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Official Thread Section 3.5.2 Address Repression - Anger

Discussion in 'Alan Gordon TMS Recovery Program' started by Walt Oleksy, Jul 7, 2014.

  1. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    This is the official thread for Section 3.5.2 of the TMS Recovery Program donated by Alan Gordon of the Pain Psychology Center (PPC). This section is entitled "Anger." Neither Alan nor the PPC necessarily endorses this thread or any of the viewpoints presented in it.

    Please keep these official threads on topic and put your best thoughts down, as these threads will be read by many people. All posts in this thread should all relate to section 3.5.2 of the TMS Recovery Program:
    http://www.tmswiki.org/ppd/TMS_Recovery_Program#Anger

    Section 3.5.2 is a part of the larger section 3.5 Address Repression. In his introduction to section 3.5, Alan writes the following:
    Address Repression

    Part of treating yourself nicely is learning not to neglect yourself. I'm not talking about ratty t-shirts or chipped nail polish, I'm talking about emotional neglect.

    Often, people have feelings come up that are difficult to tolerate, and unconsciously send them away. This is known as repression. To avoid these uncomfortable feelings, our minds employ defense mechanisms like pain or anxiety.​

    In section 3.5.2, Alan writes the following:
    Anger

    Anger or rage is another emotion that people tend to repress. Many people think they don’t repress rage (or “If anything, I express it too much”). If you beat yourself up a hundred times per day or scare yourself all the time, and don’t feel any rage toward this inner bully, you likely repress rage.

    If you get angry very easily at family members, neighbors, bad drivers, inanimate objects, Kobe Bryant, Barack Obama, or Fox News, this is displaced rage.

    As I discuss in the following session, rage is more than just anger. Human beings have the capacity for deep, primitive, even murderous rage. Have you ever seen a one-year-old get angry when you take their toy away? They’ll hit, kick, they’d kill you if they could. Often aspects of our upbringing, or just living in a culture that looks down on rage can lead to repression of this emotion.

    I want to emphasize that it isn’t necessary to express this rage in order to heal. You don’t have to beat up your boss, you just have to connect to the feeling that your boss brings up within you. Expressing it is an option (though I’d recommend that you do this assertively, not aggressively; and maybe not to your boss), but it isn’t necessary.

    The following session is intense. Just a warning. Dustin has a tendency to repress his rage, and gets in touch with it in a very meaningful way. The specific approach that I used during this session is called Intensive Short Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP). It’s geared toward aggressively confronting defense mechanisms and targeting repressed emotions.

    Listen to Alan's session with Dustin

    Click here to download the mp3 audio

    You can see the barriers, both conscious and unconscious, that Dustin had in place to keep from feeling this rage, and the calmness that came over him once he did. Often when you get in touch with such powerful feelings, guilt or love can come up as a result, and it’s important to process those as well.

    As I mentioned during the session, the primitive part of our brain doesn’t know the difference between fantasy and reality. This is why when you’re watching the movie Die Hard, your heart is beating 180 beats per minute. Your primitive brain doesn’t know that you’re not the one trying to take down Hans Gruber and his gang of terrorists.

    Allowing yourself to imagine unleashing this rage, as Dustin did, can bring a feeling of relief. ​



    Alan Gordon offers a totally different technique for dealing with anger and I have conflicting thoughts on it.

    He interviews Dustin, a father of two adopted children who has developed bad back pain he attributes to trying to deal with their emotional needs when he has a strong personality need to please others. The children are a boy under two years old and a girl just three months old. The boy requires more attention than Dustin can give him, and the girl has deep separation anxiety from being given up by her birth mother. She cries and screams often, especially overnight, disrupting Dustin’s and his wife’s sleep. Dustin’s anger over all this also brought up boyhood repressed anger about his mother that resulted in not only back pain but deep anger and depression.

    Dustin reveals to Alan that when he was a boy, his mother scolded him if he showed anger in anyway, and threatened to hit him if he disobeyed her in this. This taught him that, according to his mother, anger was bad and so was expressing anger in any way. His repressed anger built up over the years into repressed rage, as Dr. Sarno says it often does.

    Alan suggested that Dustin imagine himself a boy again, and how would he like to respond to his mother denying him his anger. Dustin reached the conclusion that he would like to hit her, and not only a slap in the face, but beat her to near death. Dustin followed Alan’s advice and imagined himself nearly killing his mother. Alan then asked how Dustin felt about how he released his imagined solution to his repressed emotion and Dustin said he felt relieved, but also guilty.

