Anger is healthy but can be unhealthy when it goes into the unconscious and creates pain. Women find it especially challenging to have a healthy relationship with anger. As girls we are taught that we aren’t supposed to be angry we need to be nice and cooperative. But without anger we are handicapped. Anger helps us to keep good boundaries. When we don’t allow or acknowledge or are unconscious about our anger it comes out in unexpected ways such as mind-body syndrome pain which chronic pelvic pain, vulvodynia, and IC are included in. The pain is created by the unconscious mind to keep our attention off the anger or other uncomfortable emotions, which we have been conditioned to perceive as very dangerous, and to stay focused on the pain instead.
Anger Goes Unconscious
The classic explanation for mind-body syndrome pain is that rage has gone into the unconscious and the pain serves as a distraction from it. When the rage and/or anger are brought into consciousness, the pain no longer has a purpose and we experience pain relief. Most people who are new to the mind-body approach to pain relief, especially women, will claim that they are not angry people and they cannot even relate to the concept that rage is underlying their pain. The neurological pathway to avoid being conscious of anger or the more intense rage is so strong and ingrained (myelinated) that we cannot even conceive of having these emotions. It is so completely in the shadow of our minds.
I am guilty of not believing that I had a problem with anger and didn’t believe that I was capable of having rage when I was first introduced to Dr. John Sarno’s explanation of mind-body pain. It has taken me 6 years to truly accept and believe this concept. Sarno says that it’s the repression of unconscious rage that creates the pain to distract the conscious mind from acknowledging the rage. In order not to feel the physical sensations of the rage the muscles have to tense which causes mild oxygen deprivation to muscles and nerves which result in pain or other symptoms such as anxiety or skin rashes or digestive upset. The conditioned (habit) neurological pathway can be broken when we become conscious of our rage and/or allow ourselves to have the emotion and feel it as physical sensations in the body. Once the emotion has been brought into consciousness, the purpose of the pain to distract from feeling this is gone and there’s no need for the pain and it fades away. Yes, it’s a simple as that, and yes, it can be very tricky to break these old ingrained unconscious habits of being.
In the beginning of my mind-body healing journey I realized I didn’t know how to feel anger appropriately. Most of the time I suppressed it and then sometimes I got out of control with it, especially with my family. I went through an exploration of what anger felt like as physical sensations in my body, then practiced allowing myself to express my anger without getting out of control or hurting anyone else or damaging my relationships. It was a little messy at first. I remember throwing a corncob into the sink in a disagreement with my husband. Later I learned to feel my anger in my body without throwing things and to also be able be okay with being angry. Now when I feel angry I feel it in my body as physical sensation, then after it rises and falls I sense what action needs to be taken. It’s best to take action after the wave of emotion falls so I can consciously choose how to speak or convey my truth in a kind and compassionate way.
Anger Gets Skillful
In practicing feeling anger I learned what worked and what didn’t. It definitely included failures and noticing what I liked and didn’t like. When my daughter was a teenager in high school one night she wasn’t yet home well after her curfew. I finally called her on her cell phone she told me she was on her way home. I met her at the door and spoke to her about why I was angry while I was still quite angry. I remember how dry my mouth felt. I remember noticing that this behavior of mine with anger did not feel effective and didn’t make me feel any better. I apologized to my daughter the next day about my behavior at the door and I decided I wasn’t going to do anger again that way. When my son later challenged me in this way I did it differently. I allowed myself to feel the anger, but I waited until the next day to have a civil conversation about his behavior and how I wanted it to change. I became a more tolerant and forgiving parent as well. I just wanted to be sure my kids were safe and they were good about answering their phone when I called them in a panic late at night to check up on them.
My Inner 3-Year-Old Knows Rage
In mind-body healing I’ve also interpreted Sarno’s “rage and other emotions” in a broader way. It’s any uncomfortable emotion that we have an unconscious habit of not feeling. I’m also softening around my resistance to rage. I really can relate to the concept that I still have an inner 3-year-old who can easily go into tantrum when I don’t get my way. Sarno related the inner raging child self as Sigmund Freud’s Id. The nervous system still has the programming (neurological pathways) that was set when we were 2 or 3 year olds still learning to be in our bodies and with our emotions. We were probably rejected by our parents and other care givers when we had tantrums. Tantrums were not allowed. So they went into unconscious rage. I remember when I was about 3 or 4 years old I was so mad about something that I ripped the pages out of a picture book. I knew it was bad to rip books up but I was so mad I did it anyway. I don’t remember what I was mad about. But I can remember that feeling of rage in my body which I obviously later learned to suppress. I now know how to feel my rage even when it’s illogical, as 3 year olds often are. I still get to feel it and then get a sense of my truth and whether I need to communicate it or not and if so how.
When my old mind-body symptoms come up now I tell them I’m onto them. I know there’s nothing wrong with me. I allow the sensation to be there as I focus on my emotional life instead, bringing any emotions I might have unconsciously not felt into consciousness and also feel the sensations of them in my body. Now I get to have my emotions in a skillful way even when they are illogical, childish or selfish. I get to work through them and find my truth, rather than reject them. Then I take action from my adult self in a kind and considerate way without abandoning myself.
Endorsed Coach – Gail Kenny
When I found Abigail I had been struggling with chronic pelvic pain (including pain in my lower abdomen, IC symptoms, yeast infections and myofascial pain) for over 20 years. Mind-body coaching was the last thing I needed to truly get my life back. I know first-hand the challenges of healing chronic pelvic pain and I’m well prepared to help you with your healing. I’m also a certified Martha Beck life coach and trained psychic.
I work with people in physical pain who have already tried all the normal solutions. I help them heal old dysfunctional habits of thinking and feeling. I teach them to relate to their body, emotions, mind, and soul in new ways, creating relief from underlying tension, healing pain from the inside out and getting back to living the life they want. Start with your free pain relief practice here.
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