Speaking Our Truth and Caring About Others Part 1 of 4

by Evan on 2011/07/21

I have been asking you to tell me what troubles you have with living an authentic life or with self development in general. The following was a comment left in the sidebar box. And I think it is a very good one – it puts very simply a dilemma that I think all of us struggle with if we care about being authentic to ourselves. In response to the question: What is your greatest difficulty with living an authentic life?

Speaking my truth whenever it will cause discomfort or worse with another, especially family. This leads me to live very INauthentically, and makes me very sad and feeds my depression.
 
A Word On Values
It is OK to keep ourselves safe. Some people are violent and some relationships are toxic. If you are with someone dangerous or in a relationship that is toxic to you (it may not be to someone or everyone else but that doesn’t matter) then please consider getting out as quickly and safely as you can.

I do think it can be OK to risk our safety but I think this needs to be freely chosen and that you need to embrace this choice with joy. Feeling compelled to make this choice is, for me, a warning sign.
 
My Opinion on Depression
I think that depression is anger turned inwards and many disagree. You can find out for yourself. As you express anger does the depression decrease? Does it decrease in proportion to the amount of anger expressed? In my own experience, and the experience of those I have talked to it does. However, I do not ask you to accept this: you can check it out for yourself.

There are ways that we can express our anger that doesn’t damage ourselves, others or the furniture. I am saying that there is no need to be scared of our anger. Even if the results of expressing it last time were scary, we can learn better ways.

How to Express Anger Safely?
Firstly (in light of my values) it may mean not expressing it to the person who made us angry or in the relationship that makes us angry.

This may mean finding a friend or a professional or a group where we can express anger. We can also do it on our own.
 
Expressing Anger on Your Own
And the important thing when doing it on our own is: to go slowly and safely. Do not go to the point you get scared, stop when you feel safe. If you go to the point you are scared you are just teaching yourself that anger is in fact scary. The purpose is to learn instead that anger can be expressed safely. It is better to have the feeling of wanting to do more than being reluctant to come back.

This can be done in lots of different ways. For instance:

  1. writing out your feelings in a journal. It can be a letter addressed to someone that we don’t intend to post, it can be an imaginary speech, or it can be purely expressing our anger (which will usually involve some pretty colourful language). You may just like to start writing about an incident or your feeling of anger and see where this takes you.
  2. hitting a pillow or mattress. Having an object in both hands can help – it gets all of your upper body involved. A tennis racquet or a rolled up newspaper are favourites, but it can be anything that works for you.
  3. having a tantrum. If you want to do this make sure you have enough room so that you won’t hit any hard surfaces – like walls and furniture. This is best done on a bed so you don’t hit the floor too hard.
  4. you can make a representation and take your anger out on the object. A common way is to write all your anger in words on a box and then tear the box apart.
  5. you can smash into tiny pieces something that represents what you are angry about or who you are angry with.

With all these things it is better to stop a little early so you don’t get anywhere near being scared of your anger. Then you can do a little more the next time.

Dan Millman’s motto applies here: a little of something is better than a whole lot of nothing. If you start out with stamping your foot once, or writing one word or sentence in your journal, that’s a great start.

In part two I’ll talk about expressing our anger to others.

Please let me know how you respond to the dilemma of expressing your truth to others. Or, perhaps it is not even a dilemma for you. Looking forward to hearing from you in the comments.


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  • I would like your help. I want to know what your biggest pains or passions about living an authentic life are, or about self development. I hope to write a great book on self development and living authentically and this is the kind of information that I need to write it. I wrote this postabout it which will give you more detail.

I'm Evan Hadkins. I'm Evan Hadkins. To find out how to live a more satisfying life you can download my manifesto on living authentically. It is a book of exercises to guide you to finding, nourishing and living from the core of who you are.

If you would like me to write about some aspect of living an authentic life please don’t hesitate to get in touch. There is a box in the sidebar where you can leave a question anonymously if you wish, or you can email me, use the contact page, or comment on this post.