    I had been used to a different approach to reacting to repressed emotions. I put myself in the shoes of the person causing me anger and, through understanding that they probably had their own repressed emotions and were taking them out on me, I reached the ability to forgive those causing my anger.

    Striking back at someone causing me anger was new to me, but I can recall that at times, I practiced it. At work, when angry or frustrated about something to do with the job or the boss or my co-workers, I took a brand new pencil and broke it in half. This always helped relieve my anger, without publicly expressing it. Sometimes, also as an adult, I would go into the bathroom and scream (first closing the doors and windows). A good scream relieved my anger.

    A friend was helping me remodel my kitchen several years ago. We came to the part where we needed to tear down a wall so as to make room for a larger kitchen. Larry handed me a sledge hammer and suggested I bash the wall in while thinking of someone who had made me angry. I remembered my bosses at a big insurance company, so I swung the sledge hammer at them in my imagination. It gave me a sense of great relief of repressed anger against them by pretending I was hitting them with the sledge hammer as the wall came tumbling down.

    Back to Dustin and his mother, this all led me to remember Archie Bunker, the bigoted, opinionated husband in the television comedy series “All in the Family.” Whenever his obedient wife began to express an opinion contrary to his, he told her, “Edith, would you stifle yourself!” It was not a suggestion, it was a command, and she did stifle herself. It was a very impolite way of telling her to be quiet, and this reminded me of both Dustin’s mother telling him not to express anger (but to stifle it), and his infant daughter’s crying that unnerved him and caused him to lose sleep.

    Dustin imagined himself striking his mother almost fatally, but he could not strike his infant daughter, so he had to be more tolerant of her crying and screaming, realizing it was caused by her feelings of rejection and abandonment from her birth mother. Maybe just imagining hitting the infant to release his repressed anger could help Dustin deal with that emotion. I could not even imagine doing harm in any way to the infant, but instead to try to comfort her. Then maybe go into the bathroom and scream, as silently as I could.

    Alan then asked Dustin what he felt like doing after hitting his mother and he said he felt like hugging her and saying he was sorry. Alan says we have to allow our self to “slay the beast” inside us and let ourselves imagine taking action which, of course, we never actually take against the cause of our anger.

    That reminded me that sometimes when I was angry about something or someone and I was home alone in my kitchen, I took a hammer and bashed in the side of my cook stove. One good dent was enough to relieve the anger in me. Eventually, that side of my stove looked a little beaten up, but it was an old stove and I moved away and I figured the new owner of my house would replace it anyway.

    Alan says, “The mind doesn’t know the difference between reality and imagining,” and to allow our self to tap into that anger or age by imagining a physical reaction to it. “Give yourself the gift of feeling your feelings. Allowing yourself to feel the anger is okay. It’s healthy. Like crying is healthy when you’re sad, imagining acting on your rageful energy is healthy.”

    So maybe keep a sledge hammer handy and just imagine using it on whatever who whoever causes you to have repressed anger. Imagining acting out against our repressed anger may not be for everyone, but it gave me a lot of food for thought and I realized I had practiced it more than a few times over the years, without really knowing how and why it helped me. It allowed me to let go of a lot of anger without actually hurting anyone and at the same time was healthy for me.
     
  2. Calum

    Calum Peer Supporter

    Hi Walt, thank you for the above, it is very insightful. I used to practice the technique of imagining taking out my anger physically on the cause of my anger quite a lot towards the beginning of my recovery. I actually bought a punch bag and imagined myself beating the crap out of the person who annoyed me, or if it was not a person just hitting something and acting out that way felt good. I use it less now, but I still give that punch bag a good wallop when I feel I need too!
     
  3. Colly

    Colly Beloved Grand Eagle

    Wow that recoding is very confronting. I was intrigued that Dustin revealed he felt some empathy for his Mam for the suffering she might have gone through herself, which made her be the person she was. Even more intriguing was that this insight only came out after he visualised doing some pretty awful things to her. That said, I think it was very brave of Dustin to admit this. It must have been difficult to express this knowing he had an audience. No wonder he felt drained!

    Only once in my life was I ever enraged so much, that for a fleeting moment I thought about causing physical injury to another person; then I recoiled in horror imagining doing such a thing. It was frightening to have such thoughts, and I daren't tell anyone for fear of them thinking I was insane!

    Alan Gordon in this recording defined my version of rage and anger. He called it "passive anger", by saying "ignoring someone is passive anger". This defines my anger towards a ranger of people - past and present. I ignored my Dad at the age of 21 by moving to the other side of the globe. Through TMS healing I got in touch with this passive anger and explored the child he once was and the pain he must have felt both in childhood and as a responsible father of eight children. I never felt the sort of anger Dustin expressed, but rather forgiveness and empathy.

