As a therapist, I probably say at least multiple times a week, if not multiple times a day, ’emotions are neither good or bad, they just are.’ This is a true statement. We are born with emotions and they want to be off service to us. They have really great intentions. They’re really trying to ‘guide us,’ in some way. At times, our archaic brains do things like mix up ‘danger’ and ‘anxiety,’ and that does not really guide us to do the right thing. It’s amazing how many individuals can’t identify emotion or feel totally afraid of it. Sometimes I think therapy exists because people are ‘horrified of emotion.’ They feel like it’s going to overtake them and they’re going to do something to themselves or others that they will not be able to undo. They allow their emotions to drive their car and totally let go of the steering wheel. Emotions are not the same as thoughts and not the same as behaviors. They are linked, but they’re different things. Behaviors and thoughts are learned and developed. They are caused by or cause emotion. We don’t experience ‘happiness, joy, etc.’ as negative, so we label them ‘good’ emotions.’ We do experience anxiety, depression, and anger as negative, along with many others, so we label them ‘bad.’ Much like in the world, things are not this black and white. Those feelings are telling us, ‘Hey, pay attention, something’s up.’ I encourage all my patients to find a way to practice emotional hygiene each day, which you would do like brushing your teeth. Either through breathing, meditation, yoga, body scans, or just sitting quietly for a few minutes each day to notice what emotions are coming up. We live in a world of ‘go, go, go..’ Some of that, is society. However, we also use ‘being busy,’ as an excuse to escape emotions we want to avoid. It literally does nothing for us. It’s an ‘avoidance pattern,’ and emotion will always will in a fight. If you’re not going to find a way to let it, your emotions will find a way for you to let them out through behaviors. You might start isolating, self-harming, eating, starving yourself, and the list goes on and on. The emotion of ‘anger’ gets a ‘bad reputation.’ When I explain to my patients that ‘anger’ is just another emotion and that it’s not ‘negative,’ they are shocked, many fight back. The behavior(s) we choose to express our anger through are often ‘positive’ or ‘negative,’ and lean more toward ‘negative.’ Still, it’s a great emotion. It needs to be expressed. Often, people have a ‘go to’ emotion when it comes to ‘depression’ or ‘anger.’ They are similar emotions in many ways. Some people internalize and others externalize. Most people are on the internalize end. They fear anger. I’m more like that. I remember a conversation that I (a therapist) had with my therapist one time about writing. He asked me about my writing. For some reason, I mentioned that, “when I was younger, my writing was angrier.’ At times when I would go to do readings, there would be some discomfort stemming from the fact that I was reading things that were ‘somewhat true.’ I noted that sometimes I would feel strange when someone liked a piece of writing that had some ‘personal truth in it,’ and there was a feeling like, ‘I can’t understand why you’d like something that has brought me pain.” Things change. The me of today would be high-fiving someone for connecting and ‘bringing out an emotion,’ which is what writing is supposed to do. At that time, however, I was not comfortable with some emotions. This made it difficult to share work that contained some of those ‘bad emotions.’ For me, anger was one of them. My therapist looked at me and said, ‘you shouldn’t have to tone down emotion in writing.’ I explained that I don’t think I could write a poem in that same angry, twenty-something voice because I’m not that person any longer. He argued this for a bit and challenged me to ‘write more angry poems.’ It was good advice and showed me, that even after years of working with people through emotions, I still had bias against some emotions. When I explain the power anger to have to people, they’re surprised. I often share, ‘anger is great motivator.’ When used correctly, it can lead us to do great things. I give examples of groups that might have been formed out of anger, “Mothers Against Drunk Driving,” as one. There probably have been a lot of politics and laws made that came out of anger. We, ourselves, leave unhealthy relationships often, ‘out of anger,’ and move on to healthier things. As an emotion, it gets a terrible reputation that it frankly does not deserve. Today I’m sharing a short poem that I wrote. I don’t know if it was specific to anyone. It just came out. There was most likely situations that somewhere inside me built up to it coming out, but I don’t know what they were. Honestly, it came from just checking one day and allowing ‘anger’ to come up. I encourage every one to do ’emotional hygiene,’ and ‘check in with their emotions.’ They have a lot to say. As we do it more, we become less afraid of our emotions and more trusting of them, which makes us more comfortable in our skin and happier individuals.
I promised I would not hurt this person I cared for.
I hurt that person anyway.
I took what I wanted instead of what you needed
and now I can’t look away.
We all have territorial feelings.
We all piss on hydrants.
We know when we smell the mark of another dog
and still we lift our leg and try to mark our spot.
I like to tell people to piss off.
That word piss just seethes with rage….
We both got pinched in the end
and we both smell like piss.
Dogs would make better decisions
than you and I and many others have done before.
We had no boundaries when this started
and that is usually the first sign of war.
I am writing this because it belongs to us.
I am writing it as something to share
cause we all want what does not belong to us
but that does not sit well or make things fair,
so here is my peace offering….
You can take it or tell me to piss off if you like,
but I’d rather have a friend at the end of the day
than some stupid turf war over a fire hydrant.