Facing the Fire: Experiencing and Expressing Anger Appropriately

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9780553372403: Facing the Fire: Experiencing and Expressing Anger Appropriately
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The author of The Flying Boy describes how repressing anger can have profound effects on personal health and guides readers step by step through the process of getting past their fears.

Facing the Fire is the best book on anger I have read; it is responsible, honest, practical, and a good read. I know the techniques Lee describes work, and the exercises alone make it a valuable book. I will use Facing the Fire personally and professionally.”—Dr. Patricia Love, author of The Emotional Incest Syndrome: What to Do When a Parent’s Love Rules Your Life

Do you believe: Anger is a “negative” emotion? “Nice” or “emotionally sophisticated” people don't get angry? Anger will disappear when you have understood intellectually what causes it? You won’t be angry if you just learn to forgive? If so, you are not alone. Anger is the most misunderstood and, consequently, painful of all our emotions. But denying, suppressing, and avoiding our own and others’ anger can have unfortunate results: weakened immune systems, numbing addictions, stormy relationships, lowered self-esteem.

Now, John Lee, the nationally renowned speaker, teacher, and author, shows you a better way of dealing with anger. Based on his work with clients and his own experiences with anger, he: 

· Uses real-life scenarios to help you understand what anger is, what causes it, and why it cannot and should not be avoided
· Carefully guides you through a process of confronting and getting past the fears—of losing control, of alienating people, of hurting yourself or someone you love—that keep you from honestly experiencing and accepting your anger
· Gently demonstrates ways in which you can express anger constructively—from talking it out to pounding your pillow
· Demonstrates why another person’s anger, if it is expressed appropriately, need not be threatening or harmful to you—but in fact can help you

“Anger is our most misunderstood emotion. It is a fire that will either consume or purify. In this book, through effective and practical exercises, John Lee carefully guides the reader into a healthy relationship with this powerful emotion.”—Wayne Kritsberg, author of The Invisible Wound

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About the Author:

John Lee's highly innovative work in the fields of emotional intelligence, anger management, and emotional regression has made him an in-demand consultant, teacher, trainer, coach, and speaker. His contributions in the fields of recovery, relationships, men’s issues, spirituality, parenting, and creativity have put him in the national spotlight for over twenty years. Lee has been featured on Oprah, 20/20, The View, CNN, PBS, and NPR. He has been interviewed by Newsweek, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and dozens of other national magazines and radio talk shows. Lee served as a professor at the University of Texas and Alabama before becoming a writer, bestselling author, life coach, and personal consultant. He currently resides on breathtaking Lookout Mountain in Mentone, Alabama with his three happy dogs.

William Stott was born in New York City in June 1940 as France was falling to the Nazis. World War II has always been near the center of his emotional life and partly explains his having worked for the US State Department doing propaganda (then called "cultural relations," now "public diplomacy") during the Cold War 1960s; his posts were Dakar, Senegal, and Fez and Rabat, Morocco.  Bill’s books include Documentary Expression and Thirties America (1973, 1984); On Broadway: Performance Photographs by Fred Fehl (1978), with Jane Stott; and, in collaboration with John Lee, Recovery: Plain and Simple (1990) and Facing the Fire: Experiencing and Expressing Anger Appropriately (1993).

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Introduction
 
We human beings naturally want love. Most of us don’t actively seek out people or situations that sadden, frustrate, or anger us. But the human condition doesn’t provide for only the bright emotions, love, hope, and happiness, without a serving of the dark side of the human psyche as well, pain, despair, and anger.
 
As children, we learned to associate anger with pain when angry people, usually angry adults, caused us to feel pain. So as adults, most of us usually do all we can to avoid or deny anger, especially the anger we feel inside us. Because we learned that anger leads to pain, we became afraid of anger. We don’t want to feel any more pain, and we don’t want to cause pain for others. Our fear of anger is so great that we can’t believe that our own anger is okay, and we can’t believe it’s as natural as the other emotions we have, or that we can learn to express it in safe, healthy, and appropriate ways.
 
But we can—and we must. Because pent-up anger is unhealthy; it’s bad for us and for the people around us. Pent-up anger keeps us from enjoying life, keeps us from being genuinely ourselves with the people we love, keeps us from having open, comfortable relationships with our friends and associates.
 
As this book will show you, anger can be expressed so safely and completely that it leads not to pain but to strength, to increased energy, to deeper communication with those we value, and to personal serenity.
 
We must stop hurting ourselves, one another, and our children with our anger and other pent-up emotions. This book tells how.
 
After I finished editing the final version of this book, I felt the way I expect a father feels when he sees his child dressed and ready for the first day of school: proud and a bit sad. I’d lived with this book a long time, and now it was time to send it out into the world.
 
I turned on the TV. TV is my last addiction. I’ve given up cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, red meat, fried foods, and suffering, but I can’t give up the box. Oprah Winfrey was on, looking serious. Six men and women were confessing that they abused their children. They were embarrassed and ashamed, and they were pleading for someone to tell them what to do, how to stop. All the abusers had themselves been abused as children, and they wove together stories of what had happened to them as children with stories of what they were doing to their kids now. Some of the stories could have been told by my mother and father. Or me.
 
