I am still wrapping my head around this. I know I’m not the only one, because when I share this thought with my clients, they inadvertently pause to write it down and take it in.
Anger is not bad. It is not evil or sinful or “Cain-like” as I was taught.
Anger is, instead, a useful emotion. A normal response. A powerful alerting from our very core.
“Someone has ignored or invaded our boundaries,” anger tells us. “Someone has done something that doesn’t feel good or okay or alright. Something bad has happened.”
Yes, there also can be unhealthy anger. If I find myself always angry, I may want to take a step back and make certain that I’m not putting unfair expectations on others. That I’m not getting righteously angry with or at them for something that really isn’t awful. Or that isn’t their fault. Or their responsibility or really about them. That I’m not reading meaning into their thoughts, words, and actions and getting angry at made-up stories in my mind.
I, for one, am always making up stories in my mind.
But our healthy anger is still telling us that something is not okay with and most likely for us. That we need to do something about it.
I may need to set stronger boundaries or express myself more. I may need to actually hold to my boundaries. I may need to take care of myself better or distract myself more or put my hand on my heart more and soothe, soothe, soothe, soothe, soothe.
But the first step is noticing I’m angry and allowing my anger. Accepting it and accepting me. I can then be curious about it, listen to it, learn from it, and decide what – if anything – I need and want to do about it. Whilst putting my hand on my heart and soothing, soothing, soothing, soothing, soothing. (Note, this is my way of explaining Tara Brach’s RAIN process – Recognize, Allow and Accept, Investigate, and Nurture.)
The soothing part is essential, especially for those of us born and/or raised in an extremist situation. Those of us who were taught that anger is evil and sinful and “Cain-like.” Those of us who were not allowed to feel or to say “no” to protect ourselves.
Anger is a healthy emotion, and there is healthy anger.
I’m still learning.
(I also need to recognize and call out that there are many people who have not been allowed to be angry by our society. Women are, in many ways, conditioned this way, as are people of color (think about “angry black man” and “angry black woman” and the way assertiveness by a person of color is viewed and responded to.) Pretty much any marginalized or non-normative group has had their anger restrained and judged.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!
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