In my work I often use a visual tool called the "Feelings Wheel". Although I've never been able to find out much about the creator of this wheel or her logic in its creation, this has not stopped me and my clients from developing some pretty amazing practices based on this tool. Over time I have come to understand that the top half of the wheel (Sad, Mad, Scared) are what I call "depleting emotions." They are valuable emotional states that can become damaging if experienced too much or for too long. If we give ourselves time to explore and understand our experiences within these states, we can learn a lot about ourselves and our world, but most of us spend lots of our energy either repressing or justifying, ignoring or explaining, without simply being in the experience of being mad, sad or scared. We don't give ourselves the opportunity to comfortably be present with the uncomfortable. There are often good reasons for our reluctance to be with our body as it experiences these states; however, there are also ways to allow this to happen that can be healing and therapeutic.
This blog is specifically about the emotional category the Feelings Wheel identifies as "Mad". I tend to call this Anger because I think it is more accurate. I am focusing on Anger at this moment because I have been invited to offer a workshop exploring Wrath and Aggression. Wrath and Aggression are the more intense variety of the Anger emotion and its resulting (re)actions. Since I prefer to explore from the less intense place first I will start with just plain old Anger.
I have discovered in my observations of my self and others that the pattern for most of us is that Anger engulfs our senses with such intensity and discomfort that we act on the urging of our body without much mindfulness, either by releasing it outwardly with great force or by repressing it inwardly with great force.
If we are one of the folks who expresses action outward, we then often try to discuss or explain from a place of logic afterward what happened to us that justified the action. We try to make SENSE of the action without including Sensation at all. In our society we rarely have the opportunity to safely sense into the experience that so quickly led to our actions. Express Yourself offers this.
If we are one of the folks who expresses our anger by holding it in, we often try to never directly discuss or explain our experience, but then it comes out of us in other ways that we don't recognize as Anger because we haven't allowed ourselves the opportunity to SAFELY sense into what Anger FEELS like, to recognize the components of Anger when it appears in other forms. Express Yourself offers a space to notice these sensations in the body, to give you room to be curious and process safely.
To support my exploration of the more intense form of Anger known as Wrath and the more intense form of action known as Aggression, I have been asking myself these questions:
In the palette of emotion, what are the "flavors" of anger including wrath? Is wrath the most intense? What is slightly less intense than wrath? What is the least intense form of Anger? Is there a constant that your body recognizes as anger regardless of the intensity? What changes inside of you as the intensity increases or decreases? How is something like Irritation similar to Wrath? How is it different?
What is the balancing emotion that anger fuels or supports?
Based on the Feelings Wheel, my suggestion is that Anger's dynamic partner is Empowerment. Over time I have come to understand that the bottom half of the wheel (Peace, Powerful, Joyful) are what I call "recuperative emotions." These are the emotional states that feed us, nurture us, bring us comfort and balance; however, they are not separate from the depleting emotions at all. They are actually the resulting state of experience that comes with mindfully noticing and being present with those emotions we so often try to ignore or repress or fix. Likewise, the threat to or absence of these recuperative emotional states is communicated to our bodies when we experience Sadness (loss of Joy), Anger (loss of Power) or Fear (loss of Peace). To understand Anger, it is important to understand your bodily relationship with Empowerment.
Anger often leads to action or re-action. Aggression is one type of action.
What is involved for the body to move aggressively? What moves Outwardly, what gets held Inwardly? If you move with the exact opposite qualities of the pattern of Aggression, what is the name for this type of action? What emotional state do you experience when you move in this type of action
I believe that learning about and practicing expressing the "depleting emotions" in a safe, supportive space is important because it is part of healing. This is one of the inspirations for my work with Express Yourself. Sharing this with you when you feel called to this sort of healing work is my life's passion. I offer this to this community because I have experienced and observed that it has the power to transform deeply.
Thanks to those who read through this. I appreciate your interest. I welcome your comments!