Expressing anger is self care
Last month, my partner invited me to his work celebration of his recent publication. I joined Mark and his lab mates at an arcade on a Thursday night, with two goals in mind: celebrate Mark and find Whack-a-mole. If you’re unfamiliar with Whack-a-mole, it’s an old, mechanical, tabletop game. You insert your token and pick up a heavily padded mallet. Your job is then to whack colorful plastic “moles” on the head as they pop out of the table. It’s immensely satisfying. Mark watched me take on my first game, and at the end, he turned to me, laughing, “Are you ok? You went feral.” “I feel amazing.” -- I’d been on the hunt for a good outlet for anger, and I found it at the arcade. It turns out that nearly cracking the orange Whack-a-mole mole can be self care! The safe physical expression of emotions is caring for our bodies, minds, and hearts. Note: It can be really hard, especially for women, to care for ourselves through emotions like anger. We often feel ashamed of our negative emotions. Feeling shame for anger and sadness is a topic for another day, but for now, know that your emotions are worthy of compassion. Many of us are socialized from childhood to hide and internalize anger, allowing the stress of it to quietly reside in our bodies. Suppressing emotions is a tiring energy drain. Long-term, the stress of unexpressed anger can lead to depression, sickness, and physical pain. Sometimes it even leads to emotional or physical violence toward others or ourselves. Just like sadness, grief, and frustration, anger needs a safe and healthy outlet. Once your anger finds its release valve, it can be freeing! A natural, physical expression of sadness or grief is often crying. But anger may ask for something more visceral. Some people scream, hit pillows, or use a punching bag. Some people take up kickboxing or run (although using exercise to discharge anger may be unsafe if you struggle with body image). I, however, had the best kind of anger therapy attacking a mechanical game designed for kids. I played the game over and over, until my arms felt like jelly. I then traded my hard-earned tickets for a superhero temporary tattoo! If you have anger living in your body, and you’re ready to open the release valve a little, here are a few more ideas: Punch or scream into a pillow or couch cushions Pop or stomp on bubble wrap Build a snow structure and kick it down (or jump through it like the Kool Aid man!) Go to an arcade and let loose on a physical game Express yourself through angry dance, a la Footloose If it’s been a long time since you last allowed yourself the freedom to express your anger, punching something or screaming may feel awkward or even scary. Start with a small step, in any way that feels safe to you. Anger isn’t shameful. It’s just an emotion. Expressing it is important, liberating self care! If you could use self care support, let’s talk. I have 2 spots opening up for new coaching clients later this month.