Anger and resentment is released when two properties are present:
Direction is when anger is expressed directly towards the person to whom anger is felt.
Movement is the action taken in support of the expression of the anger.
Movement includes any exercise or physical activity. It also includes the voicing of your anger. Voicing anger to someone is a movement because of the movement inherent in the vocal chords.
When I voice my anger to someone, because I am directing my anger to that other person and there is movement due to my voicing it (the movement coming from the vocal cords), I am optimizing the release of my congested anger towards this person.
This does not mean that all of my congested anger will release from this one-time expression. It does mean that my anger or more likely a portion of the anger I have towards this person will be released having created these properties of direction and movement.
I may still release my anger if I were to talk about my anger towards a third person, that is, I tell you of my anger towards my sister who I felt was inappropriate in her behaviour when we were growing up. But I won’t release it as completely or as efficiently because it is not being directed, in this case, towards my sister. My anger release is traveling down a longer route.
It is like traveling from Boston to New York. The most efficient way would be to travel to New York directly. Or I could take a far less efficient route and travel there via Buffalo. It will take a lot longer to get there and will entail more effort, but I will eventually arrive at New York.
This is why, when my clients tell me of their anger towards someone, I look to create a forum for them to steer their anger in the direction of the person with whom they are anger:
Client: “I feel so much anger towards my mother because she allowed the abuse to take place in my family…”
Pietro: “How would it be to say this to your mother directly, as if she was here in the session with us?”
Client: “Mom, I feel so angry with you, because you never protected us kids…”
When the client’s anger is given the movement of voice and is directed towards the mother she is then optimizing the release of her congested anger.
This client would gain an even greater quantity of anger release were she to speak to her mother directly and in person about this. If she were to do so then the anger that has been held inside for so many years has the opportunity to have direct expression towards her mother.
Anger has an ideal opportunity to release providing her mother is able to hear her out and acknowledge and accept the relevance of her pain and hurt. Perhaps this is also an opportunity for the mother to tell her side of the story. Unless there is more anger or emotion to be expressed on this issue in the future this may allow both parties to move on from the issue and hopefully put it behind them.
This is an ideal situation, and one I unfortunately still find to be a rarity. For someone to hear you in this way, it is asking that they have made sufficient progress on their own personal growth path, sufficient to see their responsibility and part in the issue you bring to them.
It is also asking them not to be defensive. Not everyone can do this. Guilt will prevent many people from re-visiting their recent or distant past. Others will not recognize the value and relevance of completing the unresolved portions of their history. Those are the people who will forever state, “Let bygones be bygones.” or ask, “What’s the point in going back in time?”
The person to whom you wish to express your anger towards directly may not have the background, learning, or philosophy in place to be able to hear you out.
This does not negate the fact that it may be worth communicating to the person to whom you wish to express your anger how you would like them to hear you.
In William Golding’s book, Lord of the Flies, one of the characters nicknamed “Piggy” attempted to create order on the island he and a fairly large group of boys were stranded on by making sure each person in their regular discussion assemblies had a voice. Whenever anyone wished to speak he insisted each one pick up the assembly conch and hold it for as long as they wished to speak. This, at least in the initial assemblies guaranteed, each speaker being heard without interruption.
You would want to convey a similar principle to the potential listener: the need to convey to the person that you have something to say, and to ask if it would be possible for the listener to hear you out without interruption until you have finished what you want to say.
Ensure them the approximate amount of time you wish for this. Then they know there is going to be an end to it and not an endless diatribe. And finally – and this part is important – ensure them that they will have their opportunity to speak when you have finished.
Democracy must exist in this discussion. The other person must also have the right to figuratively pick up the conch, and they too must have the right to be heard, to convey their side of the story, their apology, whatever it is they need to say. It is important you hear them in the way that you wish to be heard.
Direct expression is a ceremony. It is important to treat it with the respect all ceremony deserves. It is a special time. A time when you may be able to say something to another that has remained unsaid, and therefore has contributed to your emotional congestion for decades. It is an opportunity, one to be treated with the respect that is due.
My recommendations on how to conduct the ceremony of Direct Expression includes first of all honouring the person for having the willingness and courage to support you in doing this. Even though you may feel as if you are carrying a mountain of anger and resentment towards this person, see if you can rise above the mountain and honour the person for his or her presence.
Recommendations for Direct Expression:
1. Honour the person for her or his presence.
2. If you feel it is appropriate for you to convey this, consider telling the person that you want to resolve this issue so you can improve your relationship with him or her.
You wish to resolve the issue you have with her/him so you can move into completion and move from it and get on with your life.
3. Then share your anger with the person. Tell your story. Share how the incident behind your anger impacted your life back then. How it has impacted your life in your recent past and how it may still be doing so. Share how it has played a part in many of the choices you have made: the relationships you have chosen and experienced, the career and education choices you have made, the upbringing you have given your children.
Use the verb anger or frustration as verbs in your speech, such as:
“I am so angry at the way you spoke to me…”
Using these verbs gives you the greatest guarantee that anger and/or frustration is having expression and therefore release.
4. If it is appropriate at the end, share any other feelings – of love or care you have towards the person before you. If you do not feel these feelings, then don’t share them. However, remember that being angry with someone does not necessarily mean that you do not care for that person. You can be angry with someone and love them at the same time. When anger is at the forefront then that love can be so hidden it can seem non-existent. Sometimes when you have expressed your anger to another, because that anger is lessened or released, the feelings of love and care can surface. Do not be surprised if they do at the end of the session or shortly thereafter. On the other hand, don’t be surprised if you do not feel this way. Often after such expression time and separation is needed to the process to continue working its way through your emotional system.
5. Honour the person before you for hearing you out.
As you read the recommendations given above you may feel the person to whom you would heartily wish to direct your anger does not have the ability to listen to you in this way nor do you foresee the time when he or she will. Take comfort in the reality that most people reading these recommendations will feel the same way.
As stated earlier, direct expression is still a rarity. I believe that times will soon change this. With the interest in personal growth and the value more and more people are placing in seeing how their past influences their present lives and the importance of resolving issues of the past, I would expect there to be a lot more examples of direct expression and its first-hand benefits to report in the future.
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