Aren’t these two pictures so telling? I am often asking my daughter which image are you choosing? It’s a lesson that at 37 I am still struggling with myself but I am slowly grasping it. I feel like anger management helped me gain a little deeper understanding about this concept.
The Awareness Wheel
This was an exercise that I would do weekly for the next eight weeks. It was a little of a love/hate relationship. It seems so simple and yet it probably was one of the biggest game changers of the course.
Here is what it looked like:
So you would fill out this chart.
- What I am saying to myself?
- What do I feel in my body?
- What am I feeling?
- What am I doing?
So lets do one together… we did do one in class too…
Someone cuts you off in traffic
WHAT AM I SAYING TO MYSELF?
There are no right and wrong thoughts. You just write all the thoughts that enter your mind about this situation. This part was very illuminating to me. I often don’t consider ALL the thoughts that are behind my emotions. I could identify my feelings but wasn’t always considering the thought that was behind it. Taking the time to write out all the thoughts helped me be aware of some of the unhealthy thoughts, unfounded thoughts, and flat out false thoughts that were destroying my happiness. It also gave me insight into thoughts that were precious and maybe not getting the time and attention that they needed. Isn’t it so hard to be aware? Its so much easier to just be angry, but it’s so much more fulfilling to be kind and patient.
I actually didn’t write down the thoughts or examples that we used in class. Driving is not a trigger for my anger. Infact, when we were going over this in class the thoughts and ideas were very foreign to me. But I will come up with a few…
- What an idiot ( or any other word that suites your fancy)
- They are trying to kill me
- There are irresponsible
- Who do they think they are?
- You get the idea…
WHAT DO I FEEL IN MY BODY?
This one was hard for me to identify. This is where you list the physical changes in your body. But it usually involved tense muscles or a clenched jaw. Heart racing, blood pumping, veins bulging or fists clenched, elevated voice…etc. I have found that I carry a lot of my anger right in between my eyes. Try this… close your eyes… and just think about relaxing the space in between them. Seriously try it now…. it’s lovely. It’s like an instant face lift and you can feel your cells smiling! (okay i might be a little dramatic but you get the gist)
Then this next part is all the feeling words.
WHAT AM I FEELING?
You can find really helpful lists of a whole variety of words…
- angry, irrated, furious, enraged
- annoyed, aggravated, guilty, frazzled
WHAT AM I DOING?
For me this usually involved yelling or running around like a chicken with my head cut off… trying to make everyone else make the feelings I don’t want to feel go away… But because our example was driving I think people said,
- flipping people off
- following them closely etc
This might not seems like that great of an experience to you. But I didn’t show you the back side of The Awareness Wheel. The front side is what you did but the back side is what could be the possibilities.
- SITUATION IS THE SAME
- WHAT COULD I SAY TO MYSELF?
- HOW MIGHT MY BODY FEEL DIFFERENTLY?
- HOW MIGHT I FEEL DIFFERENTLY?
- WHAT COULD I DO DIFFERENTLY?
It was amazing to me that no matter the situation one side of the awareness wheel led to anger, frustration, hurt, and sorrow. But the other side always led to relaxed and grateful and calm… and it always started by what thoughts you fed.
By about week four, it really hit me. I would ask myself how do you want your body to feel? Tight, tense, clenched, or relaxed, calm and thankful? I would start to ask myself what side of the paper do you want to be on? I came to realize my potential to control how I felt in my body and my mind about situations. It was scary and thrilling all in the same moment.
Next time you are in a frustrating situation. Find the five points and take the time to think what is happening behind the scenes. Take the time to write out all your thoughts about the situation, reflect what happened in your body, identify at least 20 feelings, and what you did. Be honest, write out the good, the bad and the ugly… but then take the time to write what you could have thought, what might have been… It will change you as you take the time to be more reflective. I would even add… start with prayer. Let the Holy Ghost whisper to your heart and mind all the thoughts and maybe potential possibilities of happier thoughts.