I swear I was surrounded by idiots today. Not at work or home… Mostly on the roads. It started early, my friends, and they were everywhere. Is the moon full? Maybe there’s a toxic gas leak somewhere? I found myself aggravated before I even got to the office, where usual hiccups in schedule and daily operations continued to poke my inner rage monster.
Thankfully, I have learned a few helpful strategies over the years.
One is to vocalize. There is a reason babies and little kids cry and scream at the drop of a hat. It’s the most efficient way to discharge an acute emotion. Then it’s over and they can get on with playing and learning. As adults, this isn’t socially acceptable most the time. But in the privacy of one’s own car, it can help. After the fourth or fifth encounter with the truly insane on my morning commute, I growled. It was not a planned, but I’m doing it more often over the years, perhaps. It was spontaneous, and I noticed instant release and relief. Then I literally chuckled a little. I continued on my way and forgot about those vehicular fools. I even found a little charity—must be the weather, or that toxic gas.
A dear friend recommended a book this year, The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership, which I love. The third commitment is ‘Feeling all the Feelings’. The authors explain: “Feeling a feeling all the way through means letting that feeling have its full life cycle (less than 90 seconds) by breathing, moving and vocalizing, resting in calmness, and riding the next wave through to completion.” In other words, rather than repressing, denying, or wallowing in our emotions, we can acknowledge, identify, accept, honor, and release them. Then they don’t rule us, driving us to hurtful action, damaged relationships, and toxic work environments.
Here is their method:
When a feeling arises, pause and…
- Locate the sensation in your body. What are the ‘bits’ doing?
- Breathe and allow the bits to simply do what they do.
- Move and/or make a sound to match what the bits are doing.
Sometimes the bits need something more than private growl.
Recall the daily work hiccups. Most of the time, I can roll with them easily. I am blessed with a truly amazing team—flexible and smart, able to anticipate patients’ and my needs with keen precision. But today was a true aberration for me—my already tenuous mental state (apparently not yet resolved) unraveled quickly in the first hour of work. So, in the safety of the workroom, surrounded by the team I knew could hold the space, I let loose at least two or three sonorous f-bombs, accompanied by some appropriately expressive full-body gestures. Not only did the team tolerate the outburst, they offered loving support and encouragement. “Let it out,” one told me. Once again, I felt instantly better. I took a deep breath, thanked them, exited the Cave of Camaraderie, and faced the rest of my day with exponentially more grace and generosity.
It was not my best moment. I should apologize for making anyone feel uncomfortable—cursing in the workroom is not the example of professionalism that I aspire to set. Still, I don’t regret it. And it will not become a recurring pattern, I can say with confidence.
Some evidence suggests that swearing raises pain tolerance and relieves stress. I didn’t lash out at anyone, I didn’t destroy any property. But my little episode helped me regroup, get my head on straight, and show up my best for my patients today.
Looking back, there were probably no more insane drivers out today than any other day. I will reflect more on what I brought to this day that created my experience. I attribute my ability to approach this reflection with calm and intention to the freedom from emotional tumult that vocalization and a little swearing affords me.
Recent research has shown that swearing while exercising increases physical strength and power. I may test this self-improvement theory in my workouts this week—in the seclusion of my home gym, of course.