I think we often struggle with allowing ourselves to feel anger. Maybe it is because we feel like there is something shameful or ungracious about such feelings. I know sometimes I struggle with this.
Last week, my friend Jack wrote a post about viewing anger as the revolt of our spirit against forces that try to crush it. (You can read about it here if you want.)
There are a lot of forces in the world that profit from crushing our spirits and making us feel shame and self-loathing.
For instance, these forces may be predatory advertisers, distorted religious systems, or toxic politicians. Or it could be any individual or group of people who profit from controlling us and making us dependent on them. (Healing our Shame.)
Jack suggested that when we view anger as a revolt against such forces, we can harness it to fuel loving actions aimed at our good and good of others.
This idea was extremely helpful to me. In my own life I have discovered that when I listen to my anger, I almost always can tie it to some instance in which I felt like my spirit was crushed.
Anger can look like a lot of things. Here is how Jack described it in his post:
The anger of your spirit speaks in many ways. Its voice can be a boiling rage, or it can be a creeping nausea. It can be a tremble in your hands or voice, and it can be a furrowed brow. It can be a clenched jaw. It can be an unrelenting whisper inside you that says, ‘this is wrong this is wrong this is wrong’.
Jack also mentioned that when we stuff this painful feeling down, it can turn into despair.
Realizing the different forms anger takes often helps us to recognize it and understand the next steps to take.
Therefore, I thought I would write this brief practice to help us think more about this emotions and the invitation it can contain.
(I write this post not as a psychologist but as an educator and a philosopher who is interested in the concept of anger. And I am interested in what it implies about our own self-concept. I am also interested in practices that help us show kindness to ourselves in our painful emotions and that teach us how to handle them in a skillful manner. If your anger comes as a result of a abuse or other traumatic instances in your life, consider seeking help from a therapist.)
This quote by Thich Nhat Hanh touches on this idea of using anger as a vehicle to express love for ourselves. Take a few minutes to be quiet, to read over this quote, and to sit with your feelings of anger:
Anger is like a howling baby, suffering and crying. The baby needs his mother to embrace him. You are the mother for your baby, your anger. The moment you begin to practice breathing mindfully in and out, you have the energy of a mother, to cradle and embrace the baby. Just embracing your anger, just breathing in and breathing out, that is good enough. The baby will feel relief right away.