A third way.
Earlier this year, I spent seven months working with a coach to become more skillful at processing my anger. After years of living at emotional extremes, I needed to find a third way to be with the intensity of my feelings.
Historically when anger showed up, I would either swallow it and implode or express it and explode. Even when I learned about myself as an Enneagram Type 4 and the truth that “feelings aren’t facts,” I still struggled to keep my fire from causing damage when it was sparked.
I responded to implosion by developing an eating disorder, engaging in various forms of self-harm, and shutting down my sexual identity.
I responded to explosion by burning bridges in relationships, quitting projects without notice, and moving to different countries on a whim.
Not only did this make it impossible for me to maintain any stability in my life, but it was also destroying my health, finances, relationships, and any possibility of me making the art that I wanted to create.
It got to a point where not being able to process had gotten so painful that not dealing with it was no longer an option.
I had to find a third way.
It felt like my life depended on it.
And I did. I spent seven months intentionally figuring out what that third way could be. I got to know every facet of my anger. I learned to appreciate it for how it had protected me in the past. I became more able to hold its goodness with the pain of the damage I had caused by wielding it unskilfully.
In her book The Language of Emotions, Karla McLaren writes, “Healthy anger sets your boundary and helps you engage more effectively because it allows you to related authentically and respectfully.”
I learned to engage more effectively.
I created and communicated new boundaries that I no longer needed to reinforce with fire. I wrote and shared new contracts within my professional relationships. I stopped taking on the heat of other people’s emotions in my personal relationships.
Now, when anger arises, I am able to sit with it, listen to it, and figure out what boundary it is signalling has been crossed.
I have found a third way. I have created a third way.
And I want to find a third way in other areas of my life moving forward.
That sweet spot that allows me to love my body while I shape it in new ways. That sweet spot that allows me to care deeply about others while I also retain my autonomy. That sweet spot that allows me to do meaningful work while I set boundaries around the limits of the emotional labour that I will do.
That sweet spot in between extremes where I can be more present, more awake, and more able to show up as the human I would like to be.
So, what extremes are you ricocheting between at the moment and what could a third way be for you?