Are your emotions getting the better of you right now? Do you feel too overwhelmed with anger or resentment? Use this gorgeous technique with 4 healthy ways to release anger – for good.
Ever had a disagreement with someone, and found it hard to let go of your anger once it’s over?
If it was left unresolved, you might have continued to think about it; getting angrier and angrier the more you sat with it.
You might have had a real strong urge to hash it out – but you knew it’d only make things worse.
Story of my life.
And it’s not only disagreements with people that can trigger us to ruminate in this way. It could be a critical comment, an unkind look, a betrayal of our trust… the list goes on and on.
The problem is, when we’re so focused on how bad we feel, it’s almost impossible to be focused, creative or productive.
The answer? Allowing ourselves to process our emotions in a healthy way.
You’ve got to feel it to heal it
The key is not to ignore, suppress, or otherwise “stuff down” difficult or intense emotions.
Research shows that suppressing thoughts isn’t an effective strategy for moving on – if anything, it keeps the thought comin’ back.
The truth is, we’re not really taught how to deal with intense negative emotions (other than being told to stop crying or “not feel bad”), and we’re discouraged from expressing them (e.g. “stop making a scene”).
If we learn this stuff as children, as adults we draw the natural conclusion that negative emotions = bad, and therefore shouldn’t be felt.
Why freewriting is so powerful
You might think that putting your feelings into words will intensify them. However, many studies have found the opposite to be true.
Writing down (or saying out loud) what we’re feeling seems to reduce the intensity of the emotion.
It’s a process psychologists call “affect labelling”.
Recent research has found that, for most of us, our emotional intensity decreases rapidly when we express our feelings with a simple ‘I feel’ statement (such as, ‘I feel angry’).
Even monks do it
He describes how – just like in physics – energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed or transferred.
Freewriting allows us to consciously experience, process, and heal our feelings by transferring our emotional energy to the page (and therefore, moving it outside of our body and mind).
It’s worth noting Dandapani advises repeating this process 3-4 times if an emotional experience is particularly intense.
When you need to vent and release
Try this technique before unleashing your feelings on someone else.
The benefits of this include:
- Avoiding saying something in the heat of the moment we don’t really mean (and might regret later)
- It gives us time and space to truly connect to our feelings, and get clear about what’s really going on for us
- It teaches us to be self-sufficient when it comes to dealing with our emotions, and consciously sharing our feelings once we’ve processed them – rather than dumping them on others
Once you’ve completed the practice, you may feel as if you’ve released everything you needed to.
Personally, freewriting helps me take a step back, safely express what I need to, process the emotion, and then decide what to do from a clearer headspace.
4 Step Freewriting Ritual
1. Find a safe space to write
Start by finding (or creating) a safe space for yourself where you can write alone – uninterrupted and undisturbed – for a short period of time.
I normally use my meditation space, since it’s where I do most of my self-reflection. I’ll light some incense or a candle, put calming music on, and settle with my journal.
When you’re alone, you might feel more able to let the tears flow, scream into a pillow, or roll around on the floor (whatever you gotta do).
2. Let it all out
Use “I feel” sentences to express exactly how you’re feeling. Let it flow. Trust that whatever comes will help you heal.
Keep going until you feel like there’s nothing left.
Then ask yourself, “is there anything more about this?” – if the answer is yes, continue. When the answer is no, put down the pen.
3. Find stillness
When you’re done, take a little time to go inwards. Set a timer for 5 minutes (or longer) and just sit, noticing how your body and mind feel.
Notice whether there have been any shifts. Has your breathing has changed, is your mind clearer, has any tension been released?
The goal is not to achieve any of these things, but simply to notice.
Time to let go. Take your paper and find a way to move this out of your life.
Rip the paper, burn it, scribble all over it (this counts as expressionist art, right?). Do whatever feels right to you, but do move it out. Don’t allow the energy to stew, or remain available for you to look at and ruminate over.
Set an intention to release this negative energy as you do so. Then let it go.