Often in our anger lies our truth. It can be the force that finally propels us to leave a bad relationship or work situation, or say no to what is not best for us and give ourselves permission to change – for the better. When we finally hit that moment when we are fed up, hit our limit, are just done, it can be a defining moment for what is next for us.
It is in these moments that we finally can let go and allow ourselves the freedom to move on from whatever it is that is no longer serving us. When we stop and let ourselves feel the rage we have been bottling, and give ourselves space and quiet to process it, a voice speaks to us. And if we take the time to listen, we can hear our true heart’s desire, and connect to our soul’s wisdom.
Too often, though, we turn our anger toward others, or look for validation, or, worse, turn our rage inwards in the form of self-blame and loathing. Instead, if we can be curious about our anger, we can learn from it. If we can process through it, we can hear our truth and muster the courage to act from a place of clarity toward what is ultimately best for us.
In my rage, I finally found my power – power I had given away throughout my life – power that my anger enabled me to reclaim. It was not easy and it was a process I went through over and over again. It is only now as I look back that I can see how it unfolded for me and how ultimately my anger helped me. It helped me by shaking me up to take action.
It was my anger that finally made me get out of bed after my husband had taken his life. I remember telling myself, ‘I am not a victim, I will not be a poor thing, my children will not be made to be felt sorry for. This is not how we will live.’
Sadness and guilt kept me stuck in a pity party for myself (and in bed), but the anger drove me to action. Action to do better for me and for my girls, and it also brought me, oddly enough, to compassion. Once I could unleash the anger and let it go, it brought to me clarity, courage, composure and ultimately compassion. On the other end of anger was compassion. Compassion for me, for my girls, for my husband, and for all of those who triggered my anger.
I now see this process unfold in the clients I work with. They often try to push down their anger or feel guilty about having it in the first place. We so often associate anger with being bad instead of recognizing that it is a part of being human, just as much as any other emotion. And we often wait for a moment for something really bad to happen to ignite us to change. We wait to be a victim so we do not have to own our choices and make someone else angry, or be seen as the ‘bad one.’ I hear far too often, “if I just got laid off then I would make a change,” or “if he would leave me then I could start living my life the way I want.” We are so afraid of action and being ‘bad’ we swim in a slow boil of misery until we hit our boiling point. We wait for the fateful day, as depicted in my favorite quote by Anis Nin, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
That fateful day, the one where the acknowledgment of anger, the boiling point happened, typically occurs a couple of months in from the start of our work together.
The dialogue often goes like this:
They say to me, “ I am not good today.”
And I ask “why do you say that? “
“I am really angry.” “ I feel like saying fuck it.” “I am done with this/him/it/them/being this way/being treated this way.”
They are shocked when I say to them, “Good. I have been waiting for you to say that. You should be angry. Now our work together really begins.”
Like sadness, anger is often a feeling we are told to repress, and not feel. It is a place none of us would like to stay, but if we do not allow it and process it, then we cannot let go out of it. We carry it around with us everywhere – in our relationships, at home, at work.
And if we get curious about it and understand what that anger is really telling us, we can actually start to shift not only how we feel, but also how we live. We can start to live in our truth, and NOT in our anger.
How to channel our anger for our own good.
- Create Space for Yourself and Unleash It – When you feel anger, allow yourself the space to process it alone For me, that means going for a long run. This may not always be possible given your situation, but give yourself the space to process this alone. Excuse yourself and find a space where you can let go safely without bringing any harm to yourself or others.
- Feel It and Process Through It – Now let yourself be with the anger and the rage. This is not a time to tell yourself everything will be ok. Right now you are bloody mad, and that is ok. You must feel it to release it and process it. Let yourself have every moment of pissyness. For my girls, this meant screaming into a pillow or hitting a punching bag. Now let yourself have the aftermath of rage, which is tears, sadness and pain. Feel it and let it run through you. Let yourself be cleansed by your tears and sorrow.
- Breathe, Listen and Get Curious – As the tears become more controllable, begin to take a few deep belly breaths and come back to yourself. Slow yourself and quiet your mind. Place your hand on your heart and listen. Listen to what your heart says. You have the wisdom inside of you. Your anger has shaken you to awaken your heart and soul. Quiet your mind to hear what it has to say. Ask yourself, What should I learn from this anger? Listen and receive your message, your lesson, and your truth.
- Act and Own It– This can be hardest step. We have felt the pain and we have processed through it, and now we know what the best thing for us to do is. To act on it is a different story. This requires faith and courage in our belief. Sometimes it takes us cycling through this process multiple times before we act differently, and own our situation. We can take years until the pain and anger becomes so intolerable that we finally break free and listen to what our inner wisdom has been trying to tell us for so long. This is where the real courage comes in. To trust ourselves and follow what our heart and soul are telling us what to do.
There is always a choice: to live in the anger or to process through it to the other side, enabling us to live in our truth.