“What about anger?” asks Rita in response to my recent article Know Your Self. What a wonderful question! Let’s look at anger and its usefulness more deeply. Anger is such a strong emotion that often perpetuates deeper feelings of fear, shame and guilt. Anger unchecked can wreak havoc in our lives. However, anger that doesn’t get acknowledged can easily take us down a path of self-destruction.
When Jill came to me for help with losing 80 lbs, she told me that she never experiences anger. Upon closer examination and through the self-hypnosis we worked on together, Jill came to see that she in fact was quite angry over injustices that were directed at her. Jill hadn’t realized that she was stuffing her depressed, sad feelings with food and that was an expression of her own anger turned inward. When she realized that she, in fact, was angry, she was able to look at what she could control in the situations that felt unfair to her and make some changes. She also made the decision to express herself.
Sometimes people think expressing yourself means shouting and making a scene. If that were the truth, no wonder so many of us would choose to fall silent. How many of us were traumatized at some point in our lives by our own or another’s rage? After that kind of experience, it’s only makes sense that we would come to the conclusion that anger needs to be suppressed at all costs.
Fear of hurting ourselves or others irreparably is legitimate. After all we can never take back our hurtful words once we blast them out. Just blurting out what’s on your mind in a moment of indignant rage is definitely not recommended. Unfortunately, suppressing your feelings doesn’t work either.
What happens when you emphatically tell a child who’s having a tantrum to “be quiet!”? They usually scream louder. Yes, you can use force to shut them up but it’s only a matter of time before their anger returns full throttle, creating all kinds of destruction.
What is a better way to handle anger? What does someone who is feeling angry really want to know? Think about a time when you felt really upset. What were you desiring? What it not to be understood?
Take long, slow deep breaths and reassure yourself. Put your hand on your chest to connect with your center, and take a pause from the heat in your head. It may help to lower or bow your head towards your heart. Tell yourself, “I understand.” Say aloud, “I understand why you feel the way you do. Many people would feel the same way in this circumstance and if they had been through what you’ve been through. I’m sorry this is happening to you.”
Then take a step back and assess the situation. Think!! Observe yourself. You will notice that you have a desire to do something now in response to your feeling. Most likely that desired reaction in not a healthy one but rather an automatic reflex based on how you’ve been responding to your anger since you were a child. If you react the way you always have, you can be sure that you’ll get the same results.
Jill realized that when she was angry, typically, she wouldn’t say anything. She would act like everything was fine. In fact, she would compensate by being extra sweet. After she left the situation she noticed she would distract herself by reaching for something sweet or eating foods that were high in carbohydrates.
When she made the connection between her eating and her anger, she also realized that at some level eating sugary/high carb food was the way she soothed herself for being the victim and her way of getting revenge on those people that she felt controlled by. Even though this line of thought was clearly irrational, demoralizing and self-destructive, these reactions dominated her life.
In other words, she realized that:
Jill’s unconscious fear was that if she allowed herself to truly feel her anger it would overtake her. Then if she expressed her feelings, she was afraid that she would alienate people and be unloved and unlovable. That risk was too great to take on.
By going deep within her own heart, she learned that there was another choice. She could think about what she wanted to do about the situation—what was her best response. In this case, her hurt feelings were in response to her sister’s perpetual condemnation. Jill loved her sister very much and told herself that her sister didn’t intend to hurt her. Once Jill acknowledged that regardless of her sister’s intentions, the words her sister spoke to her were in fact wounding, she was able to make the decision to make a new choice.
Jill knew she couldn’t control her sister’s behavior. She decided that next time she was in a situation where her sister inflicted hurtful words on her, she would look her sister in the eye, put her shoulders back and say, “Ouch. That hurt my feelings,” and leave it at that.
The first time Jill followed through with her decision she was nervous. But the more she asserted herself in all areas of her life the better she felt. I advised her to live by the creed, “Mean what you say, say what you mean, and don’t be mean when you say it.” What great advice!
At first Jill continued to have impulses to stuff her feelings with food. She told me later that she had to be vigilant about playing her self hypnosis cds. She told me, “Not only does practicing the self-hypnosis with your cds help me to be much more conscious of my food choices, but I actually don’t want to eat the junk anymore.” Jill smiled with delight, “I can’t believe those foods really are disgusting to me now!
Working with Jill has been so rewarding because I truly believe that it’s not about the weight. Even though most people come to me because they are desperate to shed a few pounds, the truth is that the pre-occupation with food and weight is only a symptom of a bigger problem.
Rita, thanks for writing in and asking about anger. Anger isn’t good or bad. It’s what we do with it that yields the consequences we experience in our lives. Know that your anger is not stronger than the love in your heart and it’s nothing to be afraid of as long as you stay connected to the compassion and understanding within yourself. Anger is a signal that something is not right.
Take a time out. Breathe. Write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal. Then, later, expand your awareness to include what others may be thinking and feeling. Don’t deny your own feelings just because you understand another. Though you seek to be aware of your loved one’s perspective, don’t forget to include your own. Make a conscious decision about how you are going to respond. The only time you get into trouble with anger is when you allow yourself to indulge your knee-jerk reaction.
After cleaning up enough messes—your weight issues included—due to knee jerk reactions, which may include withdrawal, you begin to wake up to the fact that you are a strong, empowered adult who has the right to get your needs met, while at the same time keeping your heart open to the other fragile human hearts all around you. Yes, anger is strong, but in each moment you can set your intention to grow your love and compassion for yourself even stronger.
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Please comment below and let me know about your own experiences and your thoughts about what I’ve shared. I love connecting with you!!
To your Health & Happiness,
Rena Greenberg has had the privilege over the last 25+ years to work with over 100,000 people in 75 medical centers to help them lose weight without surgery.