25 Feb Moving Up from Anger to Compassion
In my clinic I spend a fair amount of time guiding willing people to tune in to their feelings, bringing gentle awareness to what is not being felt, or avoided/resisted, and thus often contributing to illness or unwanted symptoms. For this, I find this Instrument Panel (see right and bottom images, courtesy of Lola Jones), outlining emotions from low to high vibration to be very useful.
One of the comments I received in my Vitality Link post on Managing Fear Through the Kidney System, a reader asked whether I “have any follow up posts on how the Instrument Panel might be applied, or how the feelings (especially anger) might be fully felt, acknowledged and dispersed?”
Thanks to this reader, I was then inspired to write the following article.
I see a 50-something Asian woman in my Chinese medicine clinic. She first started coming upon the recommendation of my next-door neighbour MD for extreme stress and anxiety that was triggering recurring onset of shingles and eczema.
Upon observation and inquiry in her first visit, I could see she had excessive accumulation of internal fire, akin to “inflammation” in western medical terms.
Her entire face and upper chest were bright red, and she complained of hot flashes rising from her mid-abdomen to her head, leading to debilitating headaches.
When people first see me, my aim is first to get their health condition stable and off the brink of falling off a cliff. So in this case, we applied a technique I specialize in called “wet cupping” or “hijama” in Arabic. It is a form of bloodletting, and was a pre-eminent medical modality for thousands of years ago until the 19th century when France started importing leeches to achieve the same thing, which is to heal ailments and physical pains through the extraction of infected, inflammatory or stagnant blood from the body.
The practice dates back over 4000 years to ancient civilizations of Egypt, China and Greece, and is a practice still prominent throughout China, East and Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. Read a brief history of this practice from a western view, or how it is applied in today’s time, or a case study.
During the course of the next few visits, I learned the source of this woman’s stress were based in feelings of deep anger and resentment towards her aging dependent ill father who lived with her. He had deeply-ingrained cultural expectations of entitlement towards his children’s attention, particularly from his daughter.
For over two years she had unquestioningly been meeting his demands of preparing specific foods he liked, taking him on outings when he wanted, and being the sole family visitor when he was admitted to hospital on emergencies. She performed all her expected duties at the drop of a hat that increasingly became at the expense of her health – physically, mentally and emotionally. Despite all she did, it was never enough and her father only complained and demanded more care and more attention.
All she wanted was for him to express his gratitude for her caring of him, even a simple ‘thank you’ would do. This was not her father’s habit however and she had had enough. She was at wit’s end with patience and anger.
Along with nutritional guidance, acupuncture and Chinese herbs to physically strengthen her immunity and clear harmful toxins, I guided her to tune into her feelings without the story, and begin by giving herself permission to feel all that was there.
Too often, as children we have been taught, or we picked up somewhere that we’re not allowed to feel anger, rage, or resentment, especially towards our parents and elders. And if we do, then self-criticism for feeling anger often spirals a person downward into guilt or shame, often triggered by self-talk like “Oh, I can’t be angry, that’s so unspiritual”.
Another area we brought awareness to is gratitude first for oneself before expecting it from anyone else, and then not needing others’ gratitude at all because she has found all the appreciation she needs from within her own being. Also recognizing that giving too much – in any relationship – actually disempowers, rather than empowers people was a big “Aha” moment of awakening.
For guidance tuning in to one’s emotions, I use Lola Jones’ Instrument Panel (see below). By consistently dropping ‘the story’ and simply genuinely feeling the emotion for what it is without judgment, any unpleasant feeling naturally rises.
Telling and re-telling the story however, whether in our head, or out loud to someone else just re-creates the drama and more anger, or whatever ugly feeling is there. And essentially, all lower vibration feelings prefer to rise.
She took this nugget home, purchased Lola Jones’ book, Things Are Going Great in My Absence: How to Let Go and Let the Divine Do the Heavy Lifting, and over a period of a few months, began to feel significant changes.
Using self-awareness questions such as, “How am I feeling in the moment right now?” or “How am I feeling about X?” (a certain topic or situation), she practiced regularly diving into her feelings in each moment she felt angry, upset, sad or stressed. And then turned her attention to the feelings she did want and what would help her feel better – hot Himalayan/epsom salt body baths, nature walks, yoga, acupuncture, massage. She vented less and less to her friends and focused on having joy-based activities with them instead.
She gradually stopped reacting to her father from that angry place, and began to turn away instead of being drawn into argument. At first she went through much guilt and shame that this was not being a ‘good’ daughter.
In tougher moments, I guided her to play with this Instrument Panel and act out each of the feelings starting from the bottom of the page. What do frozen, guilty, shameful, angry feelings look and sound like if we are acting as if in a play? What costumes would she wear to demonstrate these emotions? This activity, done playfully, always moves unpleasant feelings up the Panel.
In the beginning she wanted an easy ‘fix-it’ method to get rid of her anger. And yes, bloodletting through wet cupping does initially relieve a lot of anger because all emotions are carried in the blood.
But all feelings are messengers and are best felt, not ‘fixed’, for sustained long-term benefits. We differentiated between flowing the feeling by being fully with it, rather than trying to ‘get rid of it’ like it’s a plague disease.
It is not advisable to try to permanently eliminate feeling “bad”. Plus, that’s not humanly possible to do because we are designed to FEEL. Rather, we want to develop healthy ways to gently move through it and bounce up to feeling genuinely better again, similar to a tennis ball bouncing off a dry cement wall compared to getting stuck in fresh wet cement.
As she continued to feel whatever feeling came up, honouring, and embracing it rather than resisting it, it always rose. She has learned to move whatever feeling comes up without talking about it, has cultivated more self-care and quiet moments for herself, and is focusing on what brings her joy and appreciation.
Now she is out of suffering – physically, mentally and emotionally. She no longer gets headaches or hot flashes and is no longer anywhere near getting shingles. The eczema is mild now, and comes and goes depending on how much she allows stress to affect her.
And while she dips sometimes into anger regarding her father’s child-like ways, with the tools she’s learned, it is not for long before she bounces up again.
Now she is even able to be there for her father with genuine feelings of compassion and just comes in to see me for occasional ‘tune-ups’.