Difficult Emotions & Lashing Out: Let's Get Ready to Rumble!

2020 anger emotional wellness mental health tension Nov 09, 2020

There's nothing like hotly debated election results to throw fuel on the fire of anger and rage from a year that's been nothing short of a sh!t show. But here we are.

If you're feeling like the bear that's been poked one too many times, you're not alone. If you feel like the tension is rising in you and you just might explode, you're not alone. And despite what you may be expecting, I'm not going to tell you that you shouldn't feel that way.

Who am I to tell you how to feel?

So, I'm going to go against the grain here. There are a lot of "messages" out there right now saying things to make you feel like it's all going to be okay. And it probably will.

But I want to talk about anger. I want to talk about rage. And I want to talk about lashing out!

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that you've probably felt like lashing out at some point in the past seven months. It might have been when the world shut down and you were forced into your house for weeks. Or it might have been when the racial injustice in the country reared its ugly head once again.

For you, it may have been in the wee morning hours of last Wednesday as you continued to watch the vote counts flip back and forth even though you should have been sleeping. Or it may have been when you realized that after almost a year of depriving yourself of spending time with friends and family, your holiday plans were going to be canceled as well.

Whatever the thing is that felt like it was pushing you over the edge, you've probably hit that point at least once or twice. I know I have.

And the professional Mike Veny would point you toward yoga, meditation, and learning how to see things from another person's perspective at this time. I've done that. If you want that type of article, please refer to these previous posts I've written:

But today you've got the personal Mike Veny and we're going in a different direction. We're going to let ourselves feel that anger, disappointment, and hatred. And we're going to use it to lash out.

So what does it mean to lash out?

There are several different definitions of lashing out. All of the ones that I found expressed some type of physical activity. Many definitions included things such as hitting or kicking something. Personally, I think it can also include things like aggressive social media rants.

Lashing out, overall, generally has a negative connotation with it. We often connect it with abuse which could be physical, verbal, or emotional.

But what if lashing out doesn't have to be bad?

I believe that pretty much any kind of expression of emotion is okay as long as you're not harming yourself or someone else. And I include "venting" on my list of harming other people. When you "vent", you're just turning someone else into your verbal punching bag. And that's not okay either.

So I'm making up my own definition for lashing out: "Finding a physical act that allows you to spew your negative emotions out in a safe and healthy way."

It's dangerous to suppress emotions

Our negative emotions don't just go away. We can't compartmentalize them. If you think you can, you're lying to and hurting yourself.

If you're angry at a situation or person and try to bury it, it's going to come out in its own ugly way at some point. And when that happens, you're not going to have any control over it.

I'd rather you learn how to have some level of control over how and when your emotions come out so it doesn't happen in the middle of a work meeting that turned to political talk or during that Thanksgiving dinner with the one other household you're celebrating with. I'm guessing you don't really want that either.

This is why it's important to learn appropriate ways to release emotions.

We need to learn to release emotions for our physical health

There are lots of studies that show how suppressing emotions is not good for our health. It's connected to all sorts of physical ailments and diseases such as cancer.

I lost my mom to a rare form of cancer. Throughout her life, it was clear that she had a lot of undealt with anger and resentment. There were times when it caused her to lash out at family members. And I can't help but wonder if not addressing her emotions in a healthy way played a role in her illness.

That's one of the reasons I'm so concerned about being emotionally well and why I want to help others do the same.

This is a deeply personal topic for me because I spent too much of my own life lashing out at others as well. While I'd like to say I'm perfect at it now, I'm not. But I'm learning to find better ways to do it. So, let's talk about how to lash out the "right way".

Healthy ways to lash out

There are two things that I think we need to be intentional about when finding healthy ways to lash out:

  1. Focusing on our emotions during the activity
  2. Doing something active that moves our body

If we want our "lashing out" activity to help us release our emotions, then we need to be tapping into those emotions while we're lashing out. We need to be purposeful about including them in our activity. I'll share more on that in a moment.

The second thing we need to do is include our bodies when lashing out. I highly recommend reading the book, The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, MD. It discusses how we store our emotions in our physical bodies.

Right now most of us are stuck at home at the dining room table or on the couch working. Without being intentional about it, we're not moving our bodies as much. And that makes it harder to release these trapped emotions we're storing. That's why we're going to focus on movement.

