🔥 A few days ago, I had coffee with a friend, the best kind of friend, the kind that asks you huge questions like “What are you most afraid of these days Anne?” I went into myself to feel this question, and I stared at him for a little while. Then, from this ache in my chest, I said: “I am afraid of what my anger can do.” His question came toward the end of our time together, so after he left, I sat there by myself in a hot mess of emotions (Thanks a lot Nick ; ) but really, thank you ) and this is what I wrote...
I remember rage, in Grade 10. I was in Quebec city with my basketball team playing a tournament game against an all-girl private school team, and they were vicious. When the refs weren’t looking, they’d trip us on purpose and throw elbows in the rib cage any chance they had. None of the coaches were seeing what was happening, and I remember just steaming inside. I’d never experienced anything like that. Then, in the last quarter, I saw my friend go down in pain. One of the girls from the other team grabbed one of her breasts and twisted it until she was on the floor. Something in me snapped, and I unleashed. I ran towards the girl, screaming and cursing at her, and in a fit of rage, I began to pound on her until we were both on the ground and coaches pulled us apart. I was suspended for the rest of the game plus 2 more games after that.
I wasn’t so much concerned about the suspension. I was mortified by what I’d done. In that moment, when I went from zero to 60 in what felt like a split second, I didn't have any control over my reaction. The injustice of it all and the loyalty I felt toward my friend seemed to justify my actions and I did not for one second question what I was doing. Something in me was capable of violence and it scared the shit out of me. I felt ashamed that I displayed this rage publicly. After that, I became very careful in my environment. I feared anger, I didn’t understand it, so I decided to avoid conflict as much as I could. Better not unleash this beast again. I didn’t know then that this was simply the consequence of unexpressed anger I had kept at bay for years.
Fast forward to now. “Be Still And Know, I Am God” is my meditation mantra. So zen, right? Inspired by Joseph Benner’s The Impersonal Life, embodying divine light and love, inviting and allowing impersonal soul and all of Source to move and express through the personal vessel that is me has been my fascination and my practice, personally and professionally, for the past 3 years. Yes, it has expanded my experience of peace and stillness inside me in ways I could not have imagined…
Then this fall happens… and this zen girl blew up!
When my daughter went through her bout with anxiety this past September (she is doing much better btw) and I watch her go through the process of feeling this new intensity in her body and discovering her voice ON FIRE, it stirred up old wounds. Her unapologetic expression of self and her fierce advocacy and protection for her own non-negotiable needs was so inspiring and to my surprise, it awakened a sleeping dragon, a wildfire I had no idea I carried in me. The whole thing threw me off completely.
My first step was to discern what belonged to me and what belonged to my daughter so I didn’t project onto her what was mine so I could be there for her without the confusion of my own baggage. So separately but alongside her healing, I did mine, and I sat with this super uncomfortable hot mess of a feeling. And I discovered it was a lot of anger. I was pissed off and frustrated, but I didn’t know at what or who, and I did not like not knowing.
I am good with fully feeling emotions. It’s what I do, it’s my specialty. I have a lot of experience with joy, hurt, despair, shame, inspiration, shame, exuberance, sadness, even impatience, and frustration, but I realized I had very little tools to help my process anger.
I never thought of myself as an angry person. But looking back, I can see that I have always been a little restless and agitated. I developed means to transmute this unease, using writing, physical exercise, meditation, breath work, art, or going for a walk in nature, to allow the fire to move and settle in me. I took care of it quietly, on my own, in a controlled, subdued way. I can see clearly now that I avoided conflict, and my psyche was working very hard at keeping this anger hidden and under wrap. I never really needed another way to deal with it, until this fall when it peaked its ugly head out.
I asked for help. I opened up to someone I trust and I allowed my anger to be heard and witnessed, in all its childishness and pettiness. It was really hard. I was ashamed of these "ugly" feelings, and I realized I was scared I’d lose love if I showed this side of me. Speaking it released me and I began to see even more clearly.
I started to re-familiarize myself with this anger. I still couldn’t see the intelligence of it, and my ego wasn’t sure it was a good thing, but I knew better than to defy “what is.” I was feeling it, so I was going to stay with it until something new happened.
So when my friend ask me a few days ago what I was most afraid of in my life right now, and I answered: “I am afraid of what my anger can do,” I meant that I couldn’t see where all this intensity was leading me. I don’t have many points of reference for healthy anger, and I was afraid that this anger would make me bitter and that it might isolate me from the people I love. I was also fearful that it would now define me and make me emotionally unsafe for others.
So I broke it down. I am afraid of anger because… I do remember losing love over it. I remember that when I did express my anger, I did lose connection, attention, and respect from the people who’s love meant everything to me. I have carried in me a belief that in order to keep the love and therefore stay safe, I can’t let anger take over. Not to mention that it is not very sweet for a young girl to have a temper. Without a healthy mechanism for being on the receiving end of anger, I have also learned how to pull away from others who show this intensity, out of protection.
But what I realize now is that it wasn’t the anger itself I was scared of, it was the loneliness, and the abandonment anger could bring. It was the rage, the bitterness, and the manipulative consequences of anger I was fearful about. Because disembodied fire can hurt people.
Anger is fire, and I am quite excited about my fire, I just never had the opportunity to understand it like I do now. When fire is disembodied or un-grounded, it can be violent and hurtful. And when it is suppressed and left unexpressed for years, it can lead to bitterness and resentment. That’s the anger we fear. Not anger itself. Anger is healthy. Anger is passion, clarity, creativity, and gets things done. It's like a fire that burns out and leaves nutrients for something new to grow. When I speak anger I make light manifest. And I accelerate my becoming.
Last winter, during my extended hibernation healing cocoon, I was asking myself the question: who was I before I began to please others, and before others needed me? I came to understand that I was was pure joy, but now I know I also was angry. And back then, it felt right and expansive, not scary. It was pure light.
My new love affair with my fire is unfolding and now includes anger and it’s hot!
I see how all emotions, thoughts and spirited action, including embodied anger, are fuelled by divine light, the Impersonal Self, the I Am God Force. Nothing comes from darkness. Nothing. It is the fire of life-force that pushes through our body and attempts to fill the shadowy spaces that we experience as intensity. It has a strong will to reshape the landscape of past hurt in our being, wanting to express through the narrow passages of our beliefs, of our throat. The pressure we feel is what creates the suffering, and intensifies the ego that wants to blame and judge. Not the light itself. So when that light gets to be spoken in the very moment it rises in us, with the discernment of grounded intuition, we literally shape our world and create our destiny. We become.
Maya Angelou says it best (thank you Paul for finding this gem)
“If you’re not angry, you’re either a stone, or you’re too sick to be angry. You should be angry. You must not be bitter. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure. So use that anger, yes. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it.
I feel like I am finally in on a huge secret. I am excited for where this will take me, take us. Let's never stop talking it. Let's become, together. 🔥
Photo by Jeff Keni Pulver