Throughout my life until recently, I had to deal with acute and bottled-up anger. As a young adult though, I was simply not aware of it. My anger got triggered by a lot of daily stimuli, and even without noticing it, it would trigger in turn a lot of angry thoughts in my head that would feed even more the emotion, and the negative feedback loop between my body and mind would go on, like a dark inner beast always looking for getting momentum as if it was fighting for its survival. I have been exposed to unhealthy, uncontrolled and frequent bursts of anger from one of my close family members when I grew up, and these feelings got stuck in my body, always looking for some excuses to get revived again, striving for its mere existence.
It took me many years of developing self-awareness to even just start being aware of my anger, acknowledge it, and start to observe its way of gaining momentum, in my mind, and my body. Being aware of it doesn’t mean you can get rid of it, or even control its toxic snow ball effect. But with practise, it is certainly the first step towards reframing it, and eventually, defusing it by loosing its grip on you (I wrote more about the power of such self-awareness on this post).
The other day, in a sunny and cold winter morning at my place, the dark beast caught me again. I don’t remember the exact cause which triggered its fury, but it doesn’t matter since what’s really revived in these cases is your old childhood emotions. That very morning, I was determined not to feed it any longer and to let it burn. So, I hung right away my punching bag, put on my headphones with loud electronic music, and sank a towel deep in my mouth. Frenetically, I started to punch my bag while screaming like a fucking caveman from my deep belly. It was like a cathartic moment of letting out all these bottled-up emotions.
When I got exhausted by my efforts, I still felt the beast inside, a bit stunned for sure, but still ready to find a good moment to jump on me and gain more momentum. I gazed at the window and it was one of these gorgeous dry and sunny winter days. I put on my swimsuit and a light sweater, and hit the street. I started to run like crazy, still making some small grunts to let the beast express itself. I reached the small jetty on the water, and just with my swimsuit on, I went down the stairs. I had to break and push away big chucks of ice several centimetres thick. I walked in the water until it was deep enough for sitting down and immerse my whole body to my neck.
The first 45 seconds of immersion in ice cold water are just pure pain. It is a hard stressor for your body. It’s like if all your cells are screaming as hell to urge you to get out, if your survival was at stake. But I didn’t want to listen to these signals. I wanted to challenge my comfort zone. I wanted to completely surrender to the present moment and watch the pain. I knew I would not die and trusted my body for coping with such hard conditions. Don’t underestimate your body’s amazing capabilities to cope with adversity.
When I passed the painful plateau, something interesting happened. My initial flight & fight reaction calmed down, and my nervous system became more balanced again. I started watching with owe the trees all around, smoothly dancing in the wind. They were reflected in hundreds of tiny water oscillations, jingling all around the shore. Their sounds became mixed up with the light breeze and the flying of a group of ducks. They appeared in my field of vision before an immaculate sky, like blazing sparks. They gracefully and fluently landed on the water, before getting still and letting themselves going adrift on wavelets. I contemplatively felt that everything was connected. For a brief instant, I experienced the wholeness of the universe.
When I got out of the water, I just put my shoes back on, and started running like crazy again. I was shirtless and soaked. Some people who were watching me around looked at me with intrigued gazes. Back in my apartment, I took a sheet of paper, griped it on my wall, and wrote down:
“That’s How Powerful I Am”.
And realised that anger can also be used to implement constructive actions in my life.
Case reframed, rechannelled, and closed. I moved on.