Attending to Anger
“Anger is an appropriate reaction to racist attitudes, as is fury when the actions arising from those attitudes do not change.” — Audre Lorde, “The Uses of Anger” (Sister Outsider)
In my first post launching this blog (back in November 2016), I wrote about anger. I found myself sitting at the computer screen, typing “Arrrrrggggghhhhh!!!!!” I felt completely inarticulate, yet full of emotions — called to write, though struggling to find words.
Today I’m finding the words more quickly. I’m creating and yet still craving more and more time to write. Despite feeling that writing is helping me learn/process/release anger, my body is reminding me that there’s still much more to learn, process, release — and heal.
Anger is important. It can be a mobilizing force. It alerts me to injustice. It helps me wake up. Yet, I also need to recognize when I’m experiencing anger so that I can work with this fiery, passionate, and potentially brutal emotion.
Currently, my body is throwing different sorts of illness at me, reminding me, as Thich Nhat Hanh does, to attend to my anger. Because I believe that illness can act as an alert, I find it instructive to look for meaning in Deb Shapiro’s Your Body Speaks Your Mind: Decoding the Emotional, Psychological, and Spiritual Messages That Underlie Illness and Louise Hay’s app Heal Your Body. Here is how Shapiro and Hay connect symptoms to emotions:
- Urinary infections = being “pissed off.”
- Kidneys = criticism, disappointment (e.g., “lumps of undissolved anger” manifesting as kidney stones).
- Conjunctivitis = anger and frustration at what you’re seeing.
- Earache = anger and not wanting to hear; too much turmoil.
I know I’m not alone in the experience of my body alerting me to anger. It seems that so many people around me are sick (hence, how I picked up pink eye), and even those who aren’t sick are expressing more overt sadness, hurt, exhaustion, or related states of being.
So, today I thank my body for its wisdom and its reminder not to downplay or ignore anger. I’m still thinking about how I’ll tend to my anger, and I’d love ideas! Please share in the comments … In the meantime, here are my resolutions for the week ahead:
I plan to check in daily about how I’m feeling and to write through these questions:
- What emotion(s) do I feel today?
- How is this emotion showing up in my life?
- Why is it likely here, at this time? What might it be teaching me?
- Is this emotion alerting me to take any action or to do anything? Or do I just need to see, name, and honor this emotion?
In addition to journaling, I plan to give my body what it’s asking for. This includes cranberry smoothies, warm broths, and both probiotics and garlic in many forms. It also means eliminating sugar, as I can see that anger and stress have sent me on a sugar spiral, which, in turn, has weakened my body’s immune system (though I’ve also been gifted clear messages about anger). And it certainly means prioritizing more time for meditation and movement — activities I now realize that I’ve been de-prioritizing in the midst of turmoil.
Finally, I need to return to an old friend of mine, the mantra “I trust the process of life.” What’s interesting about these illnesses representing anger (those I’m experiencing in my life at this time) is that they seem connected to control and stasis. Instead of using anger as a generative or mobilizing force, I seem to be keeping it in (e.g., holding onto experiences, criticism, or disappointment) and shutting it out (e.g., not wanting to see or hear).
Certainly, my body wants to be unleashed: it’s done being gated/shielded/guarded. Holding onto anger without attending to it has been burning me up (literally through fever — another sign of anger) and burning me out (as in the problem of burnout).
So, to honor anger, I choose to work with it. To work with it, I choose to live bravely. And to live bravely in the world at this time, I choose to imagine possibilities, to trust in Divine protection/guidance, and to see and hear with love. So, going forward, I repeat:
Originally published at heart-head-hands.com on March 6, 2017.