Anger, Boundaries and Safety

Tina Boehm describes her experience at the Anger, Boundaries and Safety program. This program is offered several times every year. Check the program schedule for the next opportunity.

I have been struggling to come up with a few lines which capture the essence of the recent Anger, Boundaries and Safety program I took at The Haven. It is not an easy task. The intensive, three-day program is packed full of useful information, exercises, take home tools and opportunities for the healthy expression of anger, resulting in a truly transformational experience. Through this program, I developed a new relationship with, and fresh appreciation for the safe and appropriate expression of anger, particularly in my own life.

Essentially, the program teaches that anger, when expressed in a boundaried, safe way is self-affirming, necessary and natural. Indeed, if expressed responsibly it can bring us closer to people rather than alienate them. Violence, on the other hand, which encroaches on other people’s and our own boundaries and safety, is never acceptable. Knowing the difference between the two is the cornerstone of this program, and essential learning for everybody.

The program was led by Greg Gurel, a man of exceptional heart and talent. He has put his own unique stamp on this program which was developed and led originally by Joann Peterson. Jan Frison has been a long-time assistant in the program, and brings her own skill, extensive experience and big-hearted vulnerability to the group and to working with Greg.

Greg started by asking us all to identify words and feelings which we initially associate with anger. We came up with a host of adjectives, all of which had negative, uncomfortable connotations. At the end of the program, the same exercise was repeated and a whole different lexicon applied. Powerful, proactive words which we commonly associate with self-responsibility, vitality, energy and choice exemplified how far we had all come in understanding and accepting this natural life force.

Greg’s constant reiteration of the distinction between anger and violence and his insistence on safe, boundaried expression allowed us all to become more aware of and comfortable with our own anger. This allows for a more authentic expression of self. During the program I had many opportunities to examine and challenge my own relationship with anger. Identifying and expressing it does not come easily or naturally to me. As a child, I was not encouraged to articulate my feelings or express my emotions, particularly angry ones. Safety for me meant keeping my mouth shut and keeping antagonists at bay. I didn’t realize that by denying or suppressing my own anger, I was actually turning it against myself.

Now, after taking this program, I commit to owning and taking responsibility for all of my feelings, not just the “good” ones, and to step forward and communicate who I am, and what my preferences and boundaries are. With that ownership and awareness comes choice, the choice to reveal, or to stay closed. It is in the discernment and choosing and revealing that I come home to myself, and engage more honestly with others.

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