    Currently I'm avoiding a good friend, as I'm "passively angry" towards her. She is a kind and loyal friend, but always has some drama going on in her life. Every time we catch up I would end up coaching her through some new distressing drama, and I found myself getting very angry with her for continuously dumping on me. My avoidance of her is passive anger, and what I should do is confront her and yell at her for treating me like a therapist. Either that or tell her I'm going to charge her next time!

    I remember a time when I did feel a burning rage towards someone. I was working for a demanding client, and as they pay the wages, I felt powerless to voice any objection to their demands. The culture of the client's business was one of grinding us into the ground in an effort to gain recognition and reward, and this translated into a daily torture of intimidation. This was all before I discovered TMS healing - before discovering the safety-net of mindfulness. The relentless daily torture was chipping away at my sanity, and then one day it overflowed during another hostile meeting. Instead of throwing my diary at the client, I internalised this rage and felt unbearable pain wash over me.

    It was this event led me to my TMS discovery and made me readily accept TMS concepts, as I immediately connected my unexpressed anger resulting in my pain.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2014
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  4. David B

    David B Well known member

    This is such a deep topic and ongoing experience for me I want summarize what I have been through. I have moved through three phases of dealing with anger and am attempting to bring myself through a fourth phase:

    Phase 1: Discovering and dealing with some deep sources of rage from childhood. I used some self-ISTPD techniques from Dr. Schubiner's book to accomplish this. I cant say they directly relieved any back symptoms but they created emotional exhaustion which let me move on from those experiences and set the table for Phase 2.

    Phase 2: Admitting that I have the capacity for deep, primal, life-threatening rage. We all get mad and are willing to admit to ourselves that we do but how many of us are willing to admit that under that sense of being mad is something deeper, barely uncontrollable? It was hard for me to accept that this ugly feeling, a feeling that we are all taught is unacceptable, is there. Once I realized this I also had to admit to myself that this feeling had been there for a long time, just below the surface, not fully recognized because good people don't have feelings of wanting to hurt other people. That was the toughest part. Admitting that I had feelings that society says are unacceptable. What helped was realizing its not really the feelings that are unacceptable its the actions that we fear will come from them. And when you think about it how many of us punch a co-worker because they take credit for our work? Very few.

    Phase 3: Accepting that the rage has been and will be there again AND that it doesn't make you a bad person to have these feelings. In fact it is a very human experience. I believe I am a better me because I am ok that rage happens inside of me. I know I didn't put it there and I don't want it there but there is. To be able to say to myself "part of me is raging at so and so or about this and wants to punch him" has been a relief. So now what am I going to do about it?

    Phase 3: Creating a little distance, being gentle with yourself and doing a little self analysis. After accepting rage, the next step for me was learning to let it be there but keeping a little distance from it so I can ask myself "what's going on?" Or Dr. Sarno's favorite question "What is making me so angry?" (99% time my rage comes from unmet expectations. (I have so many expectations, most of them unconscious/unspoken until I feel anger or rage, its amazing I'm not raging all the time!) From there I can usually analyze my errors in logic that led to unmet expectations or just accept that something made me angry. Sometimes I discover I need to communicate my needs or feelings, to not neglect myself.

    Phase 4: Letting go and forgiving. My current focus is on truly letting go of events, expectations, lots of stuff and forgiving those people and events that often lead to feelings of rage. I am making progress. Sometimes it takes days to get there but I'm beginning to think that this is the best way to handle and maybe even prevent rage.
     
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  5. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Like the previous section on addressing repressed sadness, this section on addressing repressed anger is very difficult for me. I found the recording above very hard to listen to the first time, and couldn't bring myself to listen to it a second time.

    I just reread the section on addressing anger in Schubiner's Unlearn Your Pain. I have a better understanding now of why this is so hard for me. When I was doing Schubiner's 28-day program a year ago, I skipped over the part of reconnecting with old anger and processing it using the methods demonstrated by Alan Gordon above. I see now that in doing this I was using a defense mechanism that I commonly use to repress my emotions, and that is the defense of intellectualizing about it. I told myself that I didn't need to re-experience and feel my anger in the present because I had gone past that. I could understand why my parents and others had said and done the things that they did, and therefore, I could forgive them. Consequently, I am no longer angry. This ignores the fact that these emotions are stored in the body and need to be felt and released in order to heal and move on. I was evoking this defense mechanism for the same reasons I didn't express my anger at the time I was hurt--fear and a feeling of powerlessness. I am able to sense this fear now, even while just thinking about confronting the offenders in my imagination. I can see that it will take a lot of courage and probably working with a therapist for me to be able to do this.

