Appalachian Therapies


Since we talked about slang expletive words used in frustration or anger yesterday I thought today it’d be good to talk about what we do when we’re truly frustrated with our situation. Several years back Blind Pig reader Ron Stephens sent me the following email.

“Guess you don’t really need any ideas for posts …..but your post about ‘ornery’ days got me thinking. (Yes, I often think too much but anyway…) I wonder among the Blind Piggers what different folks use to calm their ruffled feelings.

It isn’t just being a snoop. Our son is a counselor for one thing. For another I have wondered about it because in my growing up I saw a reluctance to acknowledge weakness or ‘finer feelings’ among Appalachianers, especially men and especially outside the close family. Is that just me and my family, or is it a truly common Appalachian trait, strong enough to say we are different in that regard? Has it changed in the last fifty years or so, much as the language has?

Myself, I have several therapies. First is a solitary walk in the woods. My Dad did – and my brother does – convert this to ‘hunting’ without much stress on ‘finding’; like fishing without ‘catching’. My wife and daughter think plain ole digging is high on my list. (I hope not. I would say ‘gardening’ is but I’m not sure just how much difference that is!) Splitting wood has in the past been a favored way to ‘work off a mad’.  And ‘putting up’ foodstuffs has always been very satisfying and tends to make me grateful which crowds out less valuable feelings.”


A good brisk walk up the creek will always help improve my disposition, but most of the time things aren’t going my way I throw myself into some job around the house that I’ve been putting off like cleaning out the basement or scrubbing the front porch. Picking up a good book and sticking my nose in it for a couple of hours also helps me feel better about whatever is going on. If there’s no time to put my hands or eyes to something I turn the radio up as loud as I can stand it and try to focus on the rhythm of the bass or the guitar, fiddle, and mandolin runs in the song.

I’ve heard old time Baptist preachers talk of hearing the mountains ring with men who walked up the steep slopes to cry out their desperation to God during tough times such as WWII when so many young men were called away for service.

Hope you’ll leave a comment and share what Appalachian Therapy you use when times are tough in your life.


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  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    October 19, 2018 at 12:01 am

    Many Parkinson’s sufferers are prone to sudden unreasonable bouts of anger. I am always on the alert and try to control myself when this happens. My wife doesn’t deserve this. Now the idiotic drivers I encounter are a different matter.

  • Reply
    October 18, 2018 at 10:01 pm

    Most of my negative emotions can be improved by being outdoors, in my experience. It may not solve every problem, but just being outdoors is a tonic for me. Splitting wood used to be my way to literally work out anger, and end up with something satisfying to show for it. I do miss splitting wood, but the arthritis in my hands makes it both painful and dangerous to swing a maul so I had to quit.

  • Reply
    October 18, 2018 at 7:58 pm

    I don’t like getting mad . Sometimes i say things i regret and i just dont like doing that. I walk. I love walking. You can pray, think and calm down. Love your post Tip!

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    October 18, 2018 at 3:03 pm

    Today is Harold’s Birthday. He was about 2 1/years older than me. All five have gone on to be with the Lord and I’m the last. I will always Miss them as well as Mama and Daddy. …Ken

  • Reply
    Melissa P. (Misplaced Southerner)
    October 18, 2018 at 1:25 pm

    Back before I could drive, I’d go scream into a pillow and cry on my dog’s neck. Nowadays (when possible), I jump into the car and head out to the horse barn. Something about walking around all those shavings, sweet hay, and horses with their warm, soft breath makes everything right again.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    October 18, 2018 at 11:08 am

    Before I became ill and unable to do this my chainsaws and go-devil provided me good therapy. They worked off a lot of frustration by making me physically tired and unable to put as much energy into being mad or frustrated.

  • Reply
    S. Taylor
    October 18, 2018 at 11:02 am

    What a terrific topic and thoughtful posts. I especially like Ron Stephens’ post recommending letting some things that bother us stay in the “secret corners of our mind” so we can wrestle with them for a while rather than taking out feelings on some innocent person. This mature attitude requiring patience, and perhaps slowly counting to ten and some deep breathing, is so scarce in our society so awash with “trigger warnings”. I like too the other posts that suggesting being alone in God’s creation, taking the energy of anger and putting it to good use (cleaning, canning, etc.). But, it seems that to take ourselves less seriously is the best course and if we turn our hurt into helping someone else, that takes the focus off ourselves and makes the world a better place.

