“When the fully awakened village inside us knows how to properly channel these two emotions (anger and fear), their power becomes a healing force.” ~ Karla McLaren, The Language of Emotions
I’m learning to grapple with something recently, and it is this: I am angry.
Allow me to repeat: I am angry.
I’m angry about people telling me throughout my life that I should not be angry.
I’m angry my mother taught me anger was not “ladylike.”
Burned into my mind are my mother’s words to me as a young child:
“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
“Don’t be angry.”
“Just calm down.”
There’s a dangerous myth floating around society—it’s the myth that anger is bad and we should not feel it.
But I am angry.
And it’s beautiful. It’s okay. There is space for my anger. I can hold her, just like I can hold my happiness and my joy.
I’m a yogini, a therapist, and a yoga teacher. If I wanted to meditate away my anger right now I could, but I’m choosing not to. I’m choosing to sit with her. I’m not trying so hard anymore to make her go away. I’m not trying to transform her or control her or get rid of her anymore. I’m learning to let my anger be. She’s tired of being a second-class citizen in the inner workings of my mind and soul.
I’m allowing myself to be angry. I’m setting myself free from the notion that some emotions are “bad,” and even that some are “good.” Emotions are what they are. So I’m letting go of judgment.
The beautiful thing about this is that unlike in my childhood, my admission and acknowledgment of my anger does not mean the sky is falling. I won’t get in trouble with the cosmos, God, or the universe for accepting my anger and learning from her.
For those of us who grew up in dysfunctional households, we learned to either internalize our anger and never express it, or to express it with some combination of hurt, rage, or violence. These are two sides of the same destructive coin. Neither complete denial and repression of anger nor outbursts of rage are productive.
As a child, I was told I was “difficult” because I expressed my anger. But I never learned an appropriate way to express my anger. I learned anger was something to fear, to hold in until it raged out of me like a dormant volcano. And we all know what happens when a dormant volcano finally erupts.
In my early adulthood, someone close to me once asked, “What do you have to be so angry about?”
It’s taken me 10 years to be able to answer this question. I spent the first few years of therapy (and many thousands of hours in yoga classes) wanting to learn how not to be so angry. I practiced exhaling my anger away.
But this only allowed my destructive relationship with anger to persist, so I’m done apologizing for my anger. Starting now, I will express it:
I’m angry at the man who hit me, disrespected me, yelled at me, and degraded me.
I’m angry that I grew up in a household that didn’t model for me the kind of relationships I deserved.
I’m angry that I learned as a child to equate anger with violence and chaos with love.
I’m angry I was taught to stuff emotions in a box and then got in trouble when Pandora’s box could not be contained.
I’m angry my emotions were often invalidated, and that I was told what to feel, how to feel, and when to feel.
The funny thing about anger is that the more we try to control it, the more power we give it to control us.
What if we—yoga teachers, school teachers, therapists, and parents—stopped teaching people to control their anger and started teaching people to accept it? To learn from anger? What would it mean to allow anger to guide us and teach us versus trying to get rid of, ignore, and repress it?
Merely “letting go” of anger feels like an oversimplification if we let it go before she teaches us what she’s come here for.
How can we begin to undo the messages we receive in our homes, our schools, our relationships, and throughout our lives that anger is inherently bad?
I’ve sat on both sides of the couch—as therapist and client. Ignoring our anger can lead to depression, anxiety, relationship issues, discontent, and substance abuse.
Why would we be wired to feel anger if it didn’t serve a purpose?
Should we just “let go” of everything, or is there value to a young woman who’s been raped learning to stop being numb and start being angry at her rapist? Is there value in a young man finally allowing himself to be angry for the emotional invalidation he endured throughout his childhood?
And anger doesn’t mean aggression. Aggression is what follows when anger is not digested healthily.
I think we all fear the power of anger greatly. But instead of slamming doors like the “Angry Teenager” in me once did, I am channeling the anger through me.
I’m inviting her in and asking her what she has to teach me.
Through the stroke of my pen, I write: I am angry. I am allowing myself to feel anger.
I am not trying to get rid of her or change her. I am allowing her to pass through me and I accept her, as she is.
She is an inspiring and guiding voice.
Because I no longer fear her, I’m learning the transformative power my anger awakens. And once awakened, she cannot be put back to sleep.
It is only once fully awake that she is free to heal.
Author: Whitney Easton
Editor: Nicole Cameron