    I'm not saying that there isn't a role in understanding and forgiving those who have hurt us in the past. I have benefited from my ability to do that and it has improved my relationships with others. But I have come to understand that healing from TMS involves working with the mindbody, not just the mind. I have neglected my body and the emotions that reside there. I see now that I won't fully heal until I address this area.
     
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  6. Msunn

    Msunn Well known member

    This is a big issue for me. I don't deal with anger very well. My pattern is to avoid conflicts with people, and feel uncomfortable when I do express anger. I think I've gotten better at that in recent times, but I still have a lot to learn there.

    As far as suppressed anger from childhood, I was taught by a therapist years ago to actually do something physical to release it such as screaming into a pillow or as hitting a pillow with a plastic baseball bat, maybe less destructive than Walt's sledge hammer:)
    I did a good amount of those physical techniques years ago and it did feel freeing. I've tried doing the same, related to the journaling I've done with TMS.

    I've also been involved with the 12 step recovery community for several years and there we are told that holding on to anger and resentments is one of the primary things that fuels addiction.

    I have to remember though that feeling the anger or resentment, and forgiving or letting go, is different from stuffing, or suppressing the emotions.
     
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  7. Becca

    Becca Well known member

    I find when I repress rage it isn't an unconscious experience at all; rather I tell myself I don't have the right to be angry, I am overreacting, etc. I know exactly why I do this. I was a very angry child (I often was called "reactive" and "explosive"). I am not like that at all now. In fact, I feel I spend a significant part of my life trying to make up for my past behavior. As a result I often question feelings of anger or rage, and I tend to deem them invalid without really letting myself feel them because I'm afraid of re-labeling myself as reactive (which would then lead to being explosive, which would mean I haven't changed at all).

    In other words: I tend to repress my anger because I'm afraid of what feeling it will lead to.

    Like a lot of avoidance mechanisms, this backfires. In invalidating and repressing any anger, I then start to believe that I shouldn't have ever considered anger as an appropriate reaction in the first place. Then I get upset with myself ("You haven't changed at all!") which then generates significant anxiety around how I approach my life, and fuels my perfectionism as a way to prove to myself and the many, many others that I have projected judgments about myself onto that I am good, kind, even-tempered, sweet, etc.. And then something else will happen, and I'll feel a spark of anger, and then the cycle starts all over again only I have to be even more kind, more even-tempered, because clearly the last time didn't work.

    It's absolutely exhausting.

    So, I'm certainly aware of what's going on...but unfortunately in this case, knowing why and how I repress my anger isn't enough to actually change much. (@Ellen, we've had this conversation before...you know I intellectualize and analyze everything too :) ).

    Somehow, I have to let go of the past. I have to forgive myself. Most important (and a strong theme in Alan's recovery program), I have to be able to feel compassion for myself. This has been, and I believe will continue to be, a long process. There's a lot of guilt and shame to work through. But I know I can't keep going through this cycle. I have to lessen the pressures I put on myself so I can stop invalidating/repressing my anger, and ultimately become OK with feeling it.
     
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  8. cirrusnarea

    cirrusnarea Well known member

    I don't know if yelling at her would be the best approach. Even though it would be expressing your anger, it would probably just make things worse. Even though your friend's drama seems annoying and trivial to you, and it probably is, she still sees you as someone she can trust to vent to and ask advice of. Sometimes we are called to be free therapists to our friends. I would just be blunt, but compassionate towards her. Tell her that you've given her advice before and she hasn't taken it so if she wants things to improve she will either have to start acting on your advice or find a different friend/therapist. I'm not trying to minimize what you're going through with her, I know the type of person that continually comes to you with their issues and never acts on your advice. It's really annoying. Hope I haven't overstepped my bounds, but I read your post and was just thinking about it. As someone who has no friends, I know the importance of keeping them when you do have them.
     
  9. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    I've had friends who unload their anxieties and worries on me, but they don't really want advice.
    They want to use me as a backboard against which to hit their tennis ball.
    They play tennis mind games with themselves.
    Just be a friend and listen. That's all they really want from you.
     
  10. cirrusnarea

    cirrusnarea Well known member

    Anyone who has read Sarno knows that he puts unconscious rage at the main source of the problem. If you're like me though you'll read this and be confused as you don't find yourself a particularly angry person. This is a misunderstanding as Dr. Sarno is not talking about the anger we feel, but anger we know nothing about. The anger can be built up from simple everyday events such as having to take care of others.

