I’ve recently taken up a most curious sport – boxing.  I kind of fell into it, not knowing what to expect, as it’s offered at my local yoga studio on Sunday mornings.  Considering I have an unlimited monthly pass I figured what the heck and signed up.  And after a few classes, I discovered the most wonderful secret.  The first few classes I was just trying to get my bearings.  I clumsily threw a 2 (right hand) punch when my trainer would call for a 1 (left hand). There’s a lot to remember regarding the numbers of the punches, the footwork, to remember to duck defensively.  And then it just kind of clicked and something interesting happened.

The power of the punch

My punches got more powerful, my stance got increasingly steady, and I wasn’t just exhaling as directed by my trainer as I punched. Along with the exhale I started to emit a yell with every strike.  The first time it happened I turned beet red, and my trainer Danna smiled and said to me, “Let it out.  This is what boxing is all about.  There are no rules about noise.”

And so I did.  And I increasingly do.  And I gotta tell you folks, there is something about this boxing thing that is beyond cathartic.  I now look forward to my Sunday session every week.  It’s my release, my opportunity to let loose, to let the mad, crazy, and downright undesirable woman buried deep inside me out.  I’ve started envisioning people on the punching bag, situations and problems that are annoying me, and I punch and punch and yell and yell to my heart’s delight.

It’s quite a change from the refined southern woman I was raised to be.  The one who was told to smile and be sweet and to behave like a good little girl would.  Who learned to bury her anger and sadness and resentment lest it escape and make others uncomfortable.  I let these feelings out on the bag and each time I leave I leave just a little bit lighter. 

This experience has also gotten me thinking about how we express emotions in general, particularly the undesirable feelings.  The ones we don’t want to admit to having, things like anger, jealousy, vanity, pride, resentment and even guilt. 

Ignore feelings at your peril

I’ve noticed over the years that we (and most often women) do something really interesting when it comes to our “negative” emotions.  Firstly, we try to pretend that they don’t even exist.  And when they’re especially powerful and we’re super worried they will bubble up to the surface, we shame them.  We shame them into submission by saying things to ourselves such as:

“You’re such a horrible person for thinking that.  There’s obviously something wrong with you this thought even crossed your mind.  If you were a better person this situation wouldn’t bother you at all.  Just let it go.  Let it go!  A bigger person than you would be able to let this roll right off their back!”

This doesn’t work by the way.  We think it does; we fool ourselves in the moment.  But the hurts accumulate over time.  And then they come out sideways as I often explain to clients.  Passive aggressive resentment which seeps out slowly over time and poisons everything around it, or perhaps one day we explode like Mount Vesuvius and leave a pile of rubble in our wake.  The straw that breaks the camel’s back – a seemingly innocent comment a person makes or a question they ask and the angry words flow out like lava.

I recall a situation when I started to realize that anger wasn’t a scary emotion to be feared, but something to be paid attention to.  Something that could be channeled effectively if you understood how to use it.

I had ordered a number of bedroom shades from a store that will remain nameless.  Three (yes three!) attempts later, and the shades still looked like this:

And this:

And all for the paltry sum of about two thousand dollars.  It’s enough to boil your blood, isn’t it?

I was relaying the story to my good friend Morgan, telling her that it was probably my fault because I most likely hadn’t communicated properly with them, and at that point was inclined to throw my hands up – what are you going to do, you know you can’t get good service these days.

“I’d be mad as hell if I were you.” She said.

And I stopped and thought about that.  And I thought about it some more.  And then I was mad.  Madder than I’d been in years.  Madder than maybe I’d ever been before.  I let the rage come up, I was livid.  I paced and paced around my living room and screamed at the top of my lungs while my cats Bijoux and Beaux watched on.  How dare they treat me this way!  How dare they not take responsibility for their mistakes! 

So I channeled it.  I grabbed my computer and got to work.  And started writing reviews (professional and tasteful I might add) with numerous pictures about how I had been treated and posted them on every site I could find.  I was on fire, a woman on a mission – I would have my moment online and not be silenced!

And it worked.  Full refund when the head of customer service saw the reviews and reached out to me directly to refund my money.

It reminds me of something my mentor coach said to me once, “Shelley, it’s okay to feel resentment.  The important question is, what do you plan to do with it?”

My answer to that question is boxing at the moment.  I plan to get better. Way better.  And in preparation for that I’ve been watching all the Rocky movies.  It’s the eye of the tiger it’s the thrill of the fight!

Coaching questions for thought

  • What outlets do you have for processing powerful emotion?
  • What emotions do you disown in yourself?
  • What is the cost of burying these feelings?
  • What would happen if you allowed yourself to have the emotion, to stop judging it, and take considered action instead?

Shelley Pernot is a leadership coach and career coach who is passionate about helping her clients discover their strengths and talents and step into their greatness.  Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you!

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