As I was reading a Facebook post a couple weeks ago I noticed a disturbance in me. At first I wasn’t sure what was happening, but having noticed, I was conscious enough to pay attention, and I was curious.
This was a post shared by a friend I respect. The article was written by a writer whose page I follow. And the content was very resonant for me. So why the disturbance?! What was going on here?
I went back and read it again, this time really paying attention to the sensations in my body. Hmmm, a sense of contraction, and a bit of roiling in my core. Then I noticed a sense of rising indignation. Words like “These are things I say and teach all the time! How come she’s getting all the attention and not me?!” were running in my mind.
Other voices began to chime in with things like “Well that’s not very enlightened!”, and “You don’t really want to be in the spotlight anyway.” And while both of these have elements of truth in them, I was clear they didn’t point to the deepest truth, nor were they the voices I needed to pay attention to at that moment.
It was that voice of rising indignation I particularly needed to notice, accept, and nurture myself in its presence. I realized that voice was echoing words I’d read over 15 years ago in the seminal book by Julia Cameron – The Artist’s Way. Her focus in writing was creativity, and this was exactly where that Facebook post was hitting me! At the start of Chapter 3 – Recovering a Sense of Power – she has a page on Anger. This short passage has always struck me as THE most potent writing on anger anywhere, and my sense is it has a particularly important message for those of us creating new patterns of relating to our emotions.
Our more common approaches to anger (or fear, or sadness, or any of what are often called ‘negative’ emotions) generally involve turning away or running from our feelings, becoming frozen ourselves or trying to placate others, denying or stuffing our feelings, or acting them out – spewing over others the intensity we have trouble containing ourselves. While understandable, these reactions are neither pretty nor effective. And while I wouldn’t label them negative, experiencing these emotions is often uncomfortable, and anger certainly has been that for me.
Like many of us, I was taught that being angry wasn’t ‘nice’, in fact it was a ‘bad’ thing to be. So when I felt angry as a child I associated that with being ‘a bad girl’ – and that felt like I was treading on dangerous ground! At the same time, because of the sense of powerlessness I felt, the experience of others expressing their anger ‘against’ me often felt really scary.
I don’t remember ever having been taught (and I’m guessing I’m not alone here) either how to notice and use the energy of my anger, OR how to be powerfully present when others were expressing their anger. So I imagine Julia Cameron’s words might feel as eye-opening for you as they were for me. Here’s part of what she says:
“ANGER IS FUEL. We feel it and we want to do something. … But we are nice people, and what we do with our anger is stuff it, deny it, bury it, block it, hide it, lie about it, medicate it, muffle it, ignore it. We do everything but listen to it.
… We are meant to use anger as fuel to take the actions we need to move where our anger points us.
When we feel anger, we are often very angry that we feel anger. Damn anger!! It tells us we can’t get away with our old life any longer. It tells us that old life is dying. It tells us we are being reborn, and birthing hurts. The hurt makes us angry.
Anger is the firestorm that signals the death of our old life. Anger is the fuel that propels us into our new one. Anger is a tool, not a master. Anger is meant to be tapped into and drawn upon. Used properly, anger is use-full.
Sloth, apathy, and despair are the enemy. Anger is not. Anger is our friend. Not a nice friend. Not a gentle friend. But a very, very, loyal friend. It will always tell us when we have been betrayed. It will always tell us when we have betrayed ourselves. It will always tell us that it is time to act in our own best interests.“
Julia Cameron’s last point is key – she says …
Anger is not the action itself. It is action’s invitation.
As I reflected on the inner disturbance I was feeling, it was clear that my rising indignation was actually anger at myself, NOT the writer of the article on Facebook! My anger was serving me by reminding me that my ‘old life’ of quiet invisibility – simply enRICHing my own life – was in conflict with the inner imperative I feel to create a way for the practices and principles we engage in the Realizing RICH Relationships to be shared without my direct involvement so that others can experience the freedom and power I know is possible for us.
That realization was a powerful affirmation of the work I’d started the week before – creating a way of doing exactly that! While there’s still lots to do on this, I was thankful to be able to let those angry parts know that I was listening to them, AND, already taking action!
One other thing I’ve learned is that especially when I’m feeling really angry, and there’s actually no action I can take to make a difference in the situation, then this anger is likely a cover for a more deeply buried emotion – perhaps one that’s even more uncomfortable for us to feel!
Christian Pankhurst on Anger –
the first 11 minutes are particularly potent
This is another journey of curious exploration we’d be wise to make. Not choosing to explore this means we stay in that space of impotent, railing anger which then often escalates into the rage that Christian Pankhurst speaks of in his video – another really valuable teaching resource on anger. Not only does staying stuck here feel frustrating, it is truly a space where we give up our power to who- or whatever it is that’s the lightning rod for, or focus of, our upset.
Connecting with our big “yesses” and allowing the passion and juice that fuels these deep desires is what leads to the happiness and fulfillment Christian speaks about in this video. One heads up as you watch. As you can see from the thumbnail image above, Christian’s own passion and juice are very fully expressed in the video, so be aware that watching might trigger a reaction in you!
Remember, no need to make wrong here – not others nor ourselves!
And if you’re looking for a safe space to explore all this, and a community where we honour our reactions, listen with curiosity to what our uncomfortable emotions or reactions might be pointing us to, and recover our sense of power through taking the actions they’re calling us to take, then you’ve come to the right place. Explore around, and if or as it feels true, I’d love to hear from you!