Archive for Anger Posts

published in Anger, Dogs, Home, Mental Health, Peace, Pets, Vulnerability, Writing by Maryanne | September 24, 2019 | 6 Comments

Trigger Not So Happy – When an Emotional Trigger Sends Us Into Red Alert

 

A trigger can be anything that sets off your personal “red alert.”

– Richer Life Counseling

Apparently, even, a barking dog.

Have you ever experienced an emotional trigger?

Here’s a good definition:

“A trigger in psychology is a stimulus such as a smell, sound, or sight that triggers feelings of trauma. A trigger is a reminder of a past trauma. This reminder can cause a person to feel overwhelming sadness, anxiety, or panic.”

Goodtherapy.org

On the morning I had to put my dog, Sadie, to sleep, I experienced an emotional trigger that launched me, lickety-split, into red alert.

Here’s what happened:

The previous afternoon, I had received the news that Sadie, my 12-year-old Golden Retriever, had bone cancer. I had left the vet knowing I had to make a very difficult decision that evening, seeing as I was leaving the next day on a 3-week trip to Ecuador. I had taken Sadie home and we’d spent a special, albeit heart-breakingly difficult, last evening together.

Sweet Sadie Pope

We shared a T-bone steak 😊 as I talked to her and thanked her for all the fun times we’d had together. I cried and cried and cried, hoping to God she would understand that the time had come for us to bid farewell. Yes, it was a dreadfully sad evening…but it was a peaceful one because I was able to quietly make – and accept – the decision that was best for her. I knew I had to call the vet in the morning and make an appointment to have her put to sleep.

Unfortunately, the next morning did not go as I had hoped.

What I had wanted – and expected – was to spend my last few hours with Sadie, talking to her, petting her, giving her treats and saying goodbye in the peaceful back garden of our new home…in our QUIET new neighbourhood.

You know…the one I moved heaven and earth to find because of the experience in my last home – the one in Sidney, where I pretty much lost SEVEN years of my life living next door, in constant anxiety and frustration, to the world’s noisiest neighbours.

After I had finally made the decision to flee that sinking ship (rats moving into the crawlspace was the last straw), I sold my home, put my belongings in storage and embarked upon – and fully embraced – the gypsy life with Sadie for 18 months. If it wasn’t for Sadie’s deteriorating mobility due to arthritis, I probably would have continued the gypsy life indefinitely…mainly because I was terrified of purchasing a home again, only to discover I had landed near noisy and inconsiderate neighbours…again.

Perhaps you can see where this is going?

For on my last morning with Sadie, guess what happened? The morons across the street allowed their Pit Bull to bark, non-stop, for three hours. And let me tell you, the psychological and emotional response this triggered in me was rather like The Tell-Tale Heart, the short story by Edgar Allen Poe, where the main character thinks he can hear the heart of the man he murdered beating in the wall of his home. In his head, the heartbeat gets louder and louder and LOUDER.

So, too, did the barking of the dog across the street.

In reality, of course, the barking dog wasn’t really that loud (especially since I had moved inside and shut the windows) but in my head it certainly was.

I had gone into Red Alert.

Thankfully, I was still able to think somewhat rationally…

This, I thought to myself, is what it must be like to go crazy. This, I thought to myself, is not overly conducive to the state of mind I need to be in to put my beloved dog to sleep. This, I thought to myself, could end badly…for the neighbours. I had the fleeting idea of calmly walking across the street, knocking on their door then cheerfully ripping their heart out.

No, I thought…better not. That would be messy.  Plus, I already have one death ahead of me today that I have to get through.

In other words, I was a little too close…to losing my shit. 

Now the astute reader, such as yourself, might be inclined to point out that when the barking dog trigger occurred that morning, I was already in an extremely emotional state because I was preparing to put my beloved dog to sleep.

This, of course, is true…which is another reason I didn’t walk across the street and get into what would have undoubtedly been a spectacular Jerry Spring style argument with my neighbor. They probably weren’t even home anyway and had just left their distressed dog in the back yard.

At any rate, yes, I was indeed already in full-on grieving mode and had the wherewithal to recognize that I HAD to stop a moment and ask myself: “What’s Important NOW?”

The answer: I had to calm down enough so that I could fully be there for Sadie when the dreaded (and rapidly approaching) time came to say goodbye. I needed to be in a relaxed, peaceful and present state of mind.

So I loaded Sadie in the CRV and drove around awhile to calm down. Then I took her to the vet and was able to sit with her, comforting her as she passed, peacefully, between life and death.

Then I drove home, threw my suitcase in the CRV, backed out of my driveway, gave the finger to my neighbor’s house, yelled a few choice words then drove away…knowing full well that the anger – the fury – I felt towards them was going to have to be dealt with at some point.

And over the next couple of months, it was.

Thankfully, I was able to grieve Sadie’s death, and pretty much come to peace with her passing, while I was in Ecuador. But the anger I felt towards my neighbor stayed in my heart and mind.

And I realized that beneath the anger was something else: fear.

I was terrified of what my future might hold. The entire time I was in Ecuador, I worried that the new home I had just bought – partly for the dog I had just lost – would not be the quiet and serene surroundings I SO needed for my work and peace of mind.

