I have been using this technique for several years now, and find it invaluable to living powerfully. I have attempted to explain it to online friends in the past, and sometimes receive comments such as, “I do not like to wallow in my anger with music. I prefer to forget it and move on.” Since this is exactly the intent of the Anger Dance – to allow the anger to move so that I can move on – I want to present the full details of the Anger Dance as I do it, so others may benefit from the experience. There is no wallowing here. There is only movement and progress towards a positive intention.
The techniques described in this article are the brainchild of Greg Ehmka. Greg’s work focuses specifically on the use of intention, intuition and expression of emotion as a means to keep life moving in a positive direction and advancing one’s intentions in the world. Instructions contained herein are similar, though likely not identical, to his teachings. Everything here is in my own words, and using the methods I use in my personal emotional release practice.
What is an Anger Dance?
An Anger Dance is a form of Latihan. It is used to move angry energy out of the body. Unlike most forms of Latihan, which begin from emptiness or nothingness, this form begins with anger. When you find yourself feeling angry, and especially when you know the source of the anger, you may wish to use an Anger Dance to purge the energy, and to put it into a positive intention. If you don’t know the source, you may wish to do the Anger Dance simply to find the source, or to just push some of that energy out of your body by moving.
Before You Begin
When I do an Anger Dance, I can become quite animated. I thrash around a lot. I may hit things. I have injured myself in the past, and to avoid injury, I suggest you prepare in several ways before you begin an Anger Dance.
- Prepare your space: If you plan to hit anything, you may wish to put soft objects into your space specifically for hitting. Pillows and cushions work great. So do mattresses. You may wish to avoid “springy” or “bouncy” items like a rubber ball or inflatable mattress. Your body may spring off them rapidly, and you may injure yourself. Be sure to cover, remove or be able to avoid any sharp corners or edges in your environment.
- Prepare your body: You will probably want to move your body around quite a bit during an Anger Dance. Just like preparing for a workout or sporting event, it is a good idea to stretch and warm up. You may wish to stretch your legs with a series of yoga poses or running stretches. You may also want to march in place for a minute or two to get your heart rate up and your blood moving before you begin.
- Prepare your mind: Consider the source of your anger. Are you angry at a person? Are you angry at a situation? Is it only one issue, or a pile of issues you’ve let build up over time? If you can, pinpoint the source(s) of your anger and name them either out loud (recommended) or silently.
- Prepare your music: Make yourself a play list of music that feels angry to you, makes you angry, or has angry lyrics. What is important is not really the music itself, but how the music makes you feel. You should feel like moving. You should feel angry. If the music makes you feel happy, or feel like sitting down and paying attention, rather than moving, it would be best to select better music. You should make your play list a minimum of 20 minutes in length, and up to an hour. A typical intense emotion, once let loose in the human nervous system, tends to burn itself out in about 20 minutes, but it can go longer sometimes. And if you have a longer play list, you can use different parts of the play list for different types of anger. If a specific song comes to mind for the specific anger you are presently experiencing, this is the perfect music to choose. For example, if you’re angry with a lover who has left you, you may feel inspired by Alanis Morissette’s song “You Oughta Know.”
- Prepare your partner: If you are dancing with a partner or partners, chat with them beforehand about any boundaries for the dance. Some partners may be okay with slam dancing or body collisions, or even hitting each other with varying degrees of force. Be sure to discuss what level of contact is okay with your Anger Dance partners. Nobody wants to be surprised by a fist to the bicep that they did not want. If hitting each other, you may wish to put on some form of protective gear before the dance, such as boxing gloves or a helmet.
- State an intention: If you were able to pinpoint the source of your anger, state a positive intention that you would like to have, probably related to the area of life you are angry about. For example, let’s say I am angry with my employer because he does not listen to my advice, and I end up cleaning up his messes repeatedly, when the messes could be avoided simply by listening to me. I might state an intention such as, “I want to keep my sense of power and achievement at work, regardless of what my boss does.” You’re coming up with this before you begin, but you’ll use it again when we actually begin the dance.
An Anger Dance Play List
This is a personal Anger Dance play list I created on YouTube. Everyone will have their own music that helps her move her anger energy and her body. This is just an example, so you have an idea of what works for one person. Whatever works for you is great. I have a friend who likes to move his anger with Handel, a classical composer.
How to Anger Dance
If you were able to identify the source of your anger, and came up with an intention, you’ll be using it now. If you were unable to come up with the source, and don’t already have an intention, I humbly suggest that you make your intention, “I want to get to a feeling of joy.” In Greg’s work, joy is defined as the experience of being in the right place at the right time. I like to say, “being in the right place at the right time with the right people,” with the recognition that sometimes “alone” is the right people. You can do this without any intention at all, but your experience will likely be more powerful with an intention present.
- Play your play list.
- As the music begins, state your intention, preferably aloud.
- Stand tall and in place, and wait until you feel an involuntary impulse to move. This may be felt as “my body wants to move,” more than “I want to move my body.”
- When you feel the involuntary impulse to move, begin to move. Allow your emotions and your experience of the music to move your body. Avoid moving your body with your mind. If you find this difficult, or it does not make much sense to you, that’s okay. There’s no wrong way to do this. Just go with it and keep moving. The more you do it, the more you’ll get the hang of it. If you get angry and move, you’re doing it right enough for it to work.
- When you feel an involuntary impulse to sing, yell, scream, or make any noises, let them out. Allow anything to come out. There’s no wrong way to do this, except to hold in your sounds. So let the sounds out. Ugh. Grrrr. Roar! “Fuck you!” Whatever is inside that wants to be expressed with your voice, let it come out as you move.
- If you feel an impulse to hit, hit something soft so as not to injure yourself. If you’re dancing with partners, be sure to keep your body contacts within the limits discussed before the dance. Other than this, feel free to let loose and really slam your body into things. The more expressed you can be with how you’re really feeling in the present, the better the dance will work.
- Keep going until you either feel joy, or until you are too physically spent to continue. Or, if you don’t get all the way to joy, then when you feel the anger has moved on, and you’re present to other emotions.
Did It Work?
If it worked, you probably will not be asking yourself this question. You’ll probably be saying to yourself, “damn, I feel a lot better.”
Sometimes, however, you might peel back that layer of anger to discover a layer of pain (or some other difficult emotion) underneath it. You might be wondering, “did this really work?” Well, the best way to answer that question is to sit down or do some other activity for at least a half hour. Then go to a mirror. Look at yourself in the mirror, and state your intention again. How do you feel? What becomes present when you state your intention? Is it anger? If not, then the Anger Dance did its job.
If you are still present to anger, is it greater or lesser than before the dance? If lesser, then the Anger Dance worked, but you may need to repeat it, or perhaps you just quit early. If your anger is the same or greater, perhaps you did not get much out of it after all. Remember, not every technique works for everybody. If this technique has “backfired” on you, then you may wish to try it a few more times, and if you keep getting a negative result, move on to some other technique for dealing with your anger.
Another way to measure if it worked is to see how your intention shows up. In the above example with a boss, the result of my Anger Dance may be measured the next time my boss fails to listen to me, and I have to clean up his mess. If I get angry, I need to keep working on the issue, and another Anger Dance or some other technique may be warranted. If I feel empowered, it worked like a charm.
If you had positive results with this technique, please share them here. Others may benefit from your specific experiences. Feel free to share what works for you, and any modifications you make to the technique. Remember, there is no wrong way to do this.