si dawson

experiments in self-improvement

Secret Anger

My family has a bit of a history with anger.

Nothing too awful but the men on Dad’s side (and myself) are definitely of the work hard, play hard, kick ass and don’t take any bullshit variety.

For years growing up I genuinely thought I never really got angry.

Well (so I thought), I did get angry, REALLY angry, but only once every few years.

The worst extent of this anger was twice ever, about a decade apart, I’ve punched a wall. I don’t recommend it. It’s more than a little stupid.

Fortunately the last time I did this was about 15 years ago, and I haven’t come remotely close since.

So anyway, I’d always seen THAT as “angry”, but other than that I thought of myself as fairly chilled (ha ha, oh boy).

It’s taken a lot of healing but I can see things a lot more clearly now.

See, I might not have been punching walls, but I was still angry, and I mean ANGRY angry. Pretty much all of the time.

Looking back, I can see that many of my long suffering girlfriends (and my family) walked on egg shells so as not to upset me. (Yes, I have gone back and apologised to several of my exes for this).

How did I not see it at the time?

It was only after I’d got rid of the vast majority of this anger that I could see it for what it truly was.

Turns out, humans lie to themselves. A lot. Not intentionally, but we all do. Nobody wants to feel like a bad guy.

In this case, what was actually anger I had about a thousand euphemisms for:

  • Being annoyed
  • Being irritated
  • Being moody
  • Pissing me off
  • Getting up my nose
  • Someone being fucking retarded (and no, I didn’t mean mentally handicapped)
  • Stupidity
  • Being fucked off
  • Bugging me
  • Bothering me
  • Them being morons (of course, it’s always them, right?)
  • Irking me
  • … and so on

All of these, in hindsight, were me being angry.

The trouble is, if what you consider real anger involves punching a wall, then merely spewing invective for a few hours doesn’t even register.

Interestingly, most of these come back to wanting control (ie feeling out of control). Someone didn’t behave the way I’d want them to, and I’d get angry.

Of course, it’s much easier to see the small stuff once you’ve got rid of the big stuff.

This week I noticed a new variation.

“Things getting under my skin.”

Subtle, very subtle.

I may not be screaming about whatever-it-is, but I can definitely feel my energy shifting.

I’m slightly tenser than usual and my thoughts are overly focused on the issue.

Not the end of the world by any means, but since I’m fully committed to dropping ALL non-loving thoughts, this has to go too. Yes, I realise that’s an ambitious goal, but it’s worth aiming for. Every step improves my life and that of those around me.

The way I figure it, if you’re automatically thinking about something you don’t enjoy? There’s something there worth looking at.

Ultimately, anger is something that is primarily detrimental to the person feeling it.

We often delude ourselves that anger can propel us into positive action – but the same action taken from a place of love is always far more effective. Even if the correct response is punching someone in the face (which I also don’t recommend), any tension in your body will radically reduce the power and speed of your punch. I’m serious.

Same goes for everything.

As the old saying goes – being angry is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

Even this deep, subtle, secret anger is worth rooting out and removing, if you genuinely want a long, peaceful, happy life.


    A Small Trauma Can Be A Big Trauma

    Often times, the largest traumas in our lives can grow from the tiniest incidents.

    Now, I’m not talking about things that are very obviously awful: death, violence, horror.

    I’m talking about the seemingly innocent things that happen to us as kids:

    • Someone doesn’t behave the way we’d like
    • We’re treated unfairly
    • Someone (typically a parent) says something we misunderstand
    • We miss out on something
    • … and so on

    Why is it that these trivial events can have such outsize effects on our lives?

    The key to understanding is to remember that we weren’t mature yet when these events occurred.

    Sure, we can look back now and see that “I wanted a special hat on my birthday but they’d run out so I got a regular one instead” really doesn’t compare to the horrors that many people have suffered. However, at the time, it was still a big deal.

    Why? Because we were kids!

    When you’re a kid, damn near everything is a big deal.

    I watched my brother cry for twenty minutes once because he lost 20 cents. Yes, 20 cents. It’s kinda funny now, but at the time he was a kid, so why is he expected to know any better?

    I had a conversation with my Mum when I was 4. Know what I learned? That she didn’t love me.

    How ridiculous (and wrong!) is that?

    Even more crazy is that I remember the conversation and can see that what she was trying to teach me was the exact opposite. That she did love me.

    How is it possible to get completely the opposite idea from a simple conversation?

    Easy. I was four. How much do four year olds know? Not a whole hell of a lot.

    The thing is, it’s too easy to look back at these kinds of experiences and dismiss them out of hand. Wave them away as the trivialities that we (as grownups) see them for.

    Shame will encourage us to do this, but it doesn’t mean these events aren’t still significantly affecting us, even today.

    When we were kids they seemed huge. Thus, their effect on us is huge. Therefore, if we wish to truly heal their effect (and our lives), we need to treat the situation as it felt at the time: serious and life threatening.

    Remember, we’ve spent decades reliving this trauma at volume 11. How awful it actually was is irrelevant compared to how much pain our memories have put us through reliving it, over and over all this time.

    Now fortunately, humans are generally pretty robust. There’ll have been dozens of situations as a kid that might have screwed you up, but didn’t.

    If you look back though, you’ll instantly know the small handful that have deeply affected you.

    These are the ones to heal. These are the ones to treat with the respect they deserve.

    These are the ones that, no matter how tiny they look now, will have a disproportionately positive effect on your life by resolving.


      Say I Love You And Let It Go

      When we’re upset, it’s very easy to get our brains tied up in knots.

      Things start spiralling and next thing we know, our monkey mind is chattering away at a thousand miles an hour (ie, 1600km/h).

      It leads to very predictable outcomes: feelings of overwhelm. Despair. Helplessness.

      In times like this, it’s important to keep things simple: Just say “I love you” and let it go.

      When we start trying to figure something out, we typically end up tangled up in the very brain that was causing the problem in the first place.

      Hence my recommending EFT – no matter how crazy our brains are, we can always whack ourselves in the face.

      There’s another technique I’ve found recently that’s just as simple and maybe even more powerful than EFT.

      It goes like this:

      Any time we’re upset, if we pay attention to our physical bodies (not just what’s whizzing around our noodles) we’ll feel tension.

      • Sometimes this is a clutching feeling.
      • Sometimes it’s actual muscle tension.
      • Sometimes it might just feel like an unusual pain.
      • Sometimes it may even feel like we’re hungry – but in an odd part of our stomachs.
      • Sometimes it can be quite subtle – a low down fogginess with no real centre.

      Typically these feelings are in our chest or stomach, but not always.

      These feelings are merely the physical manifestation of the emotional and/or mental turmoil we’re experiencing.

      Remember how our system (physical, mental, emotional, energetic) all works in conjunction with itself? Each is part of an integrated whole. Yeah, that.

      Since all these parts are related and working in harmony, we can fix one to fix the others. This is exactly the same as changing our posture to improve our mood.

      Here’s how to do it:

      1. Focus your attention on the physical discomfort you’re feeling – however subtle
      2. Say “I love you” (out loud is stronger, but not critical)
      3. Let that feeling go
      4. Rinse, Wash, Repeat as necessary

      Remember, you’re the boss. All it takes to let these kinds of energetic discomfort go is for you to decide. Yes, really.

      Now, often we’ll hang on to something without necessarily realising that’s what we’re doing. Maybe we like being a victim (it can be a way to get approval, after all) or maybe we’re don’t believe we can change it (feelings of powerlessness/wanting control). There’s lots of possible explanations.

      (pro tip: you can easily dump these reasons the same way – identify them, feel the feeling, say “I love you” and let them go)

      Regardless of any reasons for hanging onto this feeling, we can choose to let it go. If we genuinely decide, it will always respond.

      Remember also, how we react is independent of what’s actually happening to us – we may not control the stimulus, but we always control our response.

      This is what is so powerfully about consciously choosing to love something unpleasant. It releases us from its power. It reasserts our authority over ourselves.

      So does it matter if we don’t feel that love when we say it?

      No, not to start with.

      The fact that you are making the choice and setting the intent, that is where the magic is. That’s the real secret.

      Even just saying “I love you” will start to loosen things up. The more strongly, lovingly and powerfully you say it, the more power you will have.

      To begin though, even just saying the phrase will help, so start with that.

