How to feel emotions like anger that can build up in our bodies and minds.
My mom is a shaman, specifically a Marakame according to the Huichol Indigenous tradition from Mexico. She is also a medical doctor, a family practitioner. Both programs involved about 12 years of training and about the same amount of time commitment. When I was in the depths of the mental health system, and on six psychiatric medications, she one time pointed out to me, “You don’t have any emotions. You’re just flat. If I ask you anything about your feelings, you just say, “I don’t know.”
Now I’ve somewhat figured out how to feel emotions by working through some classes and mostly just recognizing that emotions are good and don’t make me look weak. Here is my friend Susan Kingsley Smith, who talks about the time she began to feel emotions like anger.
My mom explains what she knows about how to feel emotions like anger:
In our Western culture, we disallow what we call the negative emotions. We are considered not as evolved if we get angry or feel grief for more that a short time. Successful people are happy. They are above getting mad. However, cutting off our emotions leaves us feeling flat and depressed. In the case of not feeling emotions like anger, we can end up feeling victimized. We allow others to step on our toes without feeling angry about what happened. Anger naturally arises when boundaries need to be established.
I recently asked: “Aren’t I too emotional, too angry?” The answer is, no. Our emotions are beautiful and lead us to true connection with the world around us. The problem is when our mind repeats the story we told ourselves about the anger such as why we got angry. Repeating these stories prolongs the anger and feeds it and keeps the anger from flowing on naturally to the next emotion.
How I’ve learned to feel emotions like anger:
Now when I feel emotions like anger, I perform poems or ride a bicycle very fast or write in my journal or wrestle with friends who will tolerate it. I’ve even recently learned how to freestyle spoken word poetry, where I make it up on the spot. Now I can feel spots in the city that have different kind of energy, and I go to one of the good spots under bridges or on the river or on a high spot and listen to my feelings. Writing in the journal slows my thoughts down enough to help me see patterns, and the freestyle poetry also pulls some patterns out of the jumble, things I keep coming back to.
Here’s my attempt at freestyle poetry at Poetry for Personal Power at UMKC on Friday: