Novice firefighters learn to put fires out by setting them. Instructors load rooms of furniture into old shipping containers, start a fire, and then show the newcomers how a room burns. In this photo, Marine firefighters watch everything in a room ignite or “flashover.”
A wave of anger can feel like “flashover” on the inside. What’s needed is some good thick walls to contain it. This is anger management at its best.
Anger well managed can feel shaky. Inside all hot and roiling. Outside quiet, but trembling with effort. Once I’ve been working with someone for a while, we get to a place where the anger comes and it’s not a surprise or a tragedy. ”It’s not an old friend, but it’s not a stranger either.”
So this next step is advanced. It comes after we’ve spent time studying the fire and identifying what’s in the room. It’s anger fully felt, with nothing said or done.
It’s a physical and emotional experience that can be lived through without noise or action. Some report that it feels like a wave or a warmth that starts at their guts and travels up to their heads.
“It’s the weirdest sensation in the world, and I always shake like crazy. But nobody ever reported me to HR for shaking.”
This is anger as teacher, as energy, as force. Anger fully felt without action. My patients report that there is powerful satisfaction in being able to become angry and do exactly nothing in the midst of it. Successful anger management can feel really good.
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