My grief recovery from the divorce has had the expected cycles of ups and downs but it's been 3 years post divorce and I was tired of the lingering sadness and depression over the loss of the marriage, the last 2 years of which, had become emotionally abusive. It left me feeling so broken, rejected and worthless. Why was I still feeling sad?
I worked with a therapist who suggested I get in touch with my suppressed anger. He explained that sometimes depression and sadness could be a result of anger turned inward.
Like many women, I felt uncomfortable with the emotion of anger. I believed it wasn't healthy, civilized or spiritual. I'd seen my mother hold on to anger and become bitter and pessimistic after her divorce. In my determination to avoid repeating her experience, I realize now, I stuffed my anger.
The first signs of anger showed up 8 months post split. But there was no one to direct it towards. The phone conversations with my ex only covered the practicalities of the divorce, he didn't want to give me any answers to my questions surrounding the betrayal and his exit from the marriage because he said, "It could inflame you and I don't want that to affect the legalities of the divorce."
Months ago when I learned he was getting remarried, my heart sunk and I dipped into feeling like I was grieving the loss all over again. As time passed I couldn't get myself out of the blues no matter what I tried from my well equipped coaching toolbox or healing sessions with colleagues. Even the positive effects of my boosted vitamin D and B12 didn't seem to alleviate the melancholy.
During my phone session, the therapist had me visualize a private room where I would be safe to explore any possible feelings of anger. Before he finished his sentence, I busted down the door to get into the imaginary room. I unleashed a wild, raging, kicking, punching, clawing and screaming woman in this imagined safe room.
My heart rate quickened, I felt hot and tears streamed down my cheeks as I experienced, perhaps for the first time, my anger.
When our phone session ended, I hurried outside to an empty garden bed where I pierced and stabbed the soil with sharp garden tools. Over and over, like out of some horror movie, I tilled that soil beyond recognition.
Breathless and sweating, I stopped to see what I had done. Exhausted, I went inside the house and showered off the bits of dirt that had flung up on my legs and arms during my vigorous episode.
The next morning I woke with a sense of calm instead of anxiety. Throughout my day I felt on task, strong and purposeful not scattered and insecure.
Over the next week I experimented with this technique. Whenever my emotions dipped into sadness I did an exercise to get in touch with the underlying anger. I expressed it and released it.
My expression of anger included punching pillows, which I had a hard time doing at first; I felt badly for acting violent toward a pillow that had only ever been gently fluffed. I karate kicked and punched, I boxed, I swore at my imagined ex sitting in a chair as I stood over him authoritatively. I threw rocks, I journaled pages and pages of very unspiritual thoughts. I did not judge myself; they were only thoughts. I'm now on a letters-written-not-sent campaign to reclaim my voice; the one that my ex and his family told me I could not use. The one I denied myself.
Anger is a natural and healthy emotion to feel and express. It rises up when we feel threatened or afraid and when someone does something that disrespects our set of values. It's what we do with the anger that can determine whether it's healthy or not. Certainly, acting out in violence is not a healthy way to express anger and either is suppressing it. Both have the potential to hurt people.
Although I was never able to express my anger directly to my ex husband, I've learned the healing value of allowing myself to let those feelings come to the surface. I'm honoring them, giving them space and guiding them out of my body, mind and spirit.