  • Reply
    October 18, 2018 at 10:37 am

    I don’t get angry easily, but if I do, I go for a drive down by a creek or take a walk and that will lift my spirit and turn my thoughts to the beauty that our Creator has placed on this earth. In regard to holding in ones feelings as not crying, I saw that with my father and my grandparents. I took it as they thought it was a sign of weakness and I attributed it to be a Scotch/Irish way of bringing up a family. Then I heard my Sunday School Teacher, who was raised in southern Illinois, say that they were told to cry would show a weakness and that she found it difficult to openly cry when she was young. I think it was a way of living for the generations before me and I don’t think it has anything to do with our ethnicity or the area we reside.

  • Reply
    October 18, 2018 at 9:17 am

    I just get in the car and go somewhere. My trips during that time never take me around people, as I just want to be alone when I’m mad. I watched Dolly Parton on a talk show and she said she does the same thing when she’s at home and mad at her husband. She said, “I just get out and go somewhere – like California.”

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    October 18, 2018 at 8:59 am

    Definitely gardening — digging, planting, deadheading, or weeding. Also writing. Years ago I worked as secretary to a very wise man who told me the first day on the job: “Whenever I dictate an angry, nasty letter to someone and tell you to type it and mail it today — don’t do it. Type it, stick it in a drawer, and give it to me the next day so I can tear it up.” That worked for him, and it seems a healthy way to do it.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    October 18, 2018 at 8:36 am

    There are secret corners in my mind I have never shared with anyone – and never will. I can’t see any good that could come from it. I do think that reservation is (or was?) common among Appalachian men. But it is a hard knot to me as far as understanding just why that is. It has a bunch of parts all snarled up.

    I guess maybe that part of not talking about it is an effort to not make an innocence person the brunt of our being ill. That means we have to wrestle it out for ourselves until we lose our head of steam. That seems to mean time alone while we are prickly.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    October 18, 2018 at 8:30 am

    When I’m bothered or in a huff about something I tend to do busy work. I’ll dive right in to some task and work at it like fighting fire. I also like to go for a walk which is better because after a bit I can calm down and clear my head and it is then that I realize my blessings and know that whatever is bothering me will pass. I start thinking about people I know or know of who are very sick or morning a loss and then I start to feel silly about my disposition.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    October 18, 2018 at 8:07 am

    I have always put on some good bluegrass music and danced around the dining room table. It is relaxing and good for me physically. I have found that the older I get the less things get to me. I was also always told “never let them see you cry” if someone hurt your feelings. I used to go take a shower and cry in there if I had too. I find that if someone hurts someone else like an old person or child or animal that makes me madder then if they mistreated me.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 18, 2018 at 7:54 am

    Do something! That’s my solution to any kind of tizzy I might be having. The ‘something’ changes over time but the ‘do’ is constant. Those have included cleaning house(especially mopping the floor), canning, raking leaves( I used to live with lots of trees around), cooking ( I love to cook so I can focus all my energy on it), reading, working in the studio, framing. I look for almost anything to focus my energy on and work myself out of a good mad!

  • Reply
    Ed Mauney
    October 18, 2018 at 6:41 am

    Way back about 35 years ago I was still working I had a river cabin and when I would get in tizzy or mad or just needed to just get away for a while. I Would make a side trip to the river. I Had a swing in side yard which was my shrink as some call therapist. I Would lay down planning just a few minutes but wouLd wake up sometimes an hr.or so ,or the dispatcher calling me over the radio. I Would wake not even knowing where I was for minutes. My and two girls said when I retired I Would stay at the river, less than a year I sold the place.because I left so much consternation down there.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    October 18, 2018 at 6:28 am

    I always used to work off a mad by cleaning my house until a friend pointed out I was putting all negative energy into a place that should bring comfort. Now I take a good long walk in the woods

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