This blog is about a recurrent theme in my life, a continuous practice, and one that only this week proved it’s value, yet again.
Owning my anger
Or in other words: taking responsibility for my anger.
Anger has never been an emotion I feel comfortable with. And yet I used to be angry a lot. Learning to accept, own, and express my anger has been an powerful learning curve for me. And it has also been one that has given me a lot, so I wanted to write about it.
I have been surpressing my anger for years. I had a lot of assumptions about why expressing my anger would be a very un-wise thing to do: fear of destroying connection, fear of not being liked. Fear of being seen as a little crazy. And being liked and not being seen as crazy were things I was pretty invested in.
So I did not express my anger, straightforwardly. I had good reasons.
Which did not mean it did not come out
I realised that when I don’t express my anger, in the moment I feel it, it gets warped. It does not go away, it just comes out in different ways: resentment, bitchiness, withdrawal, victim behaviour. If I don’t take responsibility for it, it can be very destructive for myself and my relationships.
Anger is powerful. Un-owned anger can be very destructive
So I found out along the way that the very reason I was not expressing my anger was actually creating those things I feared in my relationships. I was being destructive by notwanting to be destructive. Yep. That was a big one. I still feel the impact writing that down as it is sinking in on a deeper level.
So it was time to start exploring this powerful beast. I needed to learn about my anger. I started (and let’s face it: needed) to get curious about my anger.
There is power in my anger
And it scares me. In my world owning that full power also means letting go of control. Letting life take me. Letting things get messy. Letting myself get messy. That is still very much something I am learning to relax more into. I like being in control of my anger. And yet the anger rattling my cage was challenging that. There was something calling me. Not owning my anger felt safer, more managable. It also felt smaller, and less alive.
When I allow myself to fully tap into my anger I also feel full of energy. Life force. Power. Rawness. And while it’s deeply vulnerable, I realised I do not want to dim down that sense of aliveness anymore.
So how to go about that, without raging around like a destructive lunatic crazy woman, destroying everything in my path? (and I must admit, a part of that sentence does deeply appeal to me 😉
Something about anger that greatly helped me: in Traditional Chinese Medicine anger is one of the five main emotions (joy, worry, sadness, fear, anger). And according to this paradigm all emotions should be in balance and freely expressed. They need to flow. Anger needs to flow. This means, that if I am only joyful – I am out of balance.
Yes. Let that one sink in for a moment. When I first heard that, I stopped in my tracks.
It was one of those big moments of insight.
Anger needs to flow. And it’s not better or worse than any other emotion. It just is.
That realisation was the start of a real shift.
And the start of a budding relationship. I began with paying more attention to what was happening inside of me in all those moments of fuming away. For instance; I realised that my anger and my personal boundaries are very often connected. I started to see, how often and how quickly I used to give my power away, and how quickly, and initually without noticing it, I let my boundaries be crossed. And I saw that my anger was often a signal that I am not honouring myself, my boundaries, or my needs in a subtle (or not so subtle) way. It was pointing at something important. I realised that my anger is a way of creating space, a way of reclaiming space that I am either unconsciously giving away, or that somebody else wants to impede upon.
I learned to start catching myself when I notice my old behaviours creeping in. When I start feeling resentful and extremely bitchy I pause. What’s going on?” I ask myself: “What’s important here? Does someting need to be expressed? What do I need? Or: what do I need to say?”
And I slowly realised that by taking more responsibility for my own boundaries and needs, I would not have to get so angry all the time. And when I did get angry, it was often simply a sign that I unconsciously had crossed one of my boundaries. I learned to speak up earlier, and I learned to take responsibility for my anger and not let it warp into more destructive ways of behaviour. I started owning it.
When I say ‘owning it’, I mean this: acknowledging that it’s my emotion and taking responsibility for it. And even though I have practised owning my experience for years, especially with anger it takes continuous awarenss. In the sheer wildness and intensity of the emotion it’s really tempting to find someone to blame. And yet, when I do that I am not fully owning it. I am negating parts of my anger. I allow myself to be radically honest towards myself and truly acknowledge what I am feeling, without bending it towards someone else or play victim of the situation, there is often more that can be expressed. If I stop squirming, there is a clarity that emerges; this is what is true. For me. In this moment. This is important.
Fully owning my anger is a full commitment to radically showing up
And that’s the anger I am learning to trust: the pure expression. The raw emotion. It means something is important. Important enough to get angry about.
It might come out messy initially. I might allow myself to get royally pissed off at somebody and not play nice (like I said, continous practice). It’s like a flare. It comes and goes, like a good cry. Genuine anger doesn’t linger for days (that’s resentment people – know the difference)
And, after that burst of emotion, I still practise staying in relationship. I want to be able, when I cool down, to talk about stuff, see how it lands, hear impact. And even though I would like to squirm there as well on some occassions (I can be so invested in staying angry!), I also want to get over myself and face the facts. And also show up there. It’s very non-comprimising.
For me, expressing my anger has had some amazing impact. First, just the sheer space I experience when I fully allow it. The sense of freedom and strength. The sense of having stood up for something that matters. And in relationship it has often paved the way for deeper connection. When I am willing to show up in anger, it also means I am willing to get vulnerable. It means the relationship matters. And to have that met with either receptivity or matching intensity, has almost always transformed things. Like a thunderstorm clears the air. And left a deeper sense of freshness. Of things being washed clean, or burned away. Of being with what is really true in this moment.
Anger. It is a rocky relationship at best. And I am starting to appreciate it’s quirky and unpredictable nature. It’s hardly ever convenient. And while that edginess around expressing it might never go away, I am learning to trust it more and more. To see it’s wisdom. It’s beauty. It’s clarity.
There’s power in there. And life.
Picture by: nmsmith