In Part One of this series we discussed how pain is an inevitable part of divorce, and how important it is to process it through the body so it doesn’t get stuck and cause problems down the road. We also talked about the fear/stress response and how EFT is an amazing tool for reducing the physical symptoms of stress. Today we’re going to talk about another very common emotion during divorce: anger.
Anger is a loud, bold, fiery emotion also designed to protect you. It yells, “Fight!” It displays power, sets limits, and holds boundaries. It can be BIG and SCARY, but the flip side is passion, focus, enthusiasm, and joy. If you suppress your anger, you suppress your aliveness along with it.
Most of us weren’t taught to express anger in a healthy way. I can’t tell you how many clients I have who report they weren’t allowed to be angry as children. Some needed to tiptoe around alcoholic or otherwise volatile parents so as not to set off the dragon, and others were told to go to their room when they were angry until they could behave properly. I know I had a lot of judgement around my anger because it didn’t feel “spiritual.” Consequently, I did my best to deny it, which only created more problems for me to deal with later.
Let me assure you it is not only natural and human to feel anger, but healthy to be in touch with it, so you can process it and let it out. All that energy it takes to contain it saps your health, vitality, and enthusiasm for life. If you are currently feeling angry, yet have a fear or aversion to feeling or expressing anger, the first step is to acknowledge and recognize that you are angry and that this is acceptable and part of being human. If you are not currently feeling angry, but suspect you might have anger buried within, this is also a valuable step.
Next, get in touch with what specifically is making you angry. For example, you may feel anger at being rejected, demeaned, abandoned, abused, or humiliated. It may be helpful to create three categories of who or what your anger is directed toward: 1) anger at your ex, 2) anger at your situation, and 3) anger at anyone else. Take a moment to create your own list.
Now tune into any physical sensations you may feel when you think of these things. Do you have a knot in your stomach? A tightness in your chest? Does your head feel like it’s about to explode? Record any physical sensations you may be feeling in relation to anger, and breathe into them.
As previously discussed in part one of this series, EFT has been scientifically proven to reduce the physical symptoms of stress. It is also known for greatly diminishing emotional intensity around past traumatic events. In fact, Tapping is perhaps most famous for its tremendous success with PTSD, which stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Up until recently PTSD was an extremely difficult condition to treat, but EFT is one modality that has proven to be very effective because of this ability to reduce emotional intensity around events in the past.
Remember the limbic system, that primitive part of the brain that controls the stress/fear response and has the job of keeping us safe? There is a part of our limbic system called the hippocampus, which is involved in categorizing things. As you go about your day the hippocampus is constantly determining whether the experience you are having is emotionally significant enough to go into long term storage.
Let’s imagine, for example, it is a Tuesday morning and you are in the middle of your typical morning routine. You’ve had your shower, gotten dressed, and had your morning cup of coffee. So far, there is nothing out of the ordinary and your hippocampus can sit back and relax. Then you go out to your car and remember you and your husband have traded cars for the day. As you get into his car and reach over to put your bags on the passenger seat, your phone falls out of your purse and into the crack between your seat and the gear box. After some effort and choice words, you fish your phone out of the crack… but there is something else there. You pry it out with your fingers and realize it is a note… a love-note to your husband from somebody other than you! Your blood runs cold, you can feel your heart beating in your mouth and stress hormones coursing through your body. Now your hippocampus is awake and active and tagging and flagging everything in this scene. What had started out to be a mundane Tuesday morning not even worthy of notice is now categorized as an emotionally charged event and is headed directly into long-term memory storage.
This is a traumatic event. It is shocking, overwhelming, and you suddenly feel isolated and alone and unsure of what to do next. Months later you still can’t think about it without tearing up or wanting to punch him.
Here’s how EFT can help. When you focus on a past traumatic event that has not been cleared, stressful emotions and feelings in your body will come up. In this example, when you think about finding that note, you probably feel some level of anger and sadness. Maybe you also feel a physical sensation such as a burning in your solar plexus or a tightness in your throat. At the same time you are focusing on this stressful event, you tap on the meridian points, which send signals of calm and peace to the brain and body. As you simultaneously hold this focus of past stress and feel the feelings that come up and tap the points for calm and peace, the hippocampus eventually gets the message that it can refile the memory. This particular memory can move out of the active trauma category and into a more neutral category. When this happens, clients generally report that this once highly charged memory now simply feels like a story that happened in the past. If this is a very recent story, this might not happen right away. But tapping over time will gradually reduce the charge around even the most traumatic events.
Unfortunately, stories like the above example are common among divorce clients, and it’s natural for these clients to feel angry. Even without a story like the one above, anger is an extremely common emotion during divorce. If you are feeling angry, EFT is an amazing technique to process it and move it out! Why not give it a try?
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