 

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Celeste Varley July 22, 2011 at 5:08 am

Now you mention it, I remember knowing this years ago: “depression is anger turned inwards”. So thanks for the reminder. I will certainly use it as I did then with considerable success. That’s probably why I do believe it, because it rings true in my experience.
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Chris Edgar July 22, 2011 at 10:00 am

This person sounds like they have some valuable awareness — that it’s holding back their expression around their family that actually keeps them depressed. Depression in my experience is literally a “pressing” down of our expression, in the way this person is talking about. I think that’s related to what you said about anger turned inward, because pressing our expression down could be said to be a form of violence against ourselves.
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Evan July 22, 2011 at 10:26 am

Hi Celeste, our experience agrees. Thanks for your comment.

Evan July 22, 2011 at 10:27 am

Hi Chris, I like that image of ‘pressing down’, thanks.

Justin | Mazzastick July 22, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Mental beliefs and attitudes about something that has occurred will bring on the uncomfortable emotions.

Anger/ depression are all energetic blockages that exist in the body. When we get energy that is stuck because it wasn’t released or expressed then we experience emotion.

Once we have emotions in us they must be removed, released and expressed or we will experience physical disease.

I am working on creating healthy and safe ways to remove emotions.
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Evan July 22, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Hi Justin, I do think that emotions are bodily realities. My evaluation of emotion is positive – that it provides valuable, though by no means always correct, information (the same being true of our thoughts and intuitions). For me the energy IS the emotion – the emotion being a particular organisation of energy being expressed muscularly (even if the expression is tightening). So for me, the blockage of an emotion means that the emotion will stay around until it is expressed fully, which does lead to all manner of discomfort and medical problems.

I do think too that our beliefs and attitudes will affect our level of comfort with particular emotions (either approving or disapproving). In my experience the emotion can come first – before the evaluation (belief/attitude) occurs. This can lead to a negative evaluation of even feeling the emotion (“you shouldn’t feel that way”).

My valuing of emotions means that I would say they need to move rather than be removed.

Many thanks for your comment, it is always great to have someone interact in such depth with a post.

Gabriella - The Stepford Wife July 22, 2011 at 11:00 pm

Well, as much as we try to go against the truth, Depression and anger are indeed linked – it’s similar if not very the same thought patterns.
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Evan July 22, 2011 at 11:29 pm

Hi Gabriella, I’m interested in what you say about the similar thought patterns of anger and depression. Would you like to say more about this?

Barbara July 30, 2011 at 1:04 am

Hi Evan,

I’ve been thinking about the idea, anger turned inward begets depression. Having had a diagnosis of depression since very early childhood and a summary of what might have been the cause, it was attributed to a multitude of things really, each on their own enough to be ‘depressive’, then compounded, it’s a difficult thing for me to untangle.

I found what may have caused the depression wasn’t always anger. And it was. But maybe a different ‘unknown to myself’ type of anger. I think it’s about what takes precedence on a moment to moment basis.

One example of early depression was attributed to the death/loss of my father as a toddler. I grew up having this gap that no one filled, no one even talked about, it just was. When other kids talked about their dads, I had nothing to say, my experience was an un-experience. The same situation followed me through life. When people speak of their fathers, I really don’t know what that’s like, it’s a piece of life I’ve never experienced.

Am I angry I was cheated out of a father and it’s possible countless results? Probably so, but not angry only, and not anger primarily, because as I understand it, a lot of anger’s purpose is a call to action. Should I have been seeking out father figures at 5 or 25? Seems to me, extreme sadness takes top spot. Logic/realism sneaks in here, too. It’s not as if anyone could have done anything about his death, it just is. Did the anger, no matter the degree, contribute to depression living a life without this big piece? Sure.

What I think was and has been more the issue keeping me depressed too often is carrrying things. Like I said, no one ever talked about my father. At best I have a typewritten page of info about him. I just realized last week, I never even saw a picture of my mom and dad’s wedding. I don’t know if that’s because there were no photos, or they, along with his death kind of got ‘erased’. I carry a million questions, including the million questions of what my life would have looked like had my father been here. No matter how many times I asked, I was literally unanswered and still feel unanswered as I request answers from what often appears to be thin air. Does it make me angry or sad or both? I suppose it depends on the day, moment, what seems to be hurting me just then.