      A lot of times, simply saying “I love you” to something unpleasant will immediately engender an internal screaming response.

      Guess what though? That screaming is exactly what you’re healing. That resistance is exactly what’s keeping you in pain. THAT is the energy coming to the surface.

      For me, I often also find myself yawning to let that energy go.

      Having a strong internal reaction is a good thing. It tells you you’re on the right track. Keep loving, keep letting go, and you’ll be amazed how quickly things will drop away.

      I’ve been using this technique a lot over the last week or few, and there’s a ton of things that have bugged me for absolutely years that I’ve dropped away in a few seconds each.

      I just say whatever it is, welcome the feeling up, focus on that feeling, say “I love you”, have a good yawn and let it go. Bingo bango bongo, as easy as that.

      The great thing with this approach is:

      1. It’s so simple, even when we’re starting to spiral, it helps cut everything off before it gets out of hand.
      2. It yanks us out of “automatic mode” and back into authority over ourselves.
      3. It stops that internal shit storm which so often results after we start really obsessing about something unpleasant.
      4. It stops us from beating ourselves up.

      Saying “I love you” and letting stuff go keeps us out of our brains and centred in our hearts. It keeps us present, peaceful and loving.

      Really, what more could we want?


        I’m The Boss

        I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s always worth a reminder.

        Ever heard of the concept “monkey mind“?

        It comes from meditation (in various eastern traditions).

        The basic image is this:

        Learning to meditate is like learning to train a monkey to sit still.

        Our mind IS that monkey.

        So, to start with our delightful little monkey is hopping around the room, scratching its arse, and so on. You know, all the usual monkey shenanigans.

        We gently and lovingly bring it back to sitting on a certain spot. It sits still for a few seconds, then jumps up again.

        Each time, we lovingly bring it back to the spot, and get it to quieten down. Each time, it stays sitting for slightly longer.

        There’s no point in getting angry at it, or impatient – it’s just a monkey. We stay patient, stay loving, but persist.

        And this is how we train our minds to meditate.

        Another (slightly more boring) description for this might be “learning self discipline.”

        Now, there are a few tricks that can help here.

        For example, if you’re trying to develop a habit, don’t make it something you have to choose to do every day, make a choice once and stick with that.

        I’ll give you an example.

        When I was training Aikido regularly, I would go to EVERY training session.

        It could be 6am and so cold we trained in hats and gloves; I’d go.
        It could be pouring with rain (we trained outside); I’d go.
        It could be 42 degrees C; I’d go.


        Because I knew if I had to make a choice every day whether to go or not, I’d be weak. If I was feeling down, or hung over, or tired, I wouldn’t go.

        If I made that decision ONCE, and never questioned it, then it would never be a matter of self discipline or having to choose – it was simply “something I always did.”

        I’m a fan of January experiments. Rather than New Year’s resolutions, I just try something for January.

        So, whatever I’ve decided, I’m just doing it for that month. No questions, no choices, I just am.

        Therefore, I never have to make another decision (during January).

        Eg, one year I read a book a day, every day. One year I ate nothing but raw vegan food (which was so awesome I ended up doing it the whole year). This year I’ve done no caffeine.

        By making one decision, rather than 31, it makes the whole thing much easier on me.

        You can ALSO use EFT to radically reduce the amount of repetition required to learn a new habit. First tap OUT what you’re currently doing. Then tap IN the new behaviour you want. It works a treat – that’s how I passed my first major Aikido grading.

        But let’s get back to our monkey.

        Some things you simply can’t side step with the “one decision” approach. Eg, learning to meditate. Or to be kind to ourselves.

        In these situations, we really do have to constantly (as much as we can remember) go back and repeat, and repeat and repeat the same action over and over until it sinks in.

        What are we ACTUALLY doing here?

        Yes, we’re training our monkey mind.

        We are also, in a very real sense, exerting our authority over ourselves.

        We’re reminding ourselves of the truth that “I’m the boss.”

        Remember how we’re not our mind, not our body and not our emotions?

        Well, when our thoughts or emotions start going haywire, this is when reminding ourselves that we’re the boss becomes super important.

        If we remind ourselves who’s in charge, it strengthens our power over those parts of ourselves that are causing problems.

