feelings about feeling and expressing anger. Various influences suggest everything from practising extreme self-control, holding it all in (end result: stoicism) to showing no boundaries about sharing anger at all(end result: anarchy). Finding the middle ground is the place where you can communicate feelings and the facts of a given situation, without hurting or blaming the other party, and vice versa. When this first scenario occurs, you are creating more space for positive communication changes to occur. When communication is less than ideal, continuing to express anger in old ways will reinforce old habits., aggravating an already difficult situation.
I’m recommending the following journal exercises to assist you in finding more positive ways to express your anger and become a better communicator. When I have shared my feelings, and the other party has been receptive, I’ve been surprised at how calm I became, compared to how uncomfortable, I felt prior to sharing my feelings. I also have had some situations where I either didn’t receive a response or the other party remained silent. What is most important in any situation, is that I reached out and began the process.
Here is your exercise list:
When you have a strong reaction to a situation, start to pray and write about it. Remember to include a detailed description of your strong feelings including the facts of the situation. Remember to use as much space on a page as you can when you scribble. After filling a page, choose one scribble, and start drawing a specific shape over your scribble. Continue to scribble over the shape until you are finished. (e.g. You may feel tired or relieved. Your words may slow down or you may run out of time to write.) When you notice any of these reactions, it’s time to stop writing. Wait a few minutes for everything to settle, then move to the next exercise. (Note: You may substitute any ritual here if praying isn’t a good fit for you.)
This exercise is an effective way to communicate feelings and information to yourself or to someone else. You can write unsent letters, when it might otherwise be hurtful to speak directly to the other party(ies) You can also write unsent letters on any topic (positive or negative). Unsent letters also provide a great place to practice your lines. Whether you write a series of unsent letters or one letter, your feelings will become less intense. Then you can prepare to have a calm conversation with the other party. You can write as many unsent letters as you want. When you write your unsent letters, you give yourself permission to feel the intense emotions that surface around a specific event. At some point either during, immediately or after you’ve written your letter, you will gain clarity about your part in the situation. You will also learn to evaluate your responsibility as well as the other party’s responsibility in the same situation. When you are calm again, you will be more prepared to make changes, including asking for a more specific communication change from the other party. You can continue to follow-up your unsent letters with prayers of blessing for the other party. As you continue to bless the other party, the room is made for positive changes to happen in yourself and the other party. When you write an unsent letter, it demonstrates your courage and willingness, to make serious changes in a difficult situation.
WRITING A DIALOGUE:
Writing an imagined or real conversation you had with the other party, can help let out some of your anger. It’s useful to put words or images to your feelings. Start your dialogue with two voices, the letter “A” (for your voice) and “B” (for the other person’s voice). Be sure to allow both voices time to speak.
Don’t worry about writing a perfect dialogue. Use as much detail as you can. Your descriptive skills will improve with each unsent letter that you write. For example, if I feel my anger burning like fire, then I would want to say “I’m burning up over this situation.” If I am feeling a sense of resentment (something deep, quiet and very intense, that never quite goes away, then I might say, “I’m really frustrated about _______ now, can we talk about it for a few minutes?” Remember that no intense feeling is worth ignoring. It’s much better to express your feelings a few at a time than to pay the price of those same feelings causing problems for you in the future.
“I AM FEELING” STATEMENTS:
Writing sentences that begin with “I am feeling .” is a good way to verbalize all of your feelings about a difficult situation. I want to remind you that may express other feelings along with your anger. When you start your journaling, focus on your anger first, then write about your other feelings. I suggest that you write a minimum of ten feeling statements. Put the list away. Move on to the next exercise.
DRAW A PICTURE:
Draw several pictures of your anger. All types of drawing are allowed. Remember what I said about “My anger is burning.” Write a visual image of your anger. I want you to use as many senses in your picture as you can. (Note: you may also use this exercise to visualize other strong feelings)
COMBINE WORDS AND PICTURES:
Now, look at your list of “I am” sentences. Match as many of your picture (s) with your “I am feeling.” sentences as you can. (For example: I am feeling angry about.put a picture of a fire next to the written statement. When you are finished, circle one or two combinations that best describe your current feelings. Be sure to write a summary sentence about your two choices.
Let’s stop and review the work you’ve already done. You have written an initial unsent letter about your anger. You’ve explored some of your feelings in detail. You’ve summarized your feelings using a combination of drawing and writing. Now write one action you could have taken to keep the earlier situation from accelerating. Write another sentence describing one action that the other party could have taken. Write down one positive action you are willing to take to change your anger expression now, remember to include specific completion time and date. If you pray, start praying for good to come to the other party. I would recommend that you pray for at least a few times a week working up to praying daily for a month or until your strong negative feelings disappear.
Take your time working through these exercises. If you find yourself, unable to move on to the next exercise. Then write a short paragraph about why you don’t want to move on. Take a break and start the new exercise the next day. Look forward to celebrating your freedom from past buried feelings.