For most of my life I've had a lot of difficulty accessing my anger...it felt scary and extremely uncomfortable and overwhelming. If I'm honest with myself conflict of any sort and I seem to almost immediately disassociate and dissolve. I am a product of an ancestry, culture of whiteness, and daughter of patriarchy that values quietness and niceness in women. Who would rather have us smile than speak our disagreement.
Ultimately, not feeling my anger has prevented me from fully feeling like myself. However, more recently my anger has finally made its way to surface in a new way. And I'm beginning to see my anger and its transformation as one of the most powerful things about me. The past several weeks I've argued and debated almost non-stop online, a waste of energy and yet an important exercise in speaking my truth even for fear others won't like me. I've suddenly become a flame war queen on a rampage for disagreement.
I've burned through Facebook and Instagram disagreements with an almost obsessive quality. In the process I have several men apologize to me for something they said, an experience I have never had before until now.
"The act of civil disobedience is the act of taking our anger and turning it into sacred rage."
-Terry Tempest Williams
I take the build of anger and do my best to direct it towards justice in a way that feels like a channel of clarity rather than my ego wanting to make someone else wrong. I can't hold it in right now and I've felt my only option has been to ritualize it to death if I must.
For me rage is anger made sacred, it's the moment I become aware of an injustice and I can't keep quiet and can barely contain myself to take action. I become possessed in some way by a clear knowing that something is wrong. In the past this sort of state would have terrified me and more recently I've started doing a ritual for my rage. Not because I need it to be more beautiful or less harsh, but because I need to remember that it's in service of something beyond me.
What is the process of anger becoming rage?
At a recent daylong workshop with empathy and emotion researcher Karla McLaren, she pointed to rage as a combination of anger and panic...perhaps panger? Though we tend to associate anger as rage when in fact it has very different expressions. Anger is not necessarily violent, but we have compounded anger and rage and then seem not able to see the difference between the two. It's as if we see "panger" and tell ourselves anger is bad when in fact we aren't witnessing anger but rage. When there is violence there is rage.
In a rare moment of etymological consistency, the words themselves also speak to this difference. Rage comes from the Proto-Indo-European word "rebh-" meaning "violent" whereas anger comes from PIE "angh" meaning "tight, constricted"
My rage increases my sense for immediacy, just as panic does. Rage springs me into action, it comes in hot as hell and can either burn off or explode in overwhelm. And my rage is sacred even when filled with fear or anxiety. In fact my anger, fear, anxiety, panic, or rage are sacred--they are sacred to me and also in service of all.
In a world filled with so much floating around the collective and person conscious and unconscious, it behooves us to take time to feel and identify emotions. It may take more time to do so than usual.
Right now emotions aren't existing in silos, they are all enmeshed together and I feel fear, anxiety, anger, shame, apathy, sadness, depression, confusion, and happiness all at once. So I've decided to ritualize what I feel because if I don't honor and make it sacred, I will most likely dishonor or pretend it isn't there.
What is sacredness? To me it is the place where spirit and form meet, a bridge between worlds with ritual being the moment of habit made holy.
Rage is a medicine and so is ritual, and combined they become a force of beauty and power. Questions I ask about my rage based on McLaren's work before I begin a ritual.
What do I value?
What must be protected and restored?
What action should be done?
Once I've sat or meditated on those, I begin my ritual.
It begins with a cleansing shower to clear my head and clarify my intention.
Put my hand on my heart to access the love in my rage and to lead with that as much as possible, even if my words are not soft--and sometimes unkind.
Light a candle or turn on a light.
If it can't be typed or shared, I write it by hand and burn the paper.
I sit back and take a breath, noticing how I feel or where tension has built up in my body.
I say a prayer of gratitude.
“When a woman is at home in her wildness, rooted in her instincts, and attuned to the voice of her deepest knowing, she is a formidable presence…[and] thunders after injustice.”
—Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Suddenly this part of me that felt hidden and scary has become a place of power. It's not longer scary to me, it ignites a part of me that has been quiet for too long and finally has a place to call home. It is connected to my wildness and the healing of no longer playing nice to keep peace. The fear is my intuition speaking to a knowing of my own heart that something is wrong.
It requires me to slow down and the best way I know how to do that is to ritualize the hell out of it. My anger isn't enough right now, it requires the fear and immediacy of panic to become my rage that springs me into action.