    Also keep in mind that Dr. Sarno says that it is not always necessary to feel the rage, but merely to understand that it is there and to acknowledge it is creating your pain.
     
  11. yb44

    yb44 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Snap. I've been smouldering about my particular friend for years, too many years. Well before I knew anything at all about TMS it was blatantly obvious that each time I saw this friend I would end up with a migraine. I guess it became a conditioned response. See friend, get headache. She's now getting on in years and has some legitimate health issues, although knowing her history and her personality traits the cause of these health issues is also fairly obvious. I have let it all slide, held my tongue, repressed how I was feeling - from broken-hearted to violent rage. I have tried to open up to her. Most of the time she isn't even listening. She's thinking about what she would like to tell me next and will interrupt me with something trivial about someone I don't know or don't particularly want to hear about. She asks me, "how are you?" but interrupts me when I tried to tell her. Once she asked me this question three times and never actually gave me any chance to answer. This person has almost no emotional maturity despite being old enough to be my mother. The last time I started to speak about an issue that mattered to me, she interrupted me to ask if I wanted a cup of tea, again a clue she wasn't listening and was perhaps disinterested in what I was saying. She has a daughter-in-law she absolutely detests and has spent countless hours ranting on about her rather than enquiring after me. Equally she will spend hours telling me tales of the past, stories I have heard so many times before or she will detail the lives of other people she knows and it often appears as if she has listened to everything that they have had to tell her. Mostly she will whine about her misfortunes in life. This person has been through some tough times and endured difficult relationships. She has plenty to moan about but she will never realise the part she played in her own history which was generally the victim, the goodist that would lie down and just take it. Recent events have made me feel even more uncared for, such as last year when I was bedridden for weeks. She rarely phoned me to see how I was and when she did it was all "oh dear, poor you" and off she would rant about something going on in her own life or about someone else. Once I had recovered sufficiently and was mobile, she told me that it was such a shame she wasn't able to get over to see me when I was poorly. She could have kept me company. Well, there had been nothing to stop her. She doesn't drive but there were numerous people she could have asked to get her to my home which is approximately a 15 minute drive from hers. Even my husband would have gone to get her if she had said something at the time. Of course I have my own traits which prevented me from asking for help. These same traits have kept me from letting her have it all these years. This person continually tells me I am like a daughter to her and she so wished I actually was her daughter. As infuriating and emotionally immature as my real mother is, my mother isn't looking so bad to me now. If nothing else maybe there has been some positive outcome here.

    I have been ruminating far too much about all of this. There is a direct link between the resulting anger and an upsurge in my symptoms. My therapist suggested that there are things about this person that remind me of myself. I am gradually starting to see the parallels. I suppose this sentence could be a description of myself - She has plenty to moan about but she will never realise the part she played in her own history which was generally the victim, the one who would lie down and just take it. I'm still stuck in the rumination/anger cycle though. I don't exactly want to dissolve the relationship - I have done that several times in the past with others, burning bridges until I was stranded. What I can do is accept she will never be the person I want her to be. She will never change. Then it's down to forgiveness. It always comes back to forgiveness with me.
     
  12. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    yb44, that's a very difficult and stressful situation you are in with that older woman.
    I know the type. She is in denial about her repressed emotions and just wants to tell you about them,
    maybe thinking that will relieve her load. It won't. She needs to work on TMS to heal.

    Meanwhile, maybe just be there for her. You may be able to help her best by just being a
    patient listener. Don't end the relationship. Just tough it out. Your anger can go away
    when you replace it with knowing you are giving her all the care you can.

    Forgive her for giving you anger. The relief you will feel can very well rub off on her.
    Maybe it can even lead to her listening if you tell her about TMS and healing through
    discovering repressed emotions. But the time doesn't seem to be right for that just now.
    For now, just be a good and patient listener.
     
  13. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    Also, older people are notorious for repeating their old stories, not remembering they've
    told them many times already. I always hated hearing old tales of woe from people,
    but have learned it's part of aging for them to keep telling them.
     
  14. hellokitty

    hellokitty New Member

    What about EFT to process and release anger? Even though I still probably have lots of anger towards my mom, I've never wanted to bash her brains in. I do yell at her a lot, and then I always end up feeling genuinely guilty, after I realize that she does the things she does because of her own childhood trauma. Is yelling at someone considered processing and releasing anger? Sometimes I use EFT and prayer to process/release emotions and it helps. A few years ago I successfully completely got rid of chronic excruciating sciatica (it was about a 15 on a scale of 1-10) using EFT in just one round - probably about 10 or 15 minutes.
     

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