Monday, March 19, 2012

The Angry Game... aka Extreme Venting

I know what you're thinking.

Are you happy about being angry?

Of course not.  I'm not quite that crazy.  The Angry Game is something we do in our family when we're angry-- to help us change... to help us not be angry any more.  It's the Not Being Angry Anymore bit that I'm happy about.  =)

It goes something like this.

We turn on LOUD, Angry music (relatively speaking- since we are a pretty conservative family) and shout things like "I'm REALLY Angry!" while throwing pillows, stomping on couch cushions and whacking each other with pillows.  Imagine a loud, angry pillow fight.


This often involves couch cushions being used as pillows.  I prep the room first, removing breakable objet d'art.  Our pets are smart enough to be out of there as soon as we start.  And of course, there is no hitting (without a pillow) or biting or punching.  That would be called a brawl and we generally try to avoid those.  

We do do a lot of shouting.  I encourage my kids to yell things like, "I'm really angry!"  "I'm REALLY mad about (whatever they are angry about)!"  "This is SO Stupid!"  And things like that.  Sound immature?  You bet!  This could also be called Extreme Venting.  None of them want to shout anything at first. They look embarrassed as they half-heartedly fwop me with their pillow.  I tell them to shout, and they shake their heads.  But as the game goes on, they get more into it.  The force of the fwops increases.  They start to whisper, "I'm angry."  And I shout, "Yeah?  Well I'm REALLY Angry!" as I fwop one of them with a pillow.  Pretty soon they are giggling and hitting and jumping up and down shouting, "I'M REALLY, REALLY ANGRY ABOUT THIS STUPID GAME MY MOM IS MAKING ME PLAY!" And things like that.  When we can't stand up any more from laughing so hard, we turn off the music and collapse on the living room floor gasping for breath between laughs.

It's all very therapeutic.  In an extreme pillow fight sort of way.  It works best when people are seriously stressed about hard times or major changes in life.  Moving.  Divorce.  Losing a job.  Death of a pet. Etc.

There was a day, a few years ago, when we had The Angry Game To End All Angry Games.  It was at the height of the abuse/ divorce/ financial problems, and saying I'd had a bad day was kind of like saying  WWII was stressful.  I walked in the door and realized my poor kids were about the get the brunt of my anger.  One daughter said, "I think you need to play the angry game."  I made it to the stereo and just barely managed to turn on something loud before I burst in a (completely uncharacteristic) explosion of swear words.  My kids' eyes popped open as I picked up the couch and hurled it into the middle of the room.  (away from them, mind you.)  They took off into the back yard and watched me through the french doors as I threw cushions and yelled obscenities at the top of my lungs.  

After a few minutes, when my energy was mostly spent, I opened the doors and said it was all right.  They could come back in.  My youngest son said, "Ok. But Mom?  Don't say bad words ever again."  

Then we played the Angry Game together.  They were pretty angry themselves, and it was one heck of a game.  My daughter wrestled me to the ground and pinned me there a couple of times before I said Uncle and admitted I was no match for her.  It was the closest we've come to an all-out brawl.  

The last song we played to was Taylor Swift's Picture to Burn.  When I was un-pinned and we were calm again, one of my daughters asked if we could actually burn pictures.  We had a fire pit in the back yard, and she wanted to draw- and then burn- pictures of the man who had abused her, my ex-husband. Her father. 

I stared at her for several heart beats before saying, "I guess so. But please don't tell the social worker."  

I'm still not sure that under normal circumstances drawing pictures of your father and burning them is a good idea.  But in a sexual abuse recovery phase, it was some of the best therapy any of us have ever done.  One daughter wrote words like "Forever" and "Trust" in swirly decorative print and then fed them to the flames.  Another drew a picture of her dad's car, where some abuse took place. She drew her own foot above the car and explained she was going to crush it.  Then she tore the paper into tiny shreds and let them rain down on the flames.  We ended with roasting marshmallows and finally staring up at the stars.  

It was extreme.  
It was angry.
But in the end, it was peaceful, life changing recovery.


For a playlist of some of our favorite Angry Game songs, please visit my Resources Page.  
(I'm about to go work on it right now.  My apologies if you get there before I get it up.)


4 comments:

Polly said...

Just so you know, burnings like the one you guys did are often done in therapy. They can be extremely therapeutic and helpful. Generally they are done with the some processing before and after, but it sounds like that was done :) The Anyry Game, or some version of it, is also learned. I also think it's good that your kids saw how angry you were/are, for lots of reasons. Thank you for sharing this.

Rebecca =) said...

Phew! I was worried some social worker might still track us down and demand to know what the heck I thought Iw as doing to allow my kids to do something like that!

The Angry Game idea came from a therapist one of my daughters had years ago. It's been so helpful that we keep going back to it. By the end it's often hard to remember the hard feelings that got us going in the first place!

Thank you, Polly!
=)

Valerie said...

I love how you handled such a traumatic situation in such a physical, open, positive, and bonding way. We'll have to try this.

Rebecca =) said...

=) Way more fun than traditional therapy, that's for sure!