‘Losing it‘ signifies much deeper underlying issues such as loss and grief. Anger forms part of the bereavement cycle?
When I discuss this with clients I’m often told “But I haven’t had a bereavement. I just flare up for no reason.” Yet they’ll go on to identify loss. Loss of their dreams, a relationship or a part of themselves in childhood.
The emotion of anger usually covers fear and the bottom line is that fear centres around feeling unloved or unloveable.
Many a child has felt humiliation and shame at being shouted at and rejected by an angry parent however temporary.
Whilst parents are not saints and don’t come equipped with the perfect parent handbook it’s safe to say that most parents intend to do their best.
Women appear to adjust to parenthood more quickly as they navigate bodily changes and fluctuation in emotions during pregnancy. Whereas men’s bonding often starts when the child is older.
Both will grieve the loss of their previous lifestyle – their job, friends and colleagues. It’s natural to feel anger in these circumstance.
In Psychotherapy, Transactional Analysis is a model that suggests that we have 3 main parts in our psyche. The Parent, Adult and Child.
Your guide book for how to be a parent is a direct result of how you were treated by your parents. What they said and did becomes your inner map, voice and reactions.
You may blindly follow your guide book or totally reject it by doing the opposite. More commonly people cobble together bits of both in an effort to ‘get it right‘.
All that’s needed is a trigger. You’ve asked your child patiently for the fifth time to pick up their towel from the bathroom floor, the anger explodes and you’re shouting and screaming at them.
You don’t have to be an actual parent to follow your map either. When you get angry with yourself and judge yourself harshly? That inner critic is your parent part.
How does a child feel, who’s been bullied? Worthless and unloveable. Your inner child feels exactly the same after an internal battering.
How To Manage That Anger
The key is to develop a healthier adult part.
Risk being vulnerable and explore your losses. Make time and space to have more authentic honest conversations with trusted friends, partners and therapists.
It is possible to diminish anger and bear the losses. It is possible to feel in control and to like how you talk to yourself and others.
Here’s a few starting points that will help.
Develop the tools of mindfulness. Use your breath to ground you in the present and to stop you reacting like a victimised child or a volatile parent.
Work on rebuilding your self esteem so that you are more able to tolerate the emotions.
When depression descends it‘s not easy to shake yourself out of it and for some just not possible at all, so if that’s you, you might want to stop reading now.
Many people who experience depression say that as part of it, they feel helpless and hopeless and it’s understandable as it can leave you feeling stuck and impotent. Anyone can be hit by depression at any time in life and it’s important not to judge.
It’s also important to know that it’s not your fault and doubtless you have done and are doing the best you can. It can be very irritating if not downright annoying to have people tell you to snap out of it and I wonder if one of the reasons is that for some, depression is an inward expression of anger. To have well meaning people lay unhelpful platitudes on you, can triggers more frustration and can make the depression even more intense.
My personal experience of depression and that of working with others is that it invariably strikes people who are highly thoughtful, sensitive and usually kind and caring. They ‘feel’ deeply and can struggle with boundaries, because they are used to picking up on the emotions of other’s but aren’t used to protecting themselves from it. Like a sponge they unconsciously mop up negative energy from those around them.
Developing a supportive inner voice can help. Over time I learned to tell myself that ‘this will pass’ and for me it did and thankfully I did not remain in a permanent state of depression. Knowing that it would pass I was able to use this knowledge to help myself. I would sit in the same place each time – in my case my wicker meditation chair and remind myself that nothing stays the same and that it would pass. When you’re in the midst of it however you can be forgiven for thinking it wont!
Funny thing is, even some of my closest friends may be surprised to discover that I’ve wrestled with depression and the reason for this is that I’m not a lover of labels, so I’ve chosen to not say that I have had depression. My concern was that it would become ‘my’ depression and I certainly never wanted it to be mine!
Here are a couple of things that have helped me in the past and others I’ve worked with.
Sit with a trusted friend or therapist and investigate the last 3 or 4 episodes of depression with a view to identifying what the triggers were. Aim to recall what happened the day or the night before. What did you eat or do, what time did you go to bed, what were you watching, who did you see, what activity were you participating in before the depression started? Aim to unearth the patterns that lead to the depression and make them more conscious.
When we throw light on something that has previously been unconscious i.e. in the dark, it usually has the effect of de-potenising it, taking away some of it’s power.
Don’t do this on your own, because you obviously don’t want to trigger an episode.
Once armed with a knowledge of the patterns or people that seem to trigger the depression you can start looking at things to put in place to avoid those triggers. For example if you realize that depression can start when you lay in bed thinking about things for too long, or listening to the news, train yourself to get up within 5 minutes of waking up, or make the decision to turn off the news and choose something more positive to listen to.
You can use stick thinking i.e. “If I lay here any longer I know I’ll end up with that sinking feeling in my stomach that leads to me feeling really stuck and miserable” or carrot thinking… “If I get up now I can get on with… or meet up with so-and-so to walk her dog, or to just make a nice cup of coffee and listen to the birds singing”
Commit to becoming vigilant and aim to catch the depression as it starts, imagine you’re a spy and your brief is to watch and wait to ‘catch’ it before it takes hold so that you can interrupt the pattern it takes.
