By F. Samnik, LCSW, CCH
Anger is not well tolerated—socially, culturally, or spiritually—in most civilized societies. I have never had a child answer “good or neither” to the question “Is anger good or bad?” Girls are especially acculturated to suppress their anger. Adults are often heard telling children, “Don’t be mad.” Rarely are these children guided as to what to do with the energy that arises from the anger response.
It only makes intuitive sense that many people who are experiencing depression often don’t know they are angry.
They have literally been taught to lie to themselves about what they are experiencing. Of course, the anger doesn’t go away by denying its presence. It just gets stuffed (repressed). This can make getting to the root of the anger a bit challenging.
One technique I find particularly useful to uncover anger is a variation of EFT Master, Paul Lynch’s “The Colour of Pain” that I call “Paint the Picture.”
When a depressed client comes into my office not knowing why they are depressed, I guide them through the following exercise:
1. How do you know you’re depressed? How does your body signal you? Where do you feel it?
2. If you were to paint a picture to illustrate this feeling in your body, what would the painting look like? Close your eyes and see this painting in your mind’s eye. Does it take up the full canvas or is it very compact? What shape(s) or symbol does it take on? What colors are used? Can you see through the brush strokes, or are they thick with paint?
3. What emotion does this painting represent? Just take a guess, the first thing that comes into your mind.
Anger may not be the emotion that is first identified. The depressed client will more than likely identify sadness. Sadness is often more safe to feel than anger. Whatever emotion the client is accessing, I go with it.
Even though I feel this thick, red, sharp sadness, I deeply and completely accept myself.
After a few rounds of tapping, I have the client get in tune with their body again and ask if anything has changed. If so, I ask them to paint a new picture of what the feeling looks like and repeat the process. This is reminiscent of “chasing the pain.” It may take a while, but it usually takes us where we need to go.
Another option that I use more frequently now is to just go with my intuition. I find that if I’m receiving a message, the client is ready to “go there.” I might say, “I’m sensing this picture has a lot of angry content. If you were angry about something or somebody, at what or with who are you angry?” If they say they don’t know, I say, “Pretend like you did know.” Giving them time to process this question is critical. Becoming comfortable with silent pauses is an essential skill to develop.
If there was no change in the original picture, I ask them the first time they remember having this feeling of “thick, red, sharp sadness” in their body. Now we have a “tappable” event. The Tearless Trauma Technique is a great option at this point. Depressed people already feel vulnerable; I find it best to reduce as much intensity as possible before having them vividly remember specific events.
Once the sadness of the event has been reduced, I will ask, “How angry are you that this happened to you?” Bingo! The intensity, more times than not, rises quickly back up.
I start with:
Even though I’m really angry that [_____] did [_____], I deeply and completely accept myself.
I then take a SUD level. But even if the intensity is now at a 0, I ask, “If there were no consequences to telling this person now how angry you are/were, what would you say to them?” I then take their words and introduce forgiveness.
Even though I’m really angry that you [____] me, and you had no right to do this, I choose to forgive you for this because you don’t deserve my energy anymore.
The usual response to this is, “Forgive him/her! I can never forgive him/her.” Of course, this is the perfect segue to have a discussion about forgiveness.
The next round of tapping goes something like this:
Even though I refuse to release this anger because I want [____] to have this control over me forever, I deeply and completely accept who I am.
I always smile while saying this.
If the client doesn’t smile back, I continue with a complete round:
Even though I refuse to release this anger because I want [____] to have this control over me forever, I deeply and completely love myself and accept how I feel.
I refuse to release this anger!
Side of Eye:
No one can make me let it go!
I can feel whatever I want to feel and no one can stop me!
How I feel is one thing I have complete control over.
As long as I’m angry I am still in control.
Anger keeps me attached to this person and this event.
Why would I want to let him/her go?
Top of Head:
But I don’t want to be attached to him/her anymore.
Yes I do.
Side of Eye:
No I don’t.
I don’t want to be controlled by this anger.
As long as I’m angry they’re still hurting me.
Maybe I can open myself to the possibility of letting this go.
Why should I give this person the satisfaction of holding on?
They don’t deserve my energy.
Top of Head:
I deserve to be free of this anger and pain.
If the client smiles back, they get it!
The next round of tapping uses EFT Master, Dr. Pat Carrington’s Choices Method.
Here is an example:
Even though I still feel some anger that [___]did [____], I choose to forgive them and release this anger.
This [____] anger
This [____] anger;
I choose forgiveness
I choose forgiveness
It’s now time to check in with the body again. If the original feeling of depression is still there, I ask them to remember another time they experienced this same feeling. If a specific event does not emerge, I get them to paint a new picture and start the process again.
Depression can have multiple layers, and many aspects. Physical pain, shame, trauma, abuse, and loss can contribute to the symptoms of depression and these conditions should be explored and assessed. Treating depression with EFT is not going to be a “one-minute wonder,” but with tenacity and skill, relief can be relatively quick and significant.