Like many people, I’ve gone through life sorting my feelings into bad and good. I’ve censored the bad feelings and glorified the good.
So why wasn’t I happy? Why did I always feel tired?
It’s a cliché, but here it is: repressing our feelings is catastrophic to our well-being.
When we repress our “bad” feelings, they have to emerge somehow, and this usually comes in the form of illness, both physical and psychological.
There are hundreds of nuanced emotions we can experience, but at the core our our beings there are only four fundamental emotions:
Love, joy, fear, and anger.
I’ve recently tapped into a vast reservoir of my anger, and I understand why I’ve repressed it. It’s terrifying. I felt the rage pour through me, so powerful it made me want to scream.
I’m not talking about the anger one might feel toward any current events in our world, whether it’s our political circuses or that rude person on public transport. To me, that is escaped anger. It can feel intense, and it tends to flash through many of us without control, but it’s not really what we’re angry about.
I’m talking about a deeper, darker, more insidious anger at the root of the escaped anger, which hosts a matrix of other hostile emotions. Rage, hate and jealousy are all on the same spectrum; they cannot exist without each other. This anger is old. It comes from our childhood, it’s passed to us by our ancestors, and (if you believe in them), it comes from our previous lifetimes.
This unresolved anger has lain within me like a violent animal, craving to lash out. And, thankfully, through rigorous social conditioning, I know that I can’t do that, nor do I want to.
It’s my anger after all. I can’t put it on others.
People in the know have often communicated the importance to me of “feeling my feelings” but that’s always been the big struggle. When I allow myself to “just feel” my sadness or loneliness I tend to get bogged down in it. There was no way I could get stuck in anger—it was too scary, and I think that’s why I never allowed myself to go there.
But recently, working with this anger, I’ve realised how to actually process and digest this most-difficult emotion.
1. Accept it. Recognize it’s there.
2. Breathe into it. Experience it. This is slightly different from “feeling it.” Feeling an emotion has the sense of going into its centre, and being consumed by it, whereas experiencing something implies retaining our individual perspective while still tuning into the emotion. The breath helps greatly with this.
3. Don’t try to purge it. Stop labelling it as bad, or something that needs to be gotten rid of. Breathe in and out, experiencing the emotion, without any intention of purging it. Let it be, and observe.
4. Notice how it feels without the negative associations. This was the life-changing revelation for me about anger. I realized that, without the resistance and fear I felt toward it, anger was nothing but pure power. I know someone who lived with the Inuits for years on a diet of raw walrus meat, and he told me that eating that meat was like eating adrenaline. Anger is the walrus meat of our psyche. Without judgement, it is 100 percent pure energy.
5. Enjoy it. Without the negative associations, anger is bringing me on an amazing journey. It is teaching me about myself, about how to own my power and my sexuality. It is connected to everything.
Anger has many negative connotations, but what we truly sacrifice through our conflict with anger is a deeper, raw, passionate, powerful part of ourselves that is unbridled and beautiful.
It’s a challenging journey, but if there’s one thing the spiritual path has taught me it’s that we will never reach a safe and comfortable spot. The journey is dynamic, and it lasts forever. Learn to dance with your emotions, and watch them guide you to the inner gifts you so desire.
The Sacrifice of Anger
my old friend.
I didn’t even
know you were there.
Long ago, I resisted.
Away from your fire;
Your burn of desire
To be felt,
To be powerful.
I cloaked you in sadness,
My suppression wore a beaming mask
With glittering teeth,
Peeled back lips,
And terrified eyes.
Terrified of the energy
That threatened to destroy
The being I created.
The “good girl”
Who never got shouted,
Or was anything but noble and kind.
I tried so hard to create
This perfect being,
But every day she shattered
Like the glass she was.
Forged without power,
Forged from the cold steel mills of repression,
She faded to a colorless cut;
A tight shaft of depression…
I finally hear anger’s call,
And it’s not the sinister evil I feared.
It’s a warrior’s “Oop.”
A road that roars,
And cuts loose.
I drop into that space
In the darkness,
Twisted away for lifetimes,
there was a gold house of power there,
Currency I desperately craved
When lying on my bed
All I needed to do
Was embrace my dragon
And then dance.
Author: Yolanda Barker
Image: Zak Cannon/Flickr
Editor: Toby Israel