Here’s a guest post I’m dying to share with you because, if you’re anything like me, you’ve got a big problem expressing negative emotions. Unfortunately, rage, which is what builds up when you can’t connect with bad feelings, let alone offload them, is toxic to your soul. Kyrsten Barrett is a coach with a wonderfully spiritual perspective. A psychic and a manifestation mentor, I’ve learned so much from her as we’ve worked together to develop her book. This is a snippet from that book.
The week was intense, but it was incredible. It was one of the most powerful experiences of my young adult life. Through the Hoffman process I was introduced to “shadow” work, which focuses on how to come to peace with those aspects of our being that we are ashamed of.
I had been ashamed of so many things for so long; my imperfections, my fears of abandonment, my neediness, and my weird spiritual perspective. Especially my weird spiritual perspective.
I learned that the parts of me that I try to hide or deny operate behind the scenes, dictating many of the choices I make. I learned how to use specific tools to release the shame and transform my shadows into assets rather than limitations. I started to see my spiritual views and sensitivities as gifts and my imperfections as opportunities. Integrating and learning to love these aspects of my being, and teaching others to do the same, continues to be an important part of my life and work with clients.
That week I learned the value of allowing myself to feel angry about the things that deeply hurt me. As a highly sensitive, empathic person who so easily sees the light within others, I had a really hard time letting myself express authentic anger for feelings of abandonment and betrayal. I struggled to allow myself to feel any anger towards my parents, and towards my God.
The Process focused on venting anger towards our parents before surrounding them in the love and light of compassion. I preferred to skip the expression of anger and go straight to compassion. I had feared anger. At the time, I didn’t know anyone who seemed to express anger in a healthy, constructive way. I associated anger with danger and regret. As a highly expressive child I had said things out of anger I wasn’t proud of. I once told my uncle to fuck off when he made a joke about my tarot cards. I had reacted instantly and immediately felt horrible. I wasn’t typically a disrespectful, foul-mouthed kid and I was ridden with guilt. In my anger and defensiveness the words spewed out of me before I even had a moment to think. My anger was unpredictable, reactive and mean.
Somewhere along the way I must have unconsciously decided to bypass anger.
The problem is unexpressed, repressed and denied feelings of anger are toxic.
As I participated in the Process, I wondered if connecting to and releasing the anger would heal my chronic numbness and disconnection from my body.
I secretly hoped the catharsis would restore my fertility so I was willing to trust the process and explore repressed feelings.
With the help of my mentor, I started excavating the memories that elicited fury and wrote key words on giant notecards. I admitted that as a child I was angry that my parents worked so much and in such high stress jobs. It sucked that they were often distracted by life and death matters at work. I was mad that my dad couldn’t always be home on Christmas morning because he had to do emergency surgery. I was upset that my mom worked with suicidal people who demanded so much of her energy and attention. I was bitter that they were often too drained to play with me. I was resentful that I never felt entitled to have these feelings because my parents were helping people who really needed them. They were saving people’s lives and I felt that I must be a horrible person to be angry that parts of my childhood were robbed as a result of what was so clearly the greater good.
I placed a notecard that said, “abandonment” on the top of the cushy pillow and waited for the cue to begin. “Go.” Clasping the plastic, yellow bat in my hands I struck the notecard and watched it crinkle on impact.
I looked around at the other thirty people and saw cards being obliterated, pieces of cardstock flinging through the air as the bats chopped them up. People were screaming, yelling and swearing.
The kind, well dressed, thirty-something man I had connected with at breakfast suddenly fell into a fit of rage, shouting “You fucking asshole, how could you do this to me?” as he vented anger for growing up with an abusive, alcoholic father.
“I’ll fucking cut you, you cunt,” came out of one previously shy and quiet woman, a woman whose dad had sexually molested her.
The yelling scared me, but I also felt shame because my, “daddy worked too much” resentments seemed ridiculous in comparison. I felt guilty for having a charmed childhood when others had clearly suffered so much.
I had a habit of squirreling out of having to feel my own pain by empathizing with others who seemed to have it worse. But there was no escaping this room and the four mentors were watching us like hawks to ensure we were doing our work.
I really didn’t like it. The unleashed, albeit safely contained, rage scared the hell out of me. I started to cry as I gently whacked the bat on my pillow. Looking across the room I desperately tried to make eye contact with my sister. Our eyes met and she looked as freaked out as I felt.
The four mentors were relentless. They circled the room, monitoring the exercise. Every time one of them made there way to me I was told to keep bashing, which I did through tears of frustration and angst.
We hit those damn pillow for hours, making our way through each of the notecards one by one. If I couldn’t muster up anger for whatever was written on the card, I focused on expressing my outrage for being in the room. “It’s fucking bullshit that I’m in here getting all pissed off when I could be outside. It’s a beautiful day and I could be having fun in the sun, but instead I’m in here hitting a fucking pillow and these fucking teachers keep telling me to keep going. Ughhhhh!”
At times I had to laugh at how silly the whole thing was; thirty adults, mostly middle aged, throwing temper tantrums like toddlers in a gorgeous room with giant windows overlooking the redwoods of northern California. It was surreal and I tend to laugh when I get overwhelmed and don’t know what else to do with myself.
When the exercise was over we all put down our bats and wilted to the floor in exhaustion and collective relief. In a weird way we were now bonded to each other, fellow travelers on the path of discovering whom we are, separate and apart from our limited beliefs and conditioning.
The Process walked us through authentic expression of anger into forgiveness, which makes way for deeper, more profound compassion for self and others.
If you’d like to learn more about Kyrsten’s upcoming book, or explore how to work with her, visit her at www.KyrstenBarrett.com