“Not only does the repression of anger predispose to disease but the experience of anger has been shown to promote healing or, at least, to prolong survival.”
– Gabor Maté, When the Body Says No; The Cost of Hidden Stress
Theoretically, I love puttering in the garden. But I must confess to having mixed feelings about puttering when I was working in my yard in the last home I owned.
Unfortunately, over the seven years I’d lived there, more often than not there was much in the way of neighbourhood noise to contend with while trying to achieve serenity in my little garden: screaming children, parents screaming at said children, high-pitched band saws being used for hours on end, power washers, as well as the boom-boom-boom pounding of bass from music and video games.
And then… there was the traffic.
I lived on some sort of thoroughfare road that just kept getting busier and busier in our growing town, so maintenance and construction vehicles rumbled by loudly on weekdays. Gravel and cement trucks (in addition to buses and Harley Davidson motorcycles) are LOUD vehicles, especially when they are accelerating – which was, oddly enough, often the case in front of my house. I gave up years earlier trying to garden in my front yard without wearing ear protection.
On some days, I could putter in my back garden without ear plugs or headphones – but not very often. But on one long weekend in what would turn out to be the last summer in my home, I found myself working – without ear protection – in my back garden. It was delightfully (and oddly) quiet. I could hear the birds chirping. It was lovely.
Part of the reason for this was the fact that my neighbour with the screaming children had finally moved out six months earlier and was prepping his house for sale. I was beyond grateful for the relative peace and quiet.
One of the tasks I was tackling in my garden that long weekend happen to be the pruning of the wisteria and grapevine. Both vines had grown out of control and were strangling their neighbouring trees, so I cut and cut and cut.
However, much of the time I had to be on a ladder, which meant that I could see into my neighbour’s backyard – the one who had (albeit inadvertently) angered me so much over the years. And the more I pruned, the angrier I got at my neighbour for a) being so noisy and messy over the years and; b) only bothering to clean up his home and yard now that it was time to SELL it and make a whack of cash.
“Blaming others takes an enormous amount of mental energy… it makes you feel powerless over your own life because your happiness is contingent on the actions and behaviours of others, which you can’t control.”
– Richard Carlson, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
At first, directing all this pent-up anger at my noisy neighbour (or rather, his empty back yard) felt rather therapeutic. But the more I fumed, the more I began to turn that anger towards myself because I finally realized that I was the one who had chosen to stay in my home for SEVEN years. Nobody had forced me to stay and tolerate noisy neighbours. I was livid at my own self!
By the end of the weekend, I had absolutely exhausted myself. But let me tell you, did my garden ever look great! That poor wisteria didn’t know what hit it.
And then wouldn’t you know it, I had a reflexology treatment on my feet two days later – and the next morning, I woke up sick as a dog. I had this strange headache on the very top of my head, as if my body was a pressure cooker trying to release steam out the top – but couldn’t. I was nauseous and had no appetite or energy. And I kept falling asleep. I drank enough water to sink a battleship as my body tried to rid itself of all the old toxic anger that had come to surface but seemed to be trapped.
The water detox worked. The next day, I woke up and felt pretty much back to my usual self. And my anger had dissipated.
“I am greatly empowered without harming anyone if I permit myself to experience the anger and to contemplate what may have triggered it. Depending on circumstances, I may choose to manifest the anger in some way or let go of it. The key is that I have not suppressed the experience of it.”
– Gabor Maté, When the Body Says No
In hindsight, even though I thought I had been expressing my anger over the years (one would think so, judging by the number of livid phone calls made to family and friends about the noisy neighbour and loud traffic situation), now I’m not so sure. I suspect I had just suppressed it – and it took the pruning of an out of control wisteria to bring it to the surface… and a reflexology and water detox to finally release it.
Interestingly, two weeks later I sold my home… and I hadn’t even put it on the market yet. Anger out; full steam ahead.