As a child, anger was scary, explosive, and unpredictable. That was my relationship with it and continued on into my adult years. Whenever I saw someone showing their anger, my body froze, my muscles tensed, and I felt small. I didn't even need to be involved in the situation to get pulled into the automatic protective response from my childhood. At an early age, I remember promising myself that "I would never be like that"— someone who could not control their temper and would suddenly snap in any given situation. This pledge to myself worked so well that my peers, colleagues, and teachers would often comment on my calm nature and marveled at how "I never get mad." The compliments and my own pride reinforced my behavior.
But what if I was so afraid of anger that I avoided and suppressed it at all costs, even in my own feelings?
A couple of weeks ago, I came across a video that talked about "looking at our anger." At first, I dismissed it, thinking that such an 'appalling characteristic' certainly did not apply to calm, spiritual, easy-going ME!? Then I began to wonder. What if I did have anger? Could I acknowledge, without judgment, anger as a natural and necessary emotion that we all embody as humans?
The following day, I was engaged in my regular home TRE® practice. As I was merrily tremoring along, a new movement came up in my chest. I immediately recognized it as anger but in the absence of a triggering situation or memory. I observed and tracked it moment by moment— an emerging sensation building up, a peak point, and a disintegration. The stages of fire. I had moved trapped energy out. Had I known beforehand that I'd come across anger in my TRE practice that day, I probably would have overprepared, felt anxious, or tried to avoid it. Though the experience caught me by surprise, I was able to stay with it and allow myself to feel.
It reminded me of Dr. Gabor Mate's interview with the Australian singer Sia during his recent talks on the Wisdom of Trauma. Speaking about the challenges she has faced, Sia said, "I thought I'd die from feeling." This describes a state of overwhelm where it's too much to feel— too scary, too intimate, too vulnerable, or too painful. Many of us then learn to not feel as a protective response-- freezing, numbing, dissociating, and other ways to disconnect from our body and the present moment.
The following day, I engaged in another home TRE® practice. I wanted to alleviate my low back pain which was increasing in discomfort over the past couple of weeks. Spontaneously, a recurring tremoring pattern occurred. My head dropped back, my jaw widened, and I screamed and yelled in anger but without any sound or any triggering context. The intensity of this pattern picked up and then suddenly stopped after a few minutes. At that moment, my low back pain completely dissolved (and hasn't returned since). How incredible to access myofascial unwinding from years of clenching and grinding my jaw, suppressing my anger, and in tandem with the release of my low back pain.
This brought me back to my Biodynamic Craniosacral Training with Stefan Reiter. He pointed out the connection between the jaw and the pelvic region (hips, low back, psoas muscle). When we have tightness in the jaw, there is tightness in the hips, and vice versa. When we release the jaw, we release the pelvis, and vice versa.
So here I am, six years of practicing TRE® and staying fascinated and grateful for my healing journey.
May your own path unfold in remarkable ways.
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Tammy is a location independent yogi.