Kicking Pain in the “As” – Anger

Anger is almost always portrayed as a negative emotion; something to be worked on, to be avoided with calming techniques and herbal teas.  And often this is the approach required.

However, I have found when dealing with pain that many people bury their anger, seeing it as something to be ashamed of, to apologise for.  They internalise the anger and turn it on themselves, often expressing a feeling of hatred towards themselves and a sense of worthlessness. When we use anger in a different way, as the fourth step of Kicking Pain in the “As” our anger can become a great asset.

I get angry.  Angry that my constant pain prevents me from doing things I love.  Things like hugging, walking the dog, playing my violin, going shopping in town…..That anger could become so destructive, if I let it.  So, instead, I take that anger and I use it as a positive energy to allow me to do more.

Here’s an example: I have played the violin since the age of four.  I got to be pretty good.   I was going to make it my career.  However, by the age of 16 my right shoulder had dislocated so many times that it had to be bolted in place and my choice of career had to be re-thought.  I headed for a professional kitchen to train as a chef, my second greatest love.  Who knew that hours on my feet would cause my ankles to swell to this size of footballs and my hips to start 12 months of constant dislocation?

This was getting monotonous, but I could still continue these two precious activities as hobbies; making music and food for pleasure could certainly bring joy to my world.

Now, thanks to my latest challenge – CRPS – I can no longer play my fiddle or spend more than 20 minutes preparing food.  Am I angry?  You had better believe it! What am I doing with that Anger?  I’m focussing it on the condition, not on myself.  I have conversations with my CRPS (as I have done with my EDS for most of my life) in which I let it know I’m angry.  I tell it how it makes me feel and that it’s not welcome in my world.  I do this out loud and often wonder what people would think if they could hear me (it makes me giggle)!

I also notice my Anger.  When we are conscious of our emotions we take responsibility for them more easily.  By owning my Anger, saying “look at me, being angry today” I can make a decision about what to do with that.  Too often I hear people say “I said something awful to my partner in anger” as if they can pass off the responsibility – “I was in Anger mode so it’s not my fault.”

When I feel Anger, I consciously ask myself “So, what’s that all about?  Why am I angry?  What am I going to do with this energy?” I give myself a choice to use it positively and nine times out of ten, I’ll take it.

The final and key step for me in using my Anger in a positive way is to be real about it.  It’s okay to be angry about the thing that is causing you pain (be that emotional or physical).  Don’t berate yourself for feeling Anger.  You are not a super-human and behaving as one is often simply a cover, a disguise.  I allow myself to say “I’m Angry!” (and trust me, there are some choice, un-repeatable words to go with that)  I allow myself to acknowledge I have good reason to be miffed!  Acknowledge that Anger and give it some breathing space in a safe place.

The top of a mountain is the place I pretend to be when I’m letting it out (just do check the neighbours are out if you’re doing it at home!) and I let rip for a good 10 minutes at least once a week. It’s cleansing.  It’s healing. So today, take that Anger and address it head-on.  Welcome it to your world and acknowledge its’ existence is your responsibility.  Nurture it and allow it to be what it is and use it, as it uses you, to create energy and choices, ones that allow you to be positive and prepared to keep kicking pain in the “As”.

Here’s to a pain free day Dinah x

Making mood choices

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“Don’t be so moody” a much-repeated comment from mothers of teenagers, partners (of both sexes) and many long-suffering friends.  Yet is strikes me that this is a strange remark;  we are constantly moody.  All our actions (or lack of action) can be influenced by our mood.  Every conversation or interaction will be impacted by our mood.  Every decision we take, choice we make, every moment of our day is moody.  Whether it is positive or negative is surely the real issue.

I do remember being grumpy in my teens; I was angry a good deal of the time.  I chose to let the world know it by reflecting it in my mood and my appearance.  I gave off a huge vibe that said “back off, unless you’re ready for an argument” and it worked.  I achieved what I set out to achieve.  I annoyed the grown-ups so they left me alone and I fascinated people of my own age who believed I was brave, anarchic, different.  My mood dictated my surroundings and my interactions with others.

I live in constant pain.  It’s part of a condition I have called EDS. It means I start my day, every day, by feeling the pain spread through my joints as I sit up.  Some days are easier than others.  The prospect of certain tasks could fill me with dread and allow my mood to plummet into a negative place.  So, knowing this, and knowing that the mood I choose to start my day with will have a huge impact on it, I start every morning by declaring my mood for the day ahead.  This morning, after a challenging night with the third dislocation in as many days, I chose caring as my mood for today.  Caring for myself as well as for others.  Caring about how I sit, to make sure I’m not in pain.  Caring about eating regularly and giving myself plenty of breaks from the keyboard to rest my arm.

Seeing that I have the choice, that I can decide my own mood has been key to my ability to battle the odds in my personal and business journeys.  I’m not suggesting that it’s always easy and indeed there are times when I feel the morning’s conviction slipping away.  That’s ok.  That is my signal to stop and observe.  What am I doing that is causing this change in my mood?  Have I slipped into an old habit or way of approaching something that has a negative impact on how I feel?  I often have conversations, out loud, with myself at these moments and ask myself “ok, so you recognise this right?  What did you do to create this?”  Seeing the mood-habits we create, and asking ourselves why we choose to repeat them is a big step on the journey to owning our mood, our ability to chose it and take back ownership of it.

If you’re finding yourself going up and down on the mood swing, here are my top four tips for influencing my mood:

1) Start your day by choosing your mood and declare it.  If you keep a diary, write it in there and you can look back and decide which were your best mood choices.

2) Take ownership.  Stop saying things like “I’m in a bad mood” or “I’m moody”.  Reinforcing these messages becomes an excuse.  Own your moods and decide that you are able to change each one of them, at a moments’ notice.

3) Acknowledge your positive moods.  It can be easy to focus on the negative, to remember the impact a bad or low mood has had on our day.  Start looking for the positive moods, the uplifting or successful moments.  Acknowledge these, and give no time to talking or thinking about the “moody” moments.

4) Take a look at your environment.  As more and more of us work from home, we become isolated and this can have a huge influence on our mood.  Is the space you are working in a positive one?  Do you look forward to going into your office, or dread it?  You don’t have to redecorate to change the feeling a room creates.  Simply putting up pictures, cards, favourite quotes and knick-knacks can make it an environment that lifts your mood.

Take that “I’m moody” label off today – it really doesn’t suit or serve you.  I’d love to know what positive moods you observed.

Dinah