What I do know is when I can give what I know, or don’t, a voice, the heaviness lessens, the depression lifts a little, a lot, somewhat, etc.. Can I boil this down to “I am angry because I didn’t have a living breathing father past the age of three and therefore I’m depressed”? I don’t think so, it’s not nearly that clear cut. I also can’t say anger is absent. Maybe it is fuel I’m just not aware of, or want to be.

Up in the air seems to be the only conclusion I can honestly make at this juncture.

Celeste Varley July 30, 2011 at 1:41 am

Barbara, I find your in depth description breathtaking. I’m sure that Evan will have something to say about your post more important than my take. But it seems to me you might have the thing reversed in trying to relate depression with anger. It wasn’t said that anger causes depression, but that depression (already there) can be seen as anger turned inwards (at the self).

Understandably, you are depressed from losing your father as a toddler. To the extent that you take on the responsibility or blame for this (which isn’t yours in the least) you are sort of turning anger inwards at you. Words like “cheated” indicate anger. Also, anger turned inwards (or cloaked) is only one sign of depression. You know plenty of others, including agonizing over this life-laming thing so long with no respite.

Barbara, I hoped to give you some solace here, while waiting for Evan’s day to start, because I read you as being very earnest and intelligent and sensitive. My heart goes out to you merely as a friend.
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Celeste Varley July 30, 2011 at 2:43 am

Wish there was a way to edit my posts here. There isn’t, so here goes:

In my experience, depression is a sign that some anger has not been (able to be) expressed. When it is something big and long held, this is very frustrating, and so it gets turned inward, plunging me deeper into the abyss.

The only way “out”, for me, has been “through”. Talking with many, various counselors, trusted friends, and the like, over YEARS (60+), helped a little here and there, sometimes harmed me deeper, but added up to 1. relief from depression 2. the ability to know how to be relieved when the signs showed up.

Getting through has meant expressing some anger to someone trusted (now my trusted self is usually enough). Once recently I complained in anger to my best friend and therapist, when she told me to “Put up or shut up.” I literally felt myself plunge into the deepest depression yet. I left and haven’t been her friend since, though I’m not angry at her… that was her best.

The anger I was voicing, in trust and confidence, wasn’t at myself, or even at the original source of my depression. But venting it was important. When this was cut short, the depression returned big time.

When you bore no responsibility for the original hurt, you have no recourse to resolve your growing inabilities. It’s no use your being told that there’s nothing you can do about it, or your mother was too busy with her own grief to help you. That just drives your feelings down deeper.

When I was quite young, and abused by my father, my mother didn’t (actually couldn’t) believe me, I could not be angry at either of them. They were my parents, and I loved them, though they turned me away. So my depression started… the anger was turned inward and beat me up all the time, with “You’re not attractive to anyone… No one will marry you..” and so on.

Now my second childhood has started – literally in many ways. It’s AMAZING to me to find parts of my child and adolescent self still waiting and eager to accompany me in joy.

Keep looking, and finding, people you trust to talk to about your feelings. You’ll know when it has helped, because a burden will be lightened more and more.
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Evan July 30, 2011 at 8:35 am

Thanks Barbara, It sounds like your need to express your feelings was ignored or even suppressed. I like the way you articulate your experience so well. I’m interested in what you call ‘”unknown to myself” type of anger. Would you like to say more about this? Do you mean that it isn’t the present thing making you angry but the leftover from your father dying. When I was reading about the ‘gap’ left I felt an emptiness and futility, I don’t know if the feeling is similar for you. Many thanks for your comment.

Evan July 30, 2011 at 8:41 am

Hi Celeste, I’m very glad that you have found some relief from depression as a result of the work you have put in. In my experience venting can help – it seems to discharge the energy and can help us get clearer on what the issue is for us. I am very glad that you can recover the childlike and adolescent parts of you. And like you I find that having people I can talk to about my feelings is quite a blessing. Many thanks for your comment.

Celeste Varley July 30, 2011 at 9:21 am

The venting of anger only came after I’d been helped by a therapist I trusted to confront both my parents, when I’d moved back to Canada and was living with my husband, who was to be present during my confronting.