What if I returned home from Ecuador and not only would I not have my furry best friend around anymore, I would now be subjected to the irritation of a constantly barking dog? Dear God, what if I was in for another seven years of noise?

I began to realize that the dog barking on the morning of Sadie’s passing had, in fact, been an emotional trigger to a past trauma: that of remaining next door to a noisy neighbour far longer than I should have.

Now, some people might laugh at the fact that I had been “traumatized” by a noisy neighbor (one person did laugh when I shared this recently). But I had. And I make no apologies. For different things are important to different people. And for me, as a writer who works from home, a quiet neighbourhood is really important to me…and I will never again waste precious time and energy pretending it isn’t.

In preparation for writing this blog, I did some research into triggers and came across an excellent an article, How to Deal with Anger Constructively, by Registered Clinical Counselor, Esther Kane, that helped me better understand what I had experienced. Here’s a snippet:

“From the vantage point of my therapy chair, I can often sense lots of emotions coming up in the person seated across from me, even if they aren’t necessarily showing what they’re feeling on the surface. When I checked in with a client recently who I sensed was angry, she said, “I AM angry. Really angry! I don’t know what to do with this feeling.”

At that moment, the image of a volcano came to me: On the surface, my client was the calm-looking solid volcano, but brimming beneath the volcano’s surface was red-hot lava bubbling and churning and wanting to explode. I see this a lot with women-especially when it comes to identifying and dealing with anger.

But before I go on, I’d like to make you laugh with a wonderful clip from INSIDE OUT– a children’s movie about emotions…this one explores anger and will definitely make you laugh.

I always tell my clients who are startled by the hot-lava emotions which bubble up to the surface that while it can be upsetting to feel such strong emotion; that there is no danger in any feeling. Feelings like anger are energy that come up and out and with some mindfulness applied, can be channeled for healing and peace – in our relationship to ourselves and others. The most important caveat I give clients is to not lash out in anger either to ourselves or at another person. That never turns out well.”

Esther Kane, MSW, RSW, Registered Clinical Counsellor

A volcano about to erupt is a perfect analogy to what I experienced that morning. And if you haven’t seen the clip from the film, Inside Out, take a moment and watch it…it’s brilliant.

As for the barking dog across the street?

When I got home from Ecuador, the Pit Bull across the street did still bark on occasion throughout the summer. But in all honesty, not that often. I have been keeping a log of when the dog barks and for how long, just in case I decide to make a noise complaint to the town. But truthfully, it hasn’t been a big deal…and for this, I am extremely grateful.

How to Cope with an Emotional Trigger

As for how to cope with an incident that triggers you emotionally, I shall leave that advice to the experts, such as Esther Kane. But this much I can tell you: when something happens and we lose our shit – or are dangerously close to losing our shit – then we better pay damn close attention and start asking ourselves some questions:

#1) What might be happening here?

#2) What do I have to do to get safely out of this moment: What’s Important NOW?

#3) Why do I think I was so impacted/triggered?

#4) Why do I REALLY think I was so impacted/triggered?

#5) How am I going to deal with it, if it happens again in the future?

Then we need to get some sort of plan – and healthy coping mechanisms – in place.

The world is full of stimuli, any of which could be potential emotional triggers. We can’t always control what happens around us, but we can control how we react to it…even if that means simply getting ourselves AWAY from a distressing situation as fast as possible.

Related Blogs by Maryanne

Celebrating Sadie – Saying Goodbye to Sadie Pope

Sometimes Things Have to Springer Before They Settle

Anger in the Garden – Pruning Back for Future Growth

When Opportunity Knocks on the Door – Literally

What’s Important NOW? The Question that Took Me to Chicago

Anchors Away – Letting Go of Anger

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her weekly blog, please sign up here.

Map of Heartbreak – Loss as a Catalyst for Change

 

“What breaks your heart? The warrior knows that her heartbreak is her map. It will lead her toward her purpose, her tribe.”

– Glennon Doyle Melton, “Hurts So Good” article, O Magazine, Feb 2017

Pain as Fuel

In her article, “Hurts so Good,” author Glennon Doyle Melton wrote about a group of women in Iowa who had all lost an infant – and started an organization called “Healthy Birth Day,” with the goal of lowering the stillbirth rate in their state.

“Instead of withdrawing after their losses,” explained Melton, “or finding ways to disconnect from the magnitude of their suffering, they ran straight toward it. Their pain became their fuel. Their courage saved others from the misery they’d experienced.”

This is similar to how we chose to proceed in the aftermath of my husband, John’s, death as the result of a preventable fall at unsafe workplace. By “we,” I am referring to the police officers who started the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund and all the people who have (and/or still do) work for, volunteer with, or lend support to the Fund in some way.

In the early years, pain and anger certainly fueled our passion and guided our purpose. Nothing we did could bring John back but we all agreed that the workplace safety campaigns were better than doing nothing at all. We will never know the number of lives we have saved, or the injuries we’ve prevented…and we’re okay with that.

Would I recommend this path to others in a similar situation?