Make a decision to do something different until you notice a change no matter how subtle. Even a tiny shift can make a huge change to the way you feel.
That shift might be an arrangement that you strike up with a trusted friend to call them the minute you feel the depression starting so that they can come over to support and motivate you to do something different. This is of course by prior agreement.
Whilst we know that exercise is a great way to combat depression, it isn’t always easy or possible for everyone to join a gym however one simple step that you could take is this.
Stand with your feet hip width apart and raise your arms up slowly up into the air as you breathe in. Then slowly breathe out through your mouth like you’re blowing air out with a long sigh as you bring your arms back down. Do this at least 10 times – longer if possible. Do it several times a day on a bad day.
You are lifting your heart and lungs with this simple movement, engaging your cardio-vascular and respiratory systems which change your breath, your mental state and of course your physiology. This can be done sitting down too.
Depression isn’t just a state of mind; it can also be a feeling that emerges somewhere in the body or just outside of it.
Depression has been described by some as a heavy weight, a black hole or a dark cloud hovering over them. Others say it starts as a sinking feeling in their stomach and some say that it’s like having someone or something sitting on them. No wonder then, that people can feel stuck or disempowered.
It can be helpful to externalize the feelings and one way to do this is by drawing or painting your feelings on paper. No rules, you don’t have to have any artistic skills, nobody else will see this – unless you choose to share it.
When you’ve finished drawing, bin it, burn it or bury it but get rid of it. By doing so you’re making a powerful symbolic statement – to your unconscious mind- that you’re taking action to erase it.
Another powerful thing to do is to write, by hand, letters to people who you feel have a part in your depression whether past, present, dead or alive. I’ve worked with many people with depression who have been bullied in the past and when they’ve done what I suggest here they have been amazed at the results. You really will feel lighter when you do this.
Write to the bullies, tell them exactly what you think of them. Let the people who have played a part in the way that you feel, know your truth, tell them exactly how you feel. When you’ve finished the letter bin it, burn it, or bury it but definitely get rid of it permanently, this is the most important step. I do not advocate sending the letters – this is for you, it’s your therapy.
Your unconscious mind believes whatever is put into it, so it willbelieve that you’ve sent the letters, even though you know at a conscious level you haven’t.
This might sound ridiculously simple but it really can take care of unfinished business in the back of the mind. Don’t take my word for it try it yourself to find out that this powerful exercise really does work!
Anything that you can do to empower yourself will be helpful
So the next time you’re feeling brighter write a list of the things that lift you and allow you to feel glad to be in the world. Put that list on the inside of a cupboard or on a mirror where you can see it to remind yourself to take tiny steps toward a better day.
Although I would never say I’ll never be depressed again, I do feel fortunate to be free of depression these days. I have used all the tools and tips I write about and whilst I appreciate that they may not be for everyone, I sincerely hope they help someone.
On Thursday I woke up with a violent migraine, an aching body and not much in the mood to drive for an hour to the spectacular gardens of RHS Wisley.
Efforts had to be made as it was my partner’s Birthday so I lay in bed and listened to my own Healing Now download which triggered the energy needed to make breakfast and drive us via the M25 into Surrey… it was my treat.
I couldn’t have made a better choice! The beauty and elegance of the gardens at Wisely is staggering and within ten minutes of going through the entrance I experienced a tremendous sense of peace and wellbeing.
A one point I sat for ten minutes of eyes open mediation … bliss!
You really can’t beat nature when you need a little soothing and healing. Being surrounded by the full spectrum of vibrant colours, with the sound of gentle water running from miniature waterfalls accompanied by birds singing, was only surpassed by the subtle waft in the air of perfume from the flowers.
It was heart warming to see so many people volunteering their time to create a place of such beauty. It has a really strong sense of community there. I overheard a couple talking, they were financial contributors and had a sense of ownership and pride about the place.
We watched people enjoying picnics, drinking coffee and eating ice cream in the cafe’s.
We smiled a lot! It’s a place that melts tension and brings peace.
A limb of yoga known as Ayurveda suggests that most people benefit from being surrounded by nature. Why not make a weekly date to bathe in nature, whatever the weather, you can wrap up warm or peel off layers as you go out to your local nature reserve, woodland or coastline and spend some quality time soaking up the blues and greens of the earth.
I wanted to share a little of my day with you so take a moment to watch the clip and allow your eyelids to be heavy as you watch the screen and breath in for three and out slowly for five. You can watch and replay this as often as you like for a de-stress and mini energy boost. Enjoy!
As Christmas approaches it can be a time of mixed emotions. There’s such a lot of schmaltzy advertising and just about everywhere you look there are images of perfect Christmas scenes.
This is not the reality for many people. Over the years I have worked with clients who dread being thrown together with relations they clash with or can just about tolerate. The struggle for these people is to honour themselves without becoming too accommodating and acquiescent in the process.