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If you were to come across someone with an increased heart rate, a clenched jaw, balled fists, a furrowed brow, and flared nostrils, and tried to identify the emotion they are feeling, your mind would quickly jump to anger. But what about the person sitting in the corner, completely withdrawn and seemingly relaxed; would you know that they too might be experiencing anger? We’ve been programmed to associate anger with violence and aggression, developing harmful stereotypes and assumptions about the emotion. In turn, people across the world are ashamed or unsure when it comes to seeking out healthy coping mechanisms to address anger.
We all experience anger; it’s a normal feature within the human spectrum of emotions. And Lori Morgan is on a mission to help us better understand that. Morgan is the facilitator of the BOSS Program offered free of charge by reachAbility, a non-profit organization in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
reachAbility has been serving the community for nearly 20 years, providing supportive and accessible programs in areas such as mental health and wellness, culture and recreation, employment, and more.
Morgan, who has an extensive background in mental health, addiction, and domestic violence, had been facilitating one of reachAbility’s other free programs, when she and her co-workers noticed a gap in services in the field of anger management. After several months of funding applications and curriculum development, BOSS – Building on Self-Awareness & Self-Confidence – came to life in February of 2018. BOSS is a free, two-week program funded by Employment Nova Scotia, which focuses on how to better manage, understand and learn about anger. The program combines group sessions and one-on-one appointments to allow participants to recognize anger, learn de-escalation techniques, and more. The program is followed with a one-month post-program meeting to ensure that participants are still seeing positive results.
"Everyone has anger. It’s a real emotion and what we want to do here is allow you to understand what anger really is and how to express it..."
-Lori Morgan, BOSS Program facilitator
“There’s this real stigma attached to anger, that it’s negative and scary,” says Morgan. “That is not the case. Everyone has anger. It’s a real emotion and what we want to do here is allow you to understand what anger really is and how to express it in healthy ways that don’t hurt yourself or others.”
Morgan says BOSS participants come from a variety of backgrounds, and anyone who is curious about how to manage and communicate their anger is welcome. “We’ve had people recommended by the courts, but we’ve also had young people who come to us and say ‘I just feel angry all the time and I don’t know why’ and we welcome them to our program too,” she says.
To ensure the services are accessible to everyone, all programs at reachAbility are provided at no cost. “We strive to equalize the playing field so that anyone who identifies with having a disability or barrier, be it physical, mental, cultural, or anything they feel is holding them back, can come see us,” says Morgan.
Once enrolled, participants spend two weeks in group meetings and one-on-one sessions, completing workshops such as Understanding the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous System, Grounding Techniques, Non-Violent Communication, and Expressing Anger Through Art among others. Morgan says the unique approach of combining a scientific and physical focus with a mental and emotional focus provides a holistic experience for participants.
“BOSS offers the opportunity to really look at body, spirit, and mind and how it’s all connected,” says Morgan. “We look at what’s really happening to the brain and the body when we’re getting angry. What affect is that having?”
BOSS is proving real results, with Morgan’s clients seeing a 35 per cent overall improvement in understanding, managing and communicating anger in an effective manner in their first quarter. For Morgan, the experience is both empowering and humbling. “I feel a great amount of humility working with people who have a genuine willingness to be taught,” she says. “It doesn’t matter if there’s rain, snow, no matter what people are showing up on time, participating and engaging in the workshops. It’s unreal.”
She says the success of the BOSS program wouldn’t be possible without her hardworking colleague Yana Gold, and Reachability CEO, Tova Sherman. “These are brilliant women,” says Morgan. “Tova runs a unique environment that allows people to work based on their strengths and provide something wonderful for the community.”
Jill Ellsworth is a lover of handwritten letters, bottomless tea, and contributing to the chaos.
NOW ATLANTIC - JULY 2019
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- ROBYN MCNEIL: Halifax's Venus Envy helps create safe space, community
- LAURA WHITMAN: Inviting diversity into our conversations
- Halifax-based reachAbility program seeks to end anger stigma