Learning to accept that angry feelings are a part of being human and finding safe ways to release them.
Safe Space to Scream
When you give your self permission to find and use a safe place
to scream, rant, rave and stomp when you're angry, you'll find a way
to communicate your feelings in the situation that stirred them!
The woman who raised me was filled with anger and bitterness that she frequently and unpredictably poured out on me. The flashes of her rage, in their heat or their iciness, devastated me. I would, each time, feel flayed: reduced to a cold, hard, walnut-sized knot suspended in a dark, freezing emptiness inside my skin.
For many of my earliest years I had a frequently recurring nightmare of standing, terrified, on a huge white parchment-like surface that was tearing and curling up over my little self while my mother's icy rage-filled voice relentlessly reverberated around and within me.
As I grew into my teens and her meanness toward me became more extreme, rage at her started to grow inside me. My agonizing experiences of having her anger directed at me made it impossible for me to consider doing that to anyone one else, including her. I couldn't yell back. Instead, I would flee to my room, close my door, stuff my pillow over my mouth and keep screaming "I hate you!" and "Leave me alone!"
Even this imploded exploding terrified me. So, fairly quickly, I learned to cut it off inside of me by "understanding" that my mother was a disturbed and damaged person, incapable of behaving more humanely. I promised my self I would never get that angry about anything or spill anger onto anyone. I would rather have died than become an angry, mean person like her. I felt so virtuous as, through the first 30 years of my life, I never got angry.
Instead, I ignored or made excuses for others' mistreatment of me. I was understanding and forgiving. I rose above the messy unpleasantness of conflict. I obeyed both my own personal commitment to my self and the overriding imperative of the larger culture: "good/nice girls don't get angry." Not surprisingly, I suffered periods of depression and self-loathing. (When we cut off from parts of our authentic selves, that loss of connection often manifests in our consciousness in just these ways.)
In my mid-thirties, as I began on a path of conscious spirituality, the culture's "nice girls don't get angry" message was overlaid by the "enlightened beings don't get angry" message of New Age philosophies. Beguiled by the light, I mostly evaded the darkness of anger. The familiar darkness of despair and depression was generally more comfortable, more acceptable to me.
Despite this three-layered suppression of anger, something would periodically seethe inside my belly bringing hateful thoughts and litanies into my head. I called this my craziness and struggled to abort or nullify it. Instead of feeling this anger, I would leave the situations and people that were stirring the unacceptable feelings in me.
In my early forties, I met and began a deep friendship with a woman wise in the ways of anger. Her ease and comfort with her own and others' angry feelings caught my attention. She didn't blow up at people when she was angry. She didn't walk away from conflict. She expressed her anger without meanness, without saying damaging things to the person with whom she was angry. I had never before experienced that as a possibility; it fascinated me.
She refused to believe that I never got angry about anything. That angered me – at least at first. Then, her disbelief became a doorway. Through her mentoring, I learned that anger is a normal part of everyone's emotional repertoire, neither good nor bad in and of itself. I opened to the startling possibility that anger could be felt and expressed without devastating me or the person with whom I might be angry.
The key here was recognizing that anger is both an energy and a content and that these two components are separable. We can work with the energetic portion by doing something physical to release it. We can do this releasing in ways that are safe: by our selves rather than on other people.
We can scream, rant, rave, or curse (in our cars in the slow lane, if it's not private enough elsewhere in our worlds). We can do that stomping around the house or we can do it while having a heel kicking, fist-pounding tantrum on our beds. We can (kneeling beside them) beat on cushions or our mattress with our hands clasped into a single fist, beat at door jams with a beanbag pillow or slam balls against a backboard with a tennis racket. We can beat on drums or gongs (this and screaming in my car worked best for me). We can make safe places to break things we gather just for this purpose (plates from Goodwill/garage sales or glass bottles we're going to recycle) or pound on scrap wood with hammers. (Beating a repeatedly malfunctioning calculator to smithereens with a hammer was exhilarating!) We can throw rocks at boulders or into water. We can tear or shred paper or fabric we've set aside to use just for this. Whatever we choose to do, we need to be careful that it not physically hurt us in the doing. Otherwise, we're giving our selves permission for the releasing while (with the hurt) punishing our selves for doing it.
If you consider exploring your angers, experimenting with how it feels to release some of that energy in any of these ways, it's good to think about whether it might feel better/safer to buddy with a friend, alternating being witness for each other. If actually doing some releasing activity feels too scary, just playing with visualizing the doing helps move us along. Remember to go slowly and to breathe while you do any of it. Start with just a few seconds of it and, as you get more comfortable, gradually add more time. Having palpitations, feeling anxious, sobbing or laughing hysterically are all likely possible accompaniments. Stop, take breaks, go on to other things and come back another time. Don't push.
Baby (or even nano-) steps are the rule for starting on this journey. (This kind of energy releasing can also be done as a daily practice like teeth-brushing as a way to unpack years of unexpressed anger/rage.)
When we've blown the energy out for the moment, or done as much of this as we feel ready to do just now, the content of our anger typically becomes clearer to us. We can see just what triggered it. Knowing this, we can explore what it is we need to do differently in the situation where it was stirred. Or, see what it is we need to communicate to the people with whom our anger was stirred. We can do this straightforwardly and calmly without fear that the unaddressed energy of our anger will spill out.
Remember, when we women express the content of our anger, we often cry or fill with tears. It is important to know (and let the people you're confronting know) that the tears do not take away from the anger we are communicating.
Consider taking time to be with and release the energy of your anger in ways that feel safe.