“C” Through Rage to Grace (Episode 266)
Nathan and I were talking about anger and how we move past it, and he hit on a such a powerful aspect -
So often, when we are really feeling rage, we are lost in our own anger and blind to what else may be out there. Rage is defined as violent and/or uncontrollable anger. Even in its definition, control is out the window as you get lost in the emotion.
When you step back and really see things for what they are, it can really help you move beyond rage to something more productive. And, even have more grace for others in the process.
What Triggers You?
There are things that can set us off and trigger us into reactive behavior. So often these first gut reactions to triggers are not our best light, and we can really lose sight of what is truly in our control. The biggest difference between rage and grace is how we respond in the moments. This is a story from Marshall Goldsmith's book, Triggers:
Buddhist legend tells of a young farmer who is covered with sweat as he paddles up the river. He was going upstream to deliver his produce to the village. He was in a hurry - it was a hot day, and he wanted to make his delivery and get home before dark.
As he looked ahead, he spied another vessel heading rapidly downstream toward his boat. This vessel seemed to be making every effort to hit him. He rode furiously to get out of the way. But it didn't seem to help.
He yelled at the other vessel, "change direction, you idiot! You are going to hit me! The river is wide, be careful!"
His screaming was to no avail. The other vessel hit his boat with a sickening thud. He was enraged, as he stood up and cried out to the other vessel, "You MORON! How could you manage to hit my boat in the middle of this wide river??!! What is wrong with you?"
As he looked at the other vessel, he realized there was no one in the other boat! He was screaming at an empty vessel that had broken free of its' moorings and was going downstream with the current.
The lesson is simple:
There is never anyone in the other boat. When we are angry, we are screaming at an empty vessel.
All of us have people in our lives who drive us crazy. We may have spent countless hours reliving the moments when this person would be unfair, impatient, inconsiderate....just remembering them bumps up our blood pressure. The best course of action is to not let them get us angry. Getting angry doesn't improve this situation.
Getting mad at people for being who they are is about as sensible as getting mad at the weather for being cold, or a desk for being a desk.
The incredible monk Thich Nhat Hanh described it like this: "Think about a time in your life when you have become angry and lost control - who is responsible for this unattractive behavior? Is the bigger problem someone else, or your own ego? Is it more about how it affects YOU than the actual situation?
Rage Comes From An Empty Place
When I think of someone who is raging at someone else, oftentimes there is more to the story than what appears on the surface. So often the ultimate recipient of rage is just the last straw; not the real reason.
Think about the waitress with an attitude or the road-rage driver screaming at you for going too slow. Is it really your fault, or are you simply seen as another inconvenience one-too-many that sets this person off?
Maybe the empty vessel analogy works, even if there were someone in the other boat. We can all read the story above and think, "yeah, but I know the person and they really are raging at me - it's not an empty vessel." What if you were to consider the other vessel as being what isn't yours to carry? It's their boat with their anger and frustration and overwhelm, not yours.
How often are we sitting in rage and frustration due to others, and yet, ultimately, it doesn't have much to do with others at all? It can come from our own inadequacies, insecurities, fear and pain.
Instead of sitting in the rage of what others are doing, remember what is within you. What others are doing doesn't have to be your experience. If it angers you that much, remove yourself vs. telling others what to do.
If I'm feeling rage, something needs to be removed - either the toxic interaction I'm in, or my own toxicity in the moment.
Overcome With Rage?
When geese fight, they can get really worked up, and it can be brutal. Part of the process of them moving on past the fight is to flap their wings and shake their bodies out. They physically shake off the attacking energy in their bodies.
When we rage - or even have pent up anger, frustration, anxiety, sadness...our physical body holds onto it. That's why it can be so helpful to work out and get active when you have stuck emotions, or need to move through them.
When our girls were little, we had a pull-up bar in the hallway on the way to their bedrooms. As we navigated the crazy bedtime battles, we used that pull-up bar as our way to cool down and exert some energy before we'd enter their bedrooms. It helped us physically...and emotionally as well, as that little reset helped us approach our kids with a little less rage and a little more grace.
We took that time to really stop our emotional reactions and see our children.
Maybe it's time to go beyond your own world and get some outside help. There is so much support out there, and it's okay to get it. Here are ways you can get some support in your rage while parenting:
- Tag-team with another trusted adult to "tap-out" when you're too rage-filled and allow you a breather while someone else intervenes.
- Give yourself a time-out or work-out before you assess the situation.
- Journal and/or draw. Getting out your feelings on paper can be very helpful.
- Get help - between apps like BetterHelp.com and the wide variety of therapists, healers and more, you can get relief. One visit to a healer lifted a weight of anger off of me that was almost tangible - it was incredible and just the relief I needed to let it go.
- Read some books/watch videos on anger strategies - go deeper than the bandaid and be proactive on preventing the anger from mounting. Instead of exploding at your kids for fighting once again, get proactive on helping them build a better relationship. Instead of losing it with a messy house, get intentional about who does what chore and stay on top of it so it doesn't escalate.
What You See Will Show UP
Yes, the way you see the world is oftentimes exactly what shows up. You view your children as tiny demanding dictators...and they will fulfill that. You see the world as out to get you...and it will. If you believe everyone is conspiring against you, you'll find evidence even if it's only from your own perspective.
The flipside is true as well. When you see the world as abundant, loving, giving, joyful...you bring more of that into your life as you portray and exhibit these feelings and emotions already.
Inspect what you expect - take a good look at what you want, and if you're laying the foundation for it to show up. You can't wish for joy and happiness while sitting in anger and resentment every day - it's not going to knock down that wall.
What do you see in your life this week that is more rage-focused than grace-focused?
Your Weekly Challenge:
Where can you add more seeing and understanding? Before you can change anything, you have to be aware of it. Start with seeing who you really are showing up as.
Are you functioning from a place of rage... or grace?
Are you combative/reactive? Using the words can't/never/always/should? How is rage showing up in your life?
How can you shift your rage to something more productive and positive? Remember these three strategies:
- Remove yourself - take a time-out to compose yourself before you react
- Redirect it - channel it out physically and/or mentally - work out, journal, draw.
- Get outside help - whether it's tag-teaming with another adult to handle your children and give you a break, or going to a therapist, healer, friend, etc to help you let that rage go.
Rage doesn't help you. It can give you a good hangover of the wake you leave behind in a fit of rage. Pay attention to the people deeper than the rage - stop and "see" them for who they are and what is going on.
Sometimes we feel like we've gone so far down the anger road we don't know how to get out of it. However, it's really just as easy as dropping it and trying on a new set of clothes - just for a day. Try a new perspective shift. Try approaching a situation with grace and solutions. Replace "can't" and "problem" by focusing on what you can do, and "what does this make possible?" Try a different approach when someone comes at you, and expect kindness, even if you're faced with rage. See what happens when you don't fire back.
It may seem impossible, so start small. Shift one thing - one moment of gratitude added in. One kind word vs. vindictive move toward another. One smile and deep breath instead of a scowl. Listen to positive music. Read inspiring quotes and affirmations. Intentionally bring the light in, and you'll find it's much easier to step beyond the shadows.
When you start seeing people for the humanity they are - the messy and the beautiful, we can add a little more grace in, and celebrate how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us.
Some additional resources for you
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