On letting go, and being here…

download“If you want to fly on the sky, you need to leave the earth. If you want to move forward, you need to let go the past that drags you down.”
― Amit Ray, World Peace: The Voice of a Mountain Bird

Today we have been thinking about letting go – of people who can no longer be in our lives, of pain and hurt that can disempower you, of a dream that can’t be fulfilled or any of the myriad things that prove to be temporary in our lives, however much we wanted them with us always.

‘Letting go’ is an idea that many find difficult to understand. The idea that clinging on to things until the bitter end as a mark of strength is ingrained in many of is. We are told,’don’t give up, don’t give in’ – how can we square that with letting go? Well often the only way to move forward or come to terms with what is past is to forgive others, forgive yourself and open your mind to all the new opportunities that might present themselves. Painful, yes very. Honest, yes, always.

Here at The Terrace we love to find a poem that seems to express a thought we are grappling with. This one, by Steven Hickman, is also a poem for mindfulness. Just breathe and be in that moment. Like the hippo, half close your eyes and sit, Seeing all, both guilt and glory/Only noting.

The Hippo
By Steven Hickman

The hippo floats in swamp serene,
some emerged, but most unseen.

Seeing all and only blinking,
Who knows what this beast is thinking.

Gliding, and of judgment clear,
Letting go and being here.

Seeing all, both guilt and glory,
Only noting. But that’s MY story.

I sit here hippo-like and breathe,
While inside I storm and seethe.

Would that I were half equanimous
As that placid hippopotamus.

Don’t let your past control you. See it all, accept it for what it is and in doing so work to set yourself free.

“I eventually came to understand that in harboring the anger, the bitterness and resentment towards those that had hurt me, I was giving the reins of control over to them. Forgiving was not about accepting their words and deeds. Forgiving was about letting go and moving on with my life. In doing so, I had finally set myself free.
― Isabel Lopez, Isabel’s Hand-Me-Down Dreams

Dealing with anger in angry times (2)

angerIn a previous post we looked at the ways in which we can cope with feelings of anger in a society that is increasingly prone to focus on the negative; stereotyping and reporting on issues that can make our blood boil. We looked at how we can focus on those issues that we can influence, and how certain coping strategies can increase our chances of remaining calm and ensuring relationships are not damaged by unexpressed, or hastily expressed, anger.

We mentioned at the end of the last post that this time we would examine who is responsible for our personal response to anger. Of course, the answer is ourselves. We can choose whether to act hastily or with a more measured tone. But we acknowledge that in some situations this is difficult, or impossible. So why do we get angry?

There are obvious causes: a threat to ourselves or the ones we love, being actually assaulted – verbally or physically, losing money, finding our property has been damaged. Then there are less obvious ones: hearing someone has acted against a principle we hold dear, being interrupted when something is important to us, feeling undermined or humiliated among our peers. If it seems we have been hurt deliberately it can make matters worse.

If we are in imminent danger, the anger can be productive and protective, but if the causes are less obvious, then our responses can affect the outcome for our health, and for our relationships.  If we are living in a state of constant tension we might snap, regretting it later when we find we have over-reacted and must build bridges. Or we might repress  our anger, only for it to surface days, weeks, months or years later.

Some anger can drive change for the better, lead us to campaign for what we believe to be right. But repressed anger, or long-term anger that is not expressed in a constructive way can lead to depression, anxiety and self-harm, alongside physical ill-health, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes and gastric problems.

The Mental Health Foundation offers some great advice for those of us faced with a situation where we sense our blood is up. Where in our last post we offered some general advice, here are some specific exercises to adopt:

Count to ten before you act.
Drop your shoulders and breathe deeply to help you relax – your instincts may be telling your body to get ready to fight, but your rational self can reverse this message by telling your body to chill out.
If you feel the urge to throw something or hit out, remove yourself from the situation and try taking it out on something soft like a cushion that you won’t damage and which won’t hurt you.
Try screaming if it won’t disturb people near you or scream into a pillow to release your tension.
Talk yourself down – imagine what your calmest friend would say to you and give yourself the same advice
Imagine yourself in a relaxing scene.
Distract yourself or take yourself out of the situation that made you angry – read a magazine, do a crossword, listen to soothing music, go for a walk.
Pour out how you feel in writing or redirect your energy into another creative activity.
Offload to a friend who will help you get perspective on the situation.

We know it is not easy to deal with anger, but most of us can learn to respond in a healthy way. Next time we will look at triggers; if we know in advance what ‘sets us off’ it can make us better able to cope with a situation before that moment of no return…..

