One of the many things I love about this work is the opportunity to get to work with women and their anger. Anger is, for people raised female in our culture, the number one emotion that gets shut down. It gets shut down early and hard, and most of us as adults have some interesting ways we've locked up our anger, and by our thirties or forties, many find that anger is demanding outlets, whether we "like" it or not.
There is so much to say about working with anger, and so many perspectives and tools I use with clients (and in my own life) Today I wanted to speak about the wisdom in anger. Anger usually brings up our desire to avoid it or make it stop. We, rightly, don't want to hurt those around us. We are so busy running from our anger, afraid of what we might do or say, that we don't get a chance to listen to its wisdom. We don't even pause to be curious if it has wisdom.
Anger experienced skillfully can be felt as a sense of heightened clarity. What I don’t want to do and what I do want to do, can be more clear when I am angry. What I want to say, and what I refuse to have others say to me is clear. Anger is often the alarm bell telling us what is just and equitable in the world, and what is unfair and harmful in the world. The next few steps on the path illuminated. My refusal to do what isn’t on my path strengthened. The strength of the willpower, the energy given by anger, burns within me. Not as not as a fire that burns those around me, but as a light.
Allowing ourselves to truly feel how angry we are is scary, and vulnerable, and also offers us a tremendous potential source of energy and power. We would do well to consider allowing ourselves to feel it without constraint, and being skillful in how we act after we've had some space and time with the feeling. More time spent dancing, yelling in the woods, pounding on the earth, throwing the heaviest stones you can find, writing scathing letters to the ones who hurt you and then burning the letters . . . none of this hurts the people you love. It does release some of the pressure that is building up, and allows you to begin to discern when your anger is telling you something important about what is happening right now, and when it is telling you something important about what happened in the past but still feels present for you. Sometimes, it will be both.
Do you have favorite rituals for releasing anger? I'd love to hear about them.