I was positively terrified. I was completely surprised at my anger too, which Barbara’s “unknown to myself” reminded me of. I spoke simply at first, like it was a forbidden thing to say to your parents. (I was about 43). There was a brief moment of “recognition” in my father’s face, then came the denials. My mother sat there silently looking stricken. That’s when I let fling in what felt like an explosion. It came shouting out of me on its own. I thought my eyes would pop out, that’s how much I shouted. After, it felt like the world had blown up and I was floating slowly down from high up.

I thought I’d really messed up what I’d been told to do, but both my husband and my therapist were full of praise. I could hardly believe them. I was told to have a good look around from my temporary high vantage point before I “landed”. It was a rare chance.

I understood each parent’s attitude, but I was the child at the time it started, and not for me to understand. Mainly what I learned from my heart and soul was that none of it was my fault. I was able to forgive each parent before they died, and was there to help each one die too. I never stopped loving them.

Another spin off from my freeing confrontation was that some time later, my husband confided in me that he was sexually molested at 13 (1934) by a male teacher on a camping trip with a Catholic boys school. In those days he could tell no one, and I was the first to hear of this. I was able to be a very good listener.
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Evan July 30, 2011 at 9:38 am

Thanks for telling us about this. Having been involved in doing similar things I can relate to the feeling of explosion and that it was flowing out of me without me doing anything. I also understand feeling like you’d messed up and your supporters being full of praise (having been in both positions). Once again many thanks.

Barbara July 30, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Hi Celeste,

Thanks for your support and what you’ve written. I may need a little time to take it all in.

I do think you are correct, I get the anger and depression mixed up in the ways I perceive them. In fact, a more complete picture of the ‘loss’ of my father may be the exact reason why I am more often confused about how I feel about him, the loss, And then, how to get myself clear on what and how I feel.

About 9 months before my father died, he attempted to kill me. I suppose this tells you how opposite some of my million questions about my own experience of him. The resultant feelings can be so chaotic, erratic and very hard to pin down.

Do I hate the daddy I vaguely recall looking at adoringly? Did I fear him and his anger so much, it turned into my own fear, my anger might look like his? Why would anyone, let alone my father try to kill a child? Do I hate myself because it seemed as if my daddy hated me? Would I and do I avoid the type of rage he displayed at all costs? Maybe understandably? If my father were so violent, was he ever really a father to me, other than in a biological sense? Did the loss begin long before he died because he had no capacity to be a parent and wasn’t?

My current therapist thinks I was fortunate he died or I probably would have died as a child, at his hand. She also thinks the lack of any positive male figures has been devastating to my life’s path, a direct result of my first male figure. Is one of those things worse than the other? They both sound and feel ‘deadly’ to me.

The answers to all these questions really have no definites. Logic tells me I loved my daddy no matter what, like everyone else, but I don’t necessarily feel that. There is a part of me that understands his pain, why he might act in ways that seem monstrous, something I do seem to feel. Logic also tells me I must hate him for all kinds of reasons, but as above, I think I may fear what I perceive as the level of his anger.

Am I certain of any of the reasons I can come up with are the accurate reasons, ones I desperately want, so this history can be placed in some version of categories to assist me, hopefully do something about all this? Move things to sections because I have felt them – acceptance, forgiveness, expressed, grieved and maybe obtain physical, mental, emotional and spiritual peace?

As all of us, one experience links to the next. I was trying to isolate one aspect of the loss of my father, his death, for my story example, how that alone was enough to shape anger/depression. It’s just not that neat in reality and my resulting experience is reflective.

Barbara July 30, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Hi Evan

I think I sort of answered your questions in what I just wrote to Celeste.

Unknown to me anger is what I kinda/sorta know about my father’s rage, how he acted toward me on more than one occasion as a little girl, combined with my imagination and some later reenactments with another male figure in my life. In other words, I’ve seen the anger outside me and I know it absolutely terrifies me. To think I may have that type of anger in me, the capacity for true deadly force and no capacity to see the effects is equally terrifying. I think I’ve come close to expressing this rage and I also feel quite certain I carry it. But close, not the full on expression.

