Rage has been my good friend and teacher, an amazing force in my life. That power, such awesome power, has been a wonderful guide.
We live in a culture that fears anger, and is fully repulsed by rage. And perhaps that might be an acceptable defense mechanism. We all have experienced anger and rage misused (i.e. repressed), and yup, it can be a highly uncomfortable force. Repression of anger creates an underground turbulence, kind of like living near an earthquake fault line, with constant trembles threatening to erupt, hinting at a massive explosion. And because repression is ultimately futile, it will reach a limit, and then add even more force to the explosion of anger when it finally releases.
And repression is still the major operating force here in our culture, especially of anger and rage.
Our culture is wrought with layers and layers of expected behavior, and our automatic movement to repress our anger and rage can be invisible. We have even built a whole spiritual ideal that defines anger as wrong, problematic, and unnecessary. I often bump up against the argument that a mature spiritual life means never having to experience anger or rage; that anger can, and should, be replaced with a more mindful, or patient, or meditative state. The argument is that any of these “better” qualities can replace the “base” emotion of anger, and be a shining example of one’s supreme spiritual evolution!
And this is tragic, really. From my point of view, it’s so, so, sad. Because anger and rage are magnificent teachers. Anger is a force of immense power. It shows us where and how our authentic rhythm is being manipulated. It’s a moral compass like none other…and shows up when our authenticity is being abandoned, when our natural boundaries are being crossed. It blazes when there is a force of harm moving against our person-hood. It’s often home to our “No!”, which is as essential as our “Yes!”. Anger is power, is voice, is profound clarity, and is agency.
But we don’t often get this amazing teaching, because anger is so habitually repressed and avoided. And, repressed anger becomes wildly distorted and loses all its magnificence and value. It explodes inappropriately, raining harm and sometimes violence. It creates illness in the body, and illness in our families. It creates impasses to intimacy, and fairly regretful behavior. And it creates that inertia you may feel, that lack of motivation or vital aliveness, that depression, numbness, and disconnection. We are rightly afraid of repressed anger.
The habit of repression is so constant, with such societal pressure, such profound judgment and shaming and humiliation placed on anger. And there is an internal damnation consistently doing the same, shaming and humiliating. From where I am standing, this behavior creates such unnecessary harm.
But thankfully, this can be easily shifted. Because anger and rage are so powerful, they can be loosened from repression fairly easily, and become master teachers of power, clarity, and agency in our lives.
So, I guess I might also point out: Anger is usually private…it’s personal. It’s not always appropriate to share it with your family or community. It’s something that you can move with into a room of your own, or outside away from others. And then it can be beautifully expressed in a pillow, in a fit of tears, in a journal, in a tearing apart of a stack of paper, in a long run along the shoreline, or in the forest. Or my personal favorite, buy a set of very inexpensive dishes from the thrift store. Yah, baby! You know what I am saying, that shattering is awesome! (Too scary? Drop by my house one day when I have smashed all the dishes to teach my friend that anger is not going to kill anyone, and you will see that it can be a really fun time!)
Repressed anger can’t be very easily handled. It’s the very pressure of repression that creates such an uncontrollable explosion, and those explosions, as we all know so very well, are wild and bullet-like. And I am sure you have been properly shamed for any such explosions you may have had, and I am sure you have properly shamed others for the same. So I want to offer you an apology on behalf of all of the world’s citizens, for asking you to shame your family and neighbors when they are in a fit of rage, and for your own need to repress your anger, which has initiated such a toxic internal environment for you, and an perhaps an overly explosive relationship to anyone in its path. I am sorry, I am so sorry this collective insanity has stolen your god-given right to this glorious force of nature, to your own glorious voice, agency, clarity, and power.
I am also offering you an opportunity to declare your body and person-hood a safe zone, a repression- free zone for anger, and if you’re up for the challenge… rage. I want to suggest that you could make a personal commitment to no longer repress this beautiful force, and go ahead and set up your world as a safe harbor for anger. This may include getting a punching bag set up in the basement, telling the family a “safe word”…and when you say it, you’ll be heading to the basement for a little exercise…and yay, maybe there is an old set of dishes down there too! This will help release the habitual repression, releasing anger from its buried hold, and allow you more fluent access to your beautiful NO! And it will begin to shake up that inertia and numbness, and start to give that depression a lift.
And then, when it shows up while you’re driving, or when your child has just pushed your buttons, or a neighbor or boss, or banker, or politician has just crossed a moral boundary with you…you will not be pressured to repress your authentic response, but instead be available for your own perfect no, your own voice and your own agency. Perhaps you may choose to step aside, and let it, your glorious anger, express in a private space while you honor its power, and listen for the clarity and agency. Regardless, I highly recommend that you let it speak to you, clarifying for you a pathway of how you authentically need to move forward. Because you’re available to listen, you might notice that path that the anger has illuminated is guiding you towards more harmony and personal right action in the world. ( See: Jesus and famous fit of rage with the money changers in front of the temple!)
So, when you drive down the road and see me parked off to the side, screaming into the sky, you will know that I love my rage and I love all the amazing ways its leads me to clarity. And I tell all the haters to step back from the spiritual supremacy story that there is no need for such things as anger and rage, because this power will not be judged on my watch…
Fear. It’s a very potent emotion. And ironically, a devoted spiritual practice can sometimes bring us an awesome amount of experience with this emotion. And…
The light returns and new year begins…. There is a spaciousness that presupposes all form. We all know this from Grade 6 science. You don’t…