The following is an Excerpt from The Muse Process: Unleashing the Power of the Feminine for Success and Fulfillment by Barbara Cox
Anger is often responsible for letting us know when our boundaries have been crossed, when our values are at risk, or when we are not being true to ourselves. This warning signal also gives us motivational fuel to change what isn’t working. Pay attention to it. Rather than disavowing anger, take time to really look at it. Sit with it (but don’t take action) until you really understand what is making you angry.
Here’s the thing … anger is not the problem. Sometimes, it’s what we do when we are angry that becomes the issue and causes suffering. This is usually due to the lack of coping skills to effectively express and direct the anger.
When we get really angry, we go immediately into “fight or flight” mode. The cortisol and other neurotransmitters get revved up and we’re flooded with emotion. We tend to become reactive and aren’t often consciously thinking about what we say or do. The challenge is to strengthen your basic coping skills that are built into your system.
Before you take action on your anger, explore the anger first—then you can more effectively express and direct it to a productive outcome. One way to do this is through journaling. The physical and emotional benefits of journaling, as a catharsis of stressful events, have been widely researched by Dr. James Pennebaker as well as by others. According to Pennebaker’s research, writing about upsetting feelings or events in our lives can improve physical and mental health. This gives you the energy to move toward your goals.
I often incorporate the journaling research into my work with clients. It is a useful activity for you too in uncovering and processing your anger. The most helpful way to journal is to find a quiet place to write where you will not be disturbed. It also helps to pick a set time of day to schedule the journaling activity. The research recommends writing for a minimum of 15 minutes a day for at least three days. To keep it simple for purposes of the Muse Process, plan on journaling for three days.
Once you begin journaling, keep writing in a stream of consciousness manner. Write about anything that is bothering you. Do not be concerned about spelling, punctuation or grammar. If you feel like you run out of things to say before the 15 minutes is over, just keep writing. You can even repeat topics or things you wrote about at the beginning. You can write with a pen or pencil or type on the computer. If you are unable to write, you can speak into a voice recorder.
When your journaling is completed, you can do whatever you want to with the written material. I advise my clients to burn it or tear it up. You know I am going to advise you to check in with your intuition. Ask yourself what you feel like doing with the material. The next time you feel an overwhelming sense of anger or frustration, pick up a pen and give it a try. Writing about it for a few days will help you gain a new perspective. You may even gain enough insight to speak your mind and get your needs met.
Anger can be used as fuel to get motivated and change what isn’t working in your life for something better. It can help you speak your boundaries and keep them. It can motivate you to ask for better conditions at work—like equal pay and family leave time. It can get you in touch with what you truly value and enjoy in life, rather than just going with another person’s idea of what you should do with your life.
Frustration and anger may arise if you feel your progress on your life vision is slow. Believe me, there are times I experienced this. Sometimes my plans and dreams would just fall into place and other goals such as the publishing of this book took years. From the time I conceived of this book to the time it took me to get a publisher and get it out to the world took many years. I kept asking myself, “Why is it taking so long?” I was doing everything “right,” connecting with published author colleagues, organizing my proposal and beating on the proverbial doors, sending pitch letters, and still nothing had materialized. Getting rejection letters was very draining. I’d read them and feel like throwing in the towel. I was feeling discouraged and a bit defeated. I gave voice to those feelings and simply acknowledged them and kept at my goal. I sometimes wondered what I should do.
Barbara Cox is author of the book, The Muse Process: Unleashing the Power of the Feminine for Success and Fulfillment. She is a psychologist and coach who writes about the power of the feminine archetype to build community, increase personal intuition, and create lasting change in organizations. She has been a featured expert in many publications, such as Cosmopolitan, NBC News, Bustle, and Euro News, as well as for UNESCO’s 2018 World Congress for the Organization of World Heritage Cities, where she spoke on the psychology of building community in groups and cities.
From The Muse Process: Unleashing the Power of the Feminine for Success and Fulfillment © 2019 Barbara Cox by permission of McFarland & Company, Inc., Box 611, Jefferson, NC 28640. www.mcfarlandbooks.com.