Empty and futile are good words. No positive male figures has fostered empty. (There are a few exceptions recently that have come into my life, directly or peripherally.) But what has come before will likely not ever be mitigated.

Futility, that no matter what, I will never be able to change how much loss was created by the loss begun when I lost my father. Whether or not that means I never really had a father, had one hell bent on destruction, the one who died before I knew him or the one who was not ever kept alive in memory so I’d have something of him to hold onto.

Evan July 30, 2011 at 5:50 pm

Hi Barbara, thanks for being so honest and revealing. I do understand how mixed it is when the abuser is someone that we are attached to. I hope that with your therapist you can get a sense of the whole picture and that you can find some peace.

I understand very well that people who have seen anger becoming violence don’t want to feel let alone express anger. It can take an awful lot to believe that anger can be expressed without damaging ourselves, others or the furniture.

I think I also understand that all the experiences link together. The feeling I get when I read what you say about that is one of disorientation and being overwhelmed, too much to deal with all at once. But perhaps it is different for you.

Evan July 30, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Hi Barbara, there are courses and where you get to express rage. There is a self defense for women course where you get to someone dressed in VERY thick padding. There are other options in therapy too – often ones with a more bodily orientation. I’m not sure of the situation where you are but some of these are available cheaply or freely in Australia. (Especially those dedicated to helping survivors of domestic violence – whether as an adult or child.)

My own approach is that the past can’t be changed. We can only do the mourning (which can include anger and even rage in my experience). And then use the strengths and skills we developed to cope in order to live our lives (usually applied in more enjoyable ways). I know this may sound glib and patronising but I have seen people who suffered awful things do it.

Many thanks for your comment.

Celeste Varley July 31, 2011 at 2:45 am

May I add something about “love”? Now I don’t believe little children are able to love in the complete altruistic sense, because they are totally dependent. They absolutely need their nearest, usually a parent or two, but whomever cares for them. This dependency determined attachment sticks in some way forever.

When I wrote that I forgave my parents, it came after I’d forgiven myself. It really means that I decided to take responsibility for myself from then on. This took a long time.

When I wrote that I never stopped loving my parents, you’d have to have known my father to see that he was what he was. I inherited many great traits from him, philandering not being one. He always supported us financially, and passed on many artistic and other skills.

My mother is a different story. She was always the parent doing the raising. Even then I understood her reasons, and tried to help her to more independence after my father died, but she lived only 6 months more. As I told her on her deathbed, there were years when I was angry at her for not protecting me from my father, but I never stopped loving her.

I too was lamed from forming any healthy sense of myself as a woman, and married twice ill-advisedly. Now I understand these marriages and forgive myself. Just 3 years ago in a reunion with a cousin (on my mother’s side) it was unmistakenable that this is what would “normally” have happened to me 49 years ago. This is my forever man, with no need to think it over, a no-brainer, and a true miracle for me at my age.

Barbara, I’m not trying to give you advice here in the least, just want to set the record clear on what I said about me. Talking about past big events always ends up seeming simpler to those who haven’t shared similar experiences. You are growing your way through your own maze. Sounds like you are doing wonderfully well on your own and with your therapist. You’re here too. Evan – not a bad choice…
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Vicky Miller December 12, 2011 at 7:22 am

Now I understand these marriages and forgive myself. That just drives your feelings down deeper. She also thinks the lack of any positive male figures has been devastating to my life’s path, a direct result of my first male figure.
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Evan December 12, 2011 at 7:25 am

Hi Vicky, I’m glad to have lead you to some understanding. Thanks for your comment

Lucile Wilcox March 10, 2013 at 4:40 am

When we get energy that is stuck because it wasn’t released or expressed then we experience emotion. What I do know is when I can give what I know, or don’t, a voice, the heaviness lessens, the depression lifts a little, a lot, somewhat, etc.. Did the loss begin long before he died because he had no capacity to be a parent and wasn’t? Sounds like you are doing wonderfully well on your own and with your therapist.
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Evan March 10, 2013 at 6:48 am

Thanks Lucile

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