These parents were not intentionally bad or malicious, but they were hurting their children and they knew it. They kept talking about how “anger” and “rage” would build up in them until it couldn’t be “contained” and suddenly “exploded” out. They’d scream at their children, verbally abuse them. One mother had told her daughter, “I wish you were dead”; the mother hid her face in her hand as she admitted this. They had all hit, beaten, or whipped their children. The story that made me saddest was the one told by a mother who said she’d listened to her baby cry for several hours and, finally unable to stand it, had picked him up from the crib and shaken him into silence.
 
By the time Oprah was over, I was shaking. No one on the show had helped those parents. No one knew what to tell them except “You’ve got to control yourself.”
 
But they’d tried to do that, and it hadn’t worked!
 
I knew how to help those people. I knew that their problem wasn’t “controlling” the anger: it was expressing it safely—getting it out in a way that wouldn’t do any harm. Seeing that Oprah program made me realize how important this book is.
 
For more than seven years I had been lecturing and giving workshops on anger and selling tapes of these sessions. I had been around people in the recovery community and around men who were committed to learning to feel and express their emotions in ways that didn’t hurt others. I had come to take for granted that people knew how to handle their anger appropriately.
 
But the people on Oprah didn’t. And if their worried faces were any indication, the people in Oprah’s audience didn’t, either. I suddenly realized how few of us do know how to cope with our anger. I remembered how I’d gone down on my knees and thanked God when I first understood that I had the knowledge and tools for releasing my anger in a healthy way.
 
That’s what I’m going to give you in this book: the knowledge that you can feel your anger and not be afraid of it; that you can face your anger and deal with it mentally, emotionally, and—most important—physically; and that you can express and release your anger, get it out of your system, in safe, nonthreatening, nonhurtful ways that will ultimately enable you to be a happier, healthier person.
 
So please, stick with me through this process. It’s a gradual one, and I’ll go with you step-by-step. I promise you that you’ll be a lot more comfortable with yourself and other people when you’ve heard what I have to say and tried out the methods I suggest. I’m going to tell you something that may change your life. I’m going to tell you how to deal with your anger—however strong it is, even if it’s rage or beyond rage—and get it out of your body in a way that won’t hurt you, or your body or soul, or the body or soul of anyone you care about or of anyone else.
 
ANGER AND YOU
 
In this book,
 
I suggest that you shouldn’t be afraid of your anger or try to escape it, because you can’t.
 
I say that the right thing to do with your anger (and every other emotion) is to feel it.
 
I give you safe and healthy ways to face your anger, and feel and express it both by yourself and with other people.
 
I suggest that feeling and expressing your anger in safe ways will improve your physical and spiritual health and your intimacy with people you care about.
 
Other people have already said what I say in this book. A few people use these ideas, as I do, in individual counseling and in workshops on anger. But much of what I say goes against the commonly held ideas about anger. As I will explain, my view on how to deal with anger contradicts the recommendations of popular books like Carol Tavris’s Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion (1982), Harriet Goldhor Lerner’s The Dance of Anger (1985), and Gayle Rosellini and Mark Worden’s Of Course You’re Angry (1985). These books, good though they are in many ways, are wrong in arguing that anger is an emotion that we can successfully deal with by “understanding” it.
 
They are wrong because anger isn’t an idea—it’s a feeling. Like other feelings, anger doesn’t happen in your head; it happens in your body. Because it is a feeling in your body, anger doesn’t disappear when you have intellectually understood what causes it. Anger goes only when your body has expressed it—literally pushed it out.
 
What I say in this book may seem obvious once I’ve said it. To some readers, it will seem unsophisticated. I can only reply that anger and the other emotions are indeed obvious, unsophisticated, even primitive, and that, to be healthy, we have to deal with them as they are.
 
In emphasizing the importance of physically feeling your anger, I don’t mean to imply that your intelligence does not have an important role to play in dealing with anger. Your intelligence is very important. Your intelligence, after all, is conscious of what you feel. It can articulate what is causing anger and evaluate what is and isn’t reasonable behavior for an angry person, whether that person is you or someone else. Your intelligence reads this book and mediates between my words and your feelings.
 
But anger can be dealt with successfully only when the mind and the body, which are more interdependent than we know, are in a balanced relationship. This balanced relationship means that both assert their rightful claims: the body to feeling and expressing feeling, and the mind to interpreting and evaluating.
 
Having said this, I must add that some of the things I’m going to say in this book would be unhealthy for some people to hear. So I want to make sure you are ready to join me in facing the fire.
 
WHO THIS BOOK IS FOR
 
 
This book is for you if you’re over seventeen and—like me and most people—a walking-around, basically functional neurotic.
 
People like us were brought up to be “good” and “nice” and “decent” and “considerate” and to hide the parts of us that are angry and sad. We contain our anger, rage, sadness, and grief nearly all the time—hold in stuff we should let go of.
 
This book will tell you why we need to let it go and how we can let it go safely, so that no one gets hurt.
 

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