The Power of Anger / Inquiry + Practice
Anger can be a really potent access point, especially for women. When we experience anger regularly, or in a way that feels out of control, it can be a very useful barometer of our internalized sense of self-worth and power. Both self-worth and power rest on, literally, a strong sense of self. And when I say ‘sense of self,’ I mean a physical, visceral, felt sense of existence! If you can't feel your feet on the ground or track tension in your body, if you have a hard time acknowledging emotional needs or sexual desire, it is very likely that anger is all too familiar to you.
Let me be clear: anger in and of itself is not a problem. Anger becomes problematic when left unchecked and unregulated. The best way to regulate anger is not as some people would like you to believe - to put on a smile and turn towards the light and only say positive things always about everybody - but instead to look at it, to feel it, to let that fire consume your skin in order to shed the layer of disbelief that you don't have a right to feel your feelings. Being afraid of anger, or denying the presence of anger, the reality of anger, is a great way to ensure self-sabotage through anger.
When we recognize resentment, or many resentments, we can start to identify all the ways that we actually feel powerless in our life. And then a lot of us get stuck here. It immediately turns to self pity or blame or both. In this process of coming to befriend and harness the power of anger you will learn how to take that initial charge that initial quiver and stabilize it with both your body and your mind and when the body and the mind are more in alignment with one another there can be something like emotional fluidity or ease or dare I say balance.
There's something truly profound about anger for all of us but in particular women as an indicator of the degree to which we have been carrying the burden of feminine shame. I would also argue that anger in men - when it is toxic and unregulated, sometimes even over the top, is a result of generations upon generations of shaming and disregarding the potency of the feminine, which is our emotional body; whether you have a male body or a female body or something else. Our capacity to feel, to fluctuate, to receive, to react is the Feminine.
Anger relates to the fire element, which is our metabolic, transformative and discerning capacity in the Ayurvedic view. Anger is like a fire burning out of control and so rather than being able to see what is actually in front of us all we see is chaos and danger and threat. That's a very different experience than seeing things as they are, which can be the gift of an initial recognition of anger in its early stages, as well as the reasonable (or at least understandable) causes of the anger. In order to harness this fiery capacity within ourselves to burn THROUGH obstacles rather than become destructive, there has to be some foundational structure of purpose and action. If there is not, for whatever reason, a strong felt sense of presence and self through body and viscera (and a trust in that!) there really can be no channeling of our life force energy. We become like electronic devices that have the capacity to shut down or overheat without warning.
So one of the very first things to do is to start by making conscious contact with your physical body just through posture. Usually this is easiest in a seat or by standing. And whether you're sitting or standing notice right away how you're distributing your weight side to side and front to back. Create just a little more balanced there and it might even be helpful for you to imagine your spine or a column running through the center of your body that you start to balance your weight around. think of something running from the top of your head down through your chest through your stomach and out your tailbone that you can soften around. In a subtle sense there actually is this Central channel, but in a visceral sense stay more concentrated on the feeling of your body weight being relatively organized around a central structure. Start to breathe with ease. And if that immediately sends your breath out of ease, then you can count to yourself - inhaling for a count of four and exhaling for a count of four with little to no pause in between the inhale and exhale. Again if you find this creating any amount of dis-ease or discomfort, then please don't concentrate too hard on breathing.
The breath will give you a good indication of the degree to which you feel safe in this moment. now becoming conscious of that breath expression, you can men have what's called a somatic dialogue with yourself. your breath may be giving the indication that you don't feel safe - short jerky sporadic. But in your mind you know that you are safe. So here's where we start to track our somatic or embodied patterns. Most of us have some unconscious underlying belief about the way things are. Especially in relationship to our freedom and ability to make choices on our own behalf. If you are experiencing something like a physical and mental body separation, for example the body is behaving as though there is a threat but the mind recognizes that there isn't, then I invite you to simply hold awareness of those two experiences happening simultaneously. On your inhale allow yourself to acknowledge without judgment that the body is experiencing something like unease. On the exhale acknowledge from the mind that there is no source of unease in this moment. Imagine the pendulum of a big grandfather clock swinging slowly rhythmically back-and-forth allowing you to hold these two realities at once without getting stuck in either one. It's important that we don't try to override what the body is saying. It's equally important that we don't make more important with the mind is saying. Take a few more breaths like this holding your body in relative ease and balance around a central structure. if your eyes have closed you can keep them closed as long as that feels safe to you and if your eyes are open go ahead and blink a couple of times and look around your space as a reminder of where you actually are. Take the next 2 minutes to write down what that experience was like for you without trying to write perfect sentences. Might be a word association or a few phrases or even doodles.
The final piece of this practice is to make some noise! The silencing of one's voice as so often happens in childhood and adolescence can be one of the most significant powerful and transformative ways of dealing with anger. Your voice rests on your breath on the move mobility of your diaphragm, as well as the visceral aliveness of your pelvic floor. By using our voice we can enliven and integrate these energetic centers. let's start really simply by inhaling slowly through the nose and exhaling on an "hahhh" sound, like a sigh of relief. Do this a few times without concerning yourself about volume. next, inhale through the nostrils fairly quickly without creating strain in the throat, and then exhale a more explosive "ha!" sound feeling, for a gentle contraction in the abdomen. Do this a few times. Finally, like you are sustaining a note (don't worry about pitch!) sound "haaaaa" as long as your your breath can sustain. After you have done this a few times, relax your lips back together, keep your teeth softly apart, and take a few slow breaths with a relaxed posture. I often find that I experience some amount of emotional release - sometimes big sometimes small, but always a release of pressure.
To whatever degree you feel some sense of release or relief, enjoy it for a few minutes. Really let yourself soak in this moment of self-induced relief. You have that power. You have that option. And while it may not last as long as you'd like, it's always here for you. On the path of healing, trauma resolution, and justice, it is essential that we take moments like this to pause and self-soothe in ways that are sustaining. Let these pauses also alert you to the human need for a support structure in the form of other trustworthy human beings. It is my hope for you that you have at least one of these trusted comrades in your life, and that together you can begin to build a community of kind-hearted, open-minded, discerning and empowered human citizens.