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I’ve sometimes been shocked by how violent I can feel. A stray remark or small action has occasionally had me shaking with anger.

This is disturbing. Most of the time I’m pretty easy going – cruisy is the type of life that I like best. And yet I have this violence in me. What to do?

Firstly, I think, is getting space. If we feel violent it is best usually not to express it (unless we are danger). It is usually unlikely that simply lashing out will be helpful. It is very likely that it will be better to consider what we want to do. So, first is to get some space.

Secondly is finding a way to calm down. If this means jumpiing up and down, stamping, going for a walk, hitting the mattress, that’s OK. I think we need to do something with all that physical energy. After doing this I find it possible to think clearly.

Thirdly is finding why I’m so upset. Usually, because it has come out of the blue, I can realise that something weird is going on. My reaction is well and truly out of proportion. It is not what has happened in the present that is the reason for my feeling violent – so the answer is usually in the past. That stray remark or small action has hooked an unresolved issue in me, it is just a trigger.
Usually I can realise that I am feeling like a hurt child. Often enough I can remember one or more incidents when I felt like this. Then I can get a handle on what it is in my past that has been hooked.
Usually when we are feeling violent it is because we feel trapped, cornered powerless. Our feelings of violence usually come from feeling powerless or weak. Violence is often a manifestation of weakness not strength.

Fourthly, is finding my ability to choose. When I can think, and know what the violence is about I can start making choices about what to do. It may be that I need to stand up for myself, or leave a situation that is bad for me. It may be that we need to lighten up on ourselves and play more. There will usually be some changes that we are able to make.

Finally a word about the benefit. There is enormous energy in me. These feelings are so strong. If I can channel this energy then there is an enormous resource for me to draw on. There is enormous vitality in me, this is what my violent feelings reveal, this is the gift they have for me.


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5 Comments to “Our Wellbeing and Our Violence: How to Deal with Our Violent Feelings”

  1. Daphne says:

    Hi Evan,

    I liked this post, because I sometimes struggle with strong feelings of anger too. It’s much better now though – age does mellow a person!

    Your tips for dealing with anger are very sound. For me, space and choice work well. Giving myself space in which to remind myself that though the feeling descended upon me unasked, it’s my choice to continue wading further into the quicksand, usually helps snap me out of it.

  2. Evan says:

    Thanks Daphne,

    I’m glad you liked it. I (being nearly 50) also think that age tends to mellow us.

    I’m glad it’s better for you now.

    Thanks for your comment.

  3. Maudrey says:

    This is a great post. I have never been physically violent but my words can get pretty nasty when I’m angry. I once attended a talk where the speaker said that when you feel like you’re about to say something really harsh, count to 10 first so you can calm down. This actually works for me since after counting to 10, I don’t feel like lashing out anymore.

  4. Evan, I’ve definitely had periods of anger management issues in my life! A couple of years ago I discovered Loving Kindness meditation and found that it really helps me forgive the person I’m angry at. What’s your experience with meditation techniques in dealing with anger?

  5. Evan says:

    Hi Maudrey,

    I’m glad counting to ten works for you – for me it can take a while longer. I do think it is an excellent idea. Thanks for your comment.

    Hi Maria,

    I think meditation for quieting the mind (such as counting the breath) has the immediate benefit of giving us a sense of stability (I think keeping the anger is good but we need non-violent ways to express it) and a longer-term benefit of giving us more sense of a still centre (from which we can have a greater sense of choice and so be less prone to violence). Other kinds of meditation like Loving Kindness meditation have more benefits as well – it is hard to want to be violent when feeling compassion for the other person.

    My personal position is that anger is good, but it’s violent expression isn’t. Anger is useful to let us know that we don’t like something that is going on and to give us the energy to break out or destructure a situation. These can be essential. Much comedy starts with anger. It takes something positive to be sustainable though – anger is good, having to force ourselves to keep being angry I think it stressful and unhelpful.

    Hope this makes sense. I know it is a long answer to a short question. Thanks for your comment.

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