The Terrace is hosting a ‘Shaping Anger’ workshop on 25th and 26th October. For more details go to What’s On.

Dealing with anger in angry times (1)

angerDo you sometimes open a newspaper, or turn on the television and almost immediately feel your blood boil? Does the language used by politicians and presenters seem designed to raise your blood pressure? Does the shouting, drama and fear expressed in TV soaps or reality shows make you feel ‘on edge’?

Sometimes it seems we have become an angry nation. Some papers seem deliberately divisive; they blame immigrants, benefit claimants, bankers. At the weekend one paper used the headline  ‘NHS to fund sperm bank for lesbians: New generation of fatherless families… paid for by YOU’ above a piece that when read closely described a sperm bank that was also for heterosexual single women and couples. In fact it was a sperm bank for everyone to use, managed carefully to ensure those approaching it had thought carefully about starting a family, but the headline was deliberately inflammatory and designed to induce anger against a particular group. It is not a one off. Footballers get angry and bite other players; Jeremy Clarkson makes remarks about shooting striking nurses or uses racist language and claims his right of free speech; politicians continue to blame one another for the country’s problems and shout across the House at Prime Minister’s Question Time. Isn’t this all very unhealthy? What does it achieve and how does it spill over into our own lives?

We cannot necessarily influence what is said on the wider national stage, but we can ensure we deal with any feelings we have as individuals in a healthy way. We all have to deal with faceless call centre staff who seem to have gone on every ‘dealing with difficult people’ course available and are impervious to our frustration. Our friends and family don’t always agree with us, can hurt us:  bottling anger up can lead to explosive outbursts that can cause rifts in relationships, stress and feelings of guilt as we turn it in on ourselves.  So what should we do?

Psychotherapist Harriet Lerner has examined the impact of anger closely and has developed some key ‘do’s and don’ts’, and we particularly like the following coping strategies:

Speak up when an issue is important to you

People often say, when seeing someone in distress, to ‘let it go’. If someone says something hurtful, it is sometimes seen to be more mature to just let it be. But this is often the way bitterness and resentment sets in. In the long term it is better to make a stand when something is important to us.

Appreciate the fact that people are different

Different perspectives on an issue suggest there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in the matter. People react in different ways, and to recognise that can be very liberating.

Don’t speak through a third party

‘So and so was upset when you didn’t turn up at her party’ could, if it has made you angry be phrased as ‘I was really unhappy that you didn’t find the time to come along, you were missed’. To use someone else’s assumed response is dishonest and avoids the real issues.

Next time we will look at who is actually responsible for the way we respond to an incident. Think about it – in the examples we started this piece with what should we do with our anger at casual rascism, the discrimination inherent in the sperm bank story or the behaviour of politicians? We can change our newspaper and turn off the television but avoiding the issues doesn’t make them disappear. If we are not dealing with our anger appropriately something else will inevitably take their place. …

The Terrace is hosting a ‘Shaping Anger’ workshop on 25th and 26th October. For more details go to What’s On.

Shaping Anger – a workshop for couples

shapeimage_3The Terrace is pleased to announce that Jill Gabriel is bringing her ‘Shaping Anger’ workshop to The Terrace in Taunton this autumn. This group has been running for many years in Bath.

Since 1983 Jill has worked and trained as a counsellor and psychotherapist in both analytical and humanistic psychotherapy. For twenty two years she has been involved with Spectrum, a humanistic and integrative psychotherapy centre in London. She has run their Working with Anger Workshop for ten years. She also has a private practice for individuals, couples, supervisees and groups. Jill is a co-founder of Relationshapes and has been training therapists since 1995 to work with couples. Her passion is to continue to understand her own truth while working with others to do the same.

In this workshop Jill will explore ways in which we organise and shape our expression of anger, both individually and as couples.  She will provide a contained space for couples to explore their patterns of conflict through dialogue and exercises. The workshop will also look at the function of this multi-faceted emotion and our responses to it.

In order to continue growing and maturing within our intimate relationships we need to find a balance between sustaining enough contact and maintaining enough distance. In this process appropriate expressions of anger help us to define ourselves and our differences. We will work with each couple’s unique ‘relationshape’ of anger.

Date: Saturday 23 & Sunday 24 November 2012

Time: 10am to 5pm

Cost: £150 per person

Venue: The Terrace, Humanistic Psychotherapy and Complementary Health Centre, 35 Staplegrove road, Taunton TA1 1 DG

To book a place on this workshop ring Jill Gabriel on 01225 318834,

or The Terrace on 01823 338968 or email post@the-terrace.co.uk