        Every time we let go of a non loving thought, say, or relax and let go when we get upset by something, we’re strengthening our control over our monkey mind.

        We’re strengthening our authority over ourselves.

        We’re becoming MORE the boss of ourselves.

        And, like any muscle, the more we exercise it, the stronger we become.

        The stronger our self discipline. The more authority we create. The easier it becomes for us to retain control over ourselves and our situation.

        The more we remind ourselves that we’re the boss, the more true it will become.

        “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

        - Viktor Frankl, Auschwitz survivor

        So. How do we do this?

        Typically the times when we need to remind ourselves of this (and thus train our monkey) is when our thoughts or emotions are off in the corner hooting ‘n hollering, scratching their metaphorical arses and flinging shit around.

        We are NOT our thoughts or emotions, so by stepping outside these for a moment, we can regain control.

        The simple act of reminding ourselves “I’m the boss” will often be enough to help calm us and help us drop whatever is bothering us.

        The usual suggestions apply, of tapping (if possible – or even just the chest point) will help damp our energy systems enormously, or releasing, if we’re slightly more in control.

        We can remember that our reaction is simply a picture, and drop that. As Viktor Frankl points out: “The last of human freedoms is the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.” We may not control our external situation, but we always, always have control over our reactions to that situation.

        It may seem like an impossibly long road, but remember: every step is a step closer to our goal. Even tiny improvements each day will add up to huge shifts over time.

        Every time we remind ourselves, “I’m the boss”, it becomes a little more true, and we step ever closer to inner peace, where no-one and nothing bothers us.


          Assume People Are Good – For Your Sake, Not Theirs

          Before we even get into this, let’s do a thought experiment.

          Let’s pretend people are bad. They’re ignorant. They’re willfully nasty. They want to hurt you.

          So, say someone cuts you off in traffic. Why is that?

          • Because they’re selfish?
          • They don’t care if they kill you?
          • They’re rude?
          • They’re bad drivers?

          the list goes on.

          Now, how does that make you feel, experiencing that?

          1. Awful?
          2. Angry?
          3. Violent?
          4. All of the above?

          The truth is though – you have no proof of any of the above. It’s all assumption.

          And those assumptions have left you feeling crappy.

          Let’s look at this another way.

          Say you’ve just cut someone off, why did that happen?

          • You forgot to check your blind spot because you were distracted by work or the kids?
          • You were feeling crappy and not paying attention?
          • You were tired?
          • You just made an honest mistake?

          Notice how often we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt while assuming the worst in others.

          Of course, driving is only one example. We do this everywhere.

          Does our boyfriend actually hate us? Probably not. So why interpet what he says as if he does?

          It doesn’t help our relationship, and it makes us feel shitty.

          Are our workmates really conspiring against us? It’s highly unlikely.

          But when we’re suspicious we become moody, which makes people less likely to want to connect with us. Which may make them look like they’re conspiring, when really they’re just avoiding our crap. Hello! Self fulfilling prophecy!

          Really, we go around all day every day making assumptions about the behaviour of the people around us. Interpreting what we see to fill in gaps in our understanding of the world.

          So, if we’re going to make assumptions, why not make them in our favour?

          If instead of assuming people are bad (lazy, assholes, etc) we just assumed they were good, how would that work?

          • If we see them doing something wrong, we’ll assume they made a mistake
          • If they say something that could be interpreted as nasty, we’ll assume they just didn’t phrase it well
          • If something they say could be taken two ways, we’ll decide they meant the good way
          • If we see them not doing something, we won’t decide they’re lazy: just busy, or distracted, or forgetful

          All these things are more compassionate (which is always good), but here’s a more immediate benefit:

          They all make us feel better.

          And the bottom line is, who cares why they did something? Is that really any of our business? If we must know, we can always ask them. Radical, I know.

          In the meantime, we’ll just see the world as filled with fallible but well meaning humans.

          Good people.

          Much like ourselves.

          And all that anger and vitriol we generate when people don’t behave or talk the way we want them to will dissipate with it. After all, we’re not the boss of their lives; they are.

          It’s not our job to control or change the people around us, and the sooner we let go of thinking we need to, the happier we’ll be.

          We can start by adjusting one basic assumption and get more peaceful right away.




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