Hmmm…

Working closely with the JPMF to help raise public awareness about why and how to ensure workplaces – and the roads – are safer for everyone, including emergency responders has been my path, yes. I knew in my heart and soul, very early on, that workplace safety was an issue that I would need to tackle.

I wouldn’t change a thing.

But being a workplace safety advocate did not come without sacrifice in other areas of my life. The time, money, effort, love, and attention I put into the JPMF meant there were other areas of my life that didn’t get that. And that’s okay. I chose the path I did…every moment of every day. I have no regrets.

However, now that I have 17 years of experience behind me, I can safely say that trying to transform a tragedy into positive change so that others don’t have to experience similar suffering comes at a cost. We cannot do it all.

“Pleasant experiences make life delightful. Painful experiences lead to growth.”

– Anthony de Mello, Awareness

Thankfully, we get to choose how to respond to whatever loss we have experienced…and forge our own way forward. So regardless of whether we allow loss to be a catalyst for growth and change for ourselves and/or for others, just remember:

“Allow heartbreak to guide you at every turn.”

– Glennon Doyle Melton

When the love in your heart is your road map, you cannot go wrong.

Related blogs by Maryanne

Chick in the Road

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life

published in Anger, Book Reviews, Boundaries, Depression, Health, Saying NO! by Maryanne | June 6, 2017 | 4 Comments

In Sickness & in Health – When The Body Says No

 

“When we have been prevented from learning how to say no, our bodies may end up saying it for us.”

– Gabor Maté

If you haven’t read Gabor Maté’s book, When the Body Says No; The Cost of Hidden Stress, I highly recommend it. I borrowed a copy from a friend a year ago and read it in small chunks, here and there, as there was an awful lot of content – and supporting case studies – to consider, in terms of the role we play in our own health. It is not a particularly comfortable read but it is extremely enlightening.

“It is a sensitive matter to raise the possibility that the way people have been conditioned to live their lives may contribute to their illness.” 

– Gabor Maté, When the Body Says No

Drawing on scientific research and the author’s decades of experience as a practicing physician, When the Body Says No examines the effect of the mind-body connection on illness and health and the role that stress and one’s individual emotional makeup play in conditions and diseases such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome and multiple sclerosis.

Here are a just a few highlights from the book:

“People have always understood intuitively that mind and body are not separable. Modernity has brought with it an unfortunate dissociation, a split between what we know with our whole being and what our thinking mind accepts as truth.”

“Our immune system does not exist in isolation from daily experience.”

“Many of us live, if not alone, then in emotionally inadequate relationships that do not recognize or honour our deepest needs.”

“When emotions are repressed, this inhibition disarms the body’s defences against illness.”

“Repression – dissociating emotions from awareness and relegating them to the unconscious realm – disorganizes and confuses our physiological defences so that in some people these defences go awry, becoming the destroyers of health rather than its protectors.”

“The blurring of psychological boundaries during childhood becomes a significant source of future physiological stress in the adult. There are ongoing negative effects on the body’s hormonal and immune systems, since people with indistinct personal boundaries live with stress; it is a permanent part of their daily experience to be encroached on by others. However, that is a reality they have learned to exclude from their direct awareness.”

“The research literature has identified three factors that universally lead to stress: uncertainty, the lack of information and the loss of control. All three are present in the lives of individuals with chronic illness.”

“Repression of anger increases the risk for cancer for the very practical reason that it magnifies exposure to physiological stress. If people are not able to recognize intrusion, or are unable to assert themselves, even when they do see a violation, they are likely to experience repeatedly the damage brought on by stress.”

“Physiological stress is the link between personality traits and disease. Certain traits – otherwise known as coping styles – magnify the risk for illness by increasing the likelihood of chronic stress. Common to them all is a diminished capacity for emotional communication.”

“The gut, or intestinal tract, is much more than an organ of digestion. It is a sensory apparatus with a nervous system of its own, intimately connected to the brain’s emotional centres.”

“Gut feelings, pleasant or unpleasant, are part of the body’s normal response to the world – they help us interpret what is happening around us and inform us whether we are safe or in danger.”  

“The repression of negative emotion is a chronic and significant source of damaging stress.”

“Characteristics of many persons with rheumatoid diseases is a stoicism carried to an extreme degree, a deeply ingrained reticence about seeking help.”

“Repressed anger will lead to disordered immunity. The inability to process and express feelings effectively, and the tendency to serve the needs of others before even considering one’s own, are common patterns in people who develop chronic illness.”

“The less powerful partner in any relationship will absorb a disproportionate amount of the shared anxiety – which is the reason that so many more women than men are treated for, say, anxiety or depression. (The issue here is not strength but power: that is, who is serving whose needs?)

“Healthy anger leaves the individual, not the unbridled emotion, in charge.”

“Health rests on three pillars: the body, the psyche and the spiritual connection. To ignore any one of them is to invite imbalance and dis-ease.”

For further information about the book and author, here is the link.

Related blogs by Maryanne:

Anger in the Garden – Pruning Back for Future Growth

When Our Body Says No, We’d Be Wise to Listen

Back Off Baby – You Just Crossed My Boundary

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here.