With those criteria in mind, here are some healthy ways to lash out:

Boxing and working out

This has been one of my go-to ways to lash out lately. I head to the gym, put on my rainbow boxing gloves, and have a WWE match with different people in my head. Not even regular wrestling, it's like a steel cage matchup there. I'm throwing chairs and taking cheap shots.

My anger is real and valid. But the other people in my life aren't responsible for it. I am responsible for my emotions. So I make it a point to visualize the things that make me angry as I box.

I do the same thing when lifting weights. Every time I need to push the heavier weight up, I visualize punching someone who I really want to punch. I allow myself to do that mentally and be okay with it. I'm channeling my negative emotions into something that is healthy for me.

Playing music

Music is all about emotion and playing the drums helps me get it all out.

Before performances, I used to think of the darkest of the dark stuff from life. I would think about it right before walking out on stage to perform. And I believe that's one of the things that helped me have a successful career. There was always emotion coming from me.

These days, I sit down and play at the drumset next to my desk in my home office. I still tap into my emotion as I play.


Dancing is a great way to get out fear and other negative emotions. Find the music that really gets your emotions going and just go to town. Don't worry about what you look like as you move. It's not about being a good dancer, it's just about moving your body.


That's right, like blacksmithing. This may sound like an odd one, but I was recently talking to someone who began forging after watching a show called Forged in Fire. Apparently, a lot of the contestants on the show share how forging has helped them deal with things like anxiety and anger. And it makes perfect sense.

When you forge metal, you literally heat it up until the metal is soft and then pound on it with a hammer to reshape it. It requires you to move your body and uses up a ton of energy. You can channel all of that pent-up anger and emotion into hitting the metal instead of someone else.

Rage rooms

It might sound like that should be the name of a horror movie, but it's a type of business. And it's exactly what it sounds like. You can pay to take a bat into a room full of stuff and smash it. There are some places where you can bring your own things and others where they supply the stuff you smash.

If hitting things helps you take out your anger, doing this can allow you to do it in a socially acceptable way where you don't hurt anyone or have to repair the drywall in your house when you're done.

If you don't have a rage room near you or you don't want to go do this in public, you can take a tennis racket to your own mattress. No one gets hurt. Nothing gets broken. And you get your anger out in a slightly aggressive but very quiet way.

What do these things have in common?

These are things that you have to do intentionally. They probably aren't going to be things that you can just do in the moment when anger first hits you. It's important to learn how to be in control of your emotions.

You can feel angry and enraged without lashing out in the moment. I believe this becomes easier to do when you get better at finding healthy ways to release your negative emotions and then doing them on a regular basis.

When you do this, you don't allow that anger to keep building up inside of you. Then when you experience something that makes you mad, it's not adding onto the hundred other things that you're holding onto. It's just one bad situation that you can lash out about in your favorite way at the appropriate time.

Should we excuse when others lash out inappropriately at us?

This is happening a lot this year and the answer is—hell no! We should hold everyone accountable.

Not only is it okay to set boundaries with others, it's our responsibility to do so. This is how we teach others how they can and can't treat us. If someone lashes out at you, let them know afterward how they made you feel and where you felt it was wrong. Tell them that you're not going to tolerate that behavior again.

It can help to use language like, "I feel uncomfortable when you come in here screaming at me because it makes me feel like a punching bag." There's nothing wrong with saying that.

How are you going to lash out?

Emotions are powerful. And this year you may be dealing with more difficult emotions than you ever have before. It may be that 2020 has been bad. Or it might be that 2020 is just one more difficult thing on top of all the others in your life.

But either way, you have a choice at every moment to be in control of yourself. Self-awareness is a big part of that. So look for the ways that help you tap into and release that anger, disappointment, fear, frustration, and hatred in a way that benefits you and others instead of hurting.

If you lash out in the wrong way, you may end up regretting it for a long time. But I can promise you won't regret learning how to release your emotions in a healthy way.

So how can you start lashing out—in a healthy way—on a regular basis?

Mike Veny is fiercely committed to empowering employees to discover the gift of emotional wellness so they can accelerate personal and professional growth. If you are looking for a proven speaker who can transform your attendees through addressing mental health, team building and wellbeing, then you've come to the right place.

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