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.