Feb 6, 2023

Seeing Red


t’s happened. The last straw and the one that broke the camel’s back. We become flushed as our blood begins to boil. We’re seeing red. We’re angry. Anger is a natural, biological response to stressful situations. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heated argument with your partner or it’s bedtime and you’re still wrangling rambunctious kids at 10 p.m., anger is simply a fact of life. But if left unchecked, it can take a toll on your mental and physical health as well as negatively affect your personal relationships. Yes, there is a time and a place to be angry. Some retreat to a quiet place to reflect on what made them angry; others may use forceful words to express frustration. There’s no silver bullet for eliminating seeing red, but sometimes putting your best foot forward while handling anger means putting one foot back.

ANGER, STEP-BY-STEP “With anger, I think it’s always important to take a step back,” said Donna Dickey, owner of Yoga Adobe. Dickey added that personally, she likes to assess a situation, whether it be a specific person or issue. Sometimes she’ll even “sleep on it” to come back with a fresh perspective. “I feel very strongly that when you love someone, you tell them. When you are hurt, tell them, and when you’re angry, tell them. ”Dickey said she understands this can be a double-edged sword that has the potential to create contention or confrontation, but it’s important to deal with it head on. “A lot of people just avoid it and don’t deal with it, and that can cause anger outbursts. I’m big on going to the person if someone has angered you,” she said That double-edged sword is a symbol for balance that is often times inexplicably influenced by how society views masculine and feminine roles and responses. “Society’s perception of feminine versus masculine roles – the feminine is more gentle and soft,” Dickey said. “It’s as though it’s OK for the masculine to be hard or firm. Maybe that’s where it comes from: women aren’t allowed to become angry. ”Dickey said the reality is that each and every one one of us possess both masculine and feminine traits simply by being alive. “We’re humans and we should have a healthy balance of both. As a female, I should be aware of being in touch with both my masculine and feminine(sides). But society doesn’t tell us that’s OK, but really we’re human and we’re both.” She added that this vital balance can be compared to what happens in our sky every day and night. “It’s the same with the sun and the moon. You can’t have a full day without both.”

AND WE’RE BREATHING Something else that occurs everyday and night is our breathing. Without thinking and without fail, we inhale and exhale thousands upon thousands of times a day. Even Faith Hill told us to “just breathe.” Not only is breathing vital to a healthy body, but the actual focus on breathing is also vital to a healthy mind. “I firmly believe when we focus on our breath, it forces us to be present, ”Dickey said. “And I believe that is the best gift we can give ourselves and others.”She goes so far as to suggest to her yoga students to physically place their hands on their bellies and just start noticing it rise and fall. It’s when we can master this simple exercise, we begin taking back control of our negative emotions, anger or otherwise. In fact, according to Dickey, anger can cause deeper issues in the body. Additionally, some sickness and disease have a root-cause of stress, which is often caused by negative emotions. “When we can own our breath and be in control of our breath, we have peace,” she said. “If I’m angry and I want to say something nasty or scream, I’m not in control of my breath. To take that step back is very powerful for the body and mind.” She added that it’s important to remember that we have the power to calm ourselves down.

RED IS THE COLOROF YOUR ENERGY It’s interesting how we associate the color red with bold emotions like anger. Perhaps there’s a connection with the color we “see” when we get angry and the actual energy of that emotion. “When we’re angry, you can literally think of your body as red. That anger is an energy, and that energy is present in your body now,” said holistic counselor Ashley Pennewill. “It’s important to understand the energetic component to any emotion.” Pennewill said that with any feeling, such as anger, that energy is present in our bodies and it’s important to develop an awareness so the emotion itself doesn’t take over. He said there’s a part deep inside that can still choose what to say, what to do and how to respond. Admittedly, we all have our “breaking point,” whatever that may look like, and it’s certainly different for everyone. The good news is with a little work on ourselves, this point gets higher and higher, almost like raising the bar on your ability to respond to anger. “And everybody has their bar of what it takes to get them there. And with practice, that bar raises. And it takes a whole lot more to get us to where the anger is in control,” Pennewill said. “When we’re super angry and we know we’re past that bar, past our limit, it’s essential to really learn it’s not the best time to be interacting with people, making decisions, etc. Sometimes though, because of home life growing up, some individuals have a skewed perception of responding to certain emotions. I’ve had clients, more than one, ask, ‘is it OK to feel anger?’ ”Communication is key to dealing with anger within the confines of a relationship. But what happens when communication is hampered by cultural differences? What if there is a language barrier?

CZERWONY (RED IN POLISH)Having lived a majority of her life in Strzyżów, Poland, Pensacola resident Kinga Switzer said the Poles don’t necessarily associate colors with emotions, such as feeling blue or the redness of anger. She does mention that the red on the Polish flag symbolizes several things like bravery, prowess and blood. When asked if there was a Polish translation similar to the term “blood boiling anger,’’ she quipped that this kind of boiling happens in the kitchen. “We have a saying that’s more like ‘cooking with anger.’”

She added, however, there’s a Polish saying that certainly can be a demotivator for showing visible signs of anger, especially for women. “When you have in your culture a saying that says, ‘anger hurts your beauty, ’basically appealing to women, saying to them they should not be angry because they will be ugly. ”Switzer recalled an argument with her new husband shortly after marrying. She explained that she was still learning English, which posed an additional layer of frustration while communicating during the exchange. “I usually don’t use curse words in arguments, but one time I was in a heated argument with my husband and at that time my English was still pretty poor, so it was hard to have arguments because you want to express the best, but you don’t have the skills really yet,” Switzer said. She recounts her attempt to express her counter argument by exclaiming,“(Expletive) this!” However, she accidentally blurted out, “(Expletive)YOU!” “And my anger just disappeared and was basically replaced by the feeling of fear and worry about what just came out of my mouth,” she said. She immediately apologized and both began to laugh at the situation. “Because it was such an ‘f-bomb,’ I guess that it just diffused the situation and after that, I had to set the record straight. All of that anger just deflated. ”One principal takeaway from experiencing anger includes remembering that you are in control of your response to that anger, and that there are a number of simple practices one can implement to manage those responses. Additionally, healthy and meaningful communication can be the key to eschewing frustration and anger within a relationship. We all get angry, and it’s a normal response to stressful situations, so by arming yourself with the knowledge and awareness to overcome anger, we go from seeing red to seeing our ability to stay present and peaceful.