Quite frankly, anger used to scare the shit out of me. By the time I reached my mid-20’s, whether being on the giving or receiving end, I wanted nothing to do with it.
As a young child, I was the princess of temper-tantrums. Yet over time, dealing with my father’s, at times, violent anger and also noticing that I was often left to apologize for being angry rather than having my experience acknowledged or having support to tune into the unmet needs I had underneath, I trained myself to people-please and question my anger when it arose, instead.
I learned, as most of us do, to judge anger as a “negative” or “bad” emotion. I think we all can get why…at its most primal, anger can literally cause us to kill. As a woman, though, there was heavy social training to never express anger…and it had nothing to do with being murderous and everything to do with unconsciously (and consciously) stifling our power. I was taught that “good girls don’t express anger.” “Good girls are polite, forgiving, compassionate.” “Good girls are responsible for other people’s emotions.” “If you are not happy, then it must be my fault.” And I’m supposed to be a “good girl,” if I want your approval, right? Then, I will feel good…right? In all of this training to repress anger, I was taught to seek my power outside of myself, and my entire capacity to feel ANYTHING became limited.
When we do not allow for the full expression of our emotions, we limit the full experience of ANY of them. Meaning, if I don’t allow myself to fully experience my anger, than I limit my ability to fully experience peace. If I limit my ability to feel my sadness all of the way, I limit my ability to experience joy. I have found that healthy expressions of anger and reclaiming and speaking my voice when I notice anger arising with its fire in my body has led to an experience of deep pleasure and confidence that I had not previously been able to access.
Beyond the “good girl” training is what I’ve come to call “Spiritual Bypassing” my emotions. As I began walking a spiritual path, and learned that there are no victims, villains or heroes, that no one is to blame for my experience, that we are all creating our reality…then I got REALLY confused around anger. More than ever, I began pointing it inward toward myself. If another person said or did something that crossed a boundary, that triggered hurt in my being, that went against my values, I would think, “He or she didn’t MEAN to hurt my feelings. I understand WHY he/she did that. I need to find a way to forgive this person and not be angry.”
Then anger, looking for somewhere to release, would unleash a host of raging furies in my mind and burn through my stomach and chest. “Why was I so stupid?” “That wouldn’t have happened if I had only done or not done….” “If I’m the one creating my reality then it’s my FAULT this happened…” and on and on and on until I was in excruciating pain.
A mind that won’t stop spinning. Self-doubt. Debilitating anxiety. Deep shame. If left unexpressed, the sharp knife of anger unleashes poison in our bodies and minds, and our sense of power diminishes, bit by bit, until we are left feeling unworthy of having what we truly desire.
I see this in my clients again and again–when a person comes to me saying that no matter how much she has read, how many people have told her, how much she KNOWS in her mind that she is worthy of love…that she STILL feels unworthy of having what she wants, I KNOW that she has loads of unexpressed anger. Her “Good Girl/Spiritual Bypasser” has been on hyper-drive.
And so here is a practice that I now do with my clients and practice myself:
- Find a space where you know that you can be as free to express, move around and make noise as possible. If you can have a safe friend or loved one as a witness and support, this is even better. (If you need to use a pillow to mute noise and or stomp/kick on your bed in order to not alarm your neighbors, that works, too.)
- If you are alone, begin by writing out EVERYTHING that you can think of that is pissing you off without stopping until you’ve gotten it all in the page. If you are with a loved one, speak without stopping until it’s all out. No censoring. Be as nasty as you can be. Point the blame outward. Turn someone else into a villain and blame the crap out of them if you have to. Just get it out and let the anger rise within you.
- Next, I want you to stand up and start stomping your feet, one after the other. Start punching the air or shaking your wrists. Growl. Yell. Scream. Cry. Let yourself feel mad at the whole universe. Just GET IT OUT. Give yourself a good 3-5 minutes to let ‘er rip. (Again, scream into a pillow and kick and punch the crap out of your bed if you need to.)
- When you are reaching a point of completion with this process, you will feel a sense of relief rising up in your body…and a sense of greater expansion and peace. I, then, invite you to find some pleasurable music…whatever will inspire you to move your body, and then dance. Let your hips move. Let yourself experience the full pleasure of being in your body as you ground your emotions and find your calm, yet awakened center.
What occurs in everyone whom I’ve taken through this process is a clarity and confidence that they could not access before. Where there was a sense of worthlessness, there is now power. Where there was shame, there is self-compassion. Where there was self-doubt there is self-trust. A fierce part of you has been reclaimed and given voice and suddenly new actions, rooted in your truth, begin to arise.
You may find that there is a conversation you need to have with someone in order to speak your truth. You may find that it’s time to leave that relationship. You may find that you can NOW forgive your mother, father, partner, colleague. Once you let the anger move through you, you will be released from its grips and you will know what to do.
Anger is alchemizing. Its job is to tell us what is a “NO” for us…to clearly let us know what we do NOT want so that we can make room for what we DO want. If anger is left unexpressed we are not able to rewrite the patterns that are causing us harm. We continue to draw the same scenarios and relationships until we face what we have been unwilling to face and draw our line in the sand. When we fully express our anger, we write a new signature in our being, we declare what is no longer acceptable and we make room to call in what will truly bring us joy.
It is true that there are no victims, villains and heroes, which means that you are not responsible for protecting others from your truth. When you allow yourself to fully express ALL of your emotions, you liberate others to do the same. When you speak your truth…even if it means expressing the messiness of anger in order to do so, you create the opportunity for all people to rise into their power and live a life that is truly in integrity with the loving beings that they were born to be. Anger is not only necessary, as it helps us clarify our boundaries, it also clears out the space in our beings to love, generously, with all that we are.
May you come to know your anger intimately and let its magic transform your life.