We need to talk about anger….because I had the exact same conversation with three different women this week. (And then I got the same question on the radio this morning!)
Good girls don’t get angry.
Just be kind.
Try to see their point of view.
Have some compassion.
Anger won’t help.
Just move on.
Any of these sound familiar? Well-intentioned bits of advice.
And totally misguided.
Imagine a great banquet hall inside yourself. You’ve called a council.
All the various aspects of you are there– there’s the smart savvy you surveying the scene, and the frazzled you checking her phone, and there’s the tender little-girl you dreaming dreamy things. The cackling crone is waving her cigarette wildly. The mom with the kind eyes is passing out snacks. The snarly adolescent is ready to tangle.
All of these versions of you are ESSENTIAL. When we’re whole and healthy, all the different aspects of us are welcome at the table because they bring their own brand of wisdom and insight. But for most of the women I talk to, there are quite a few aspects missing from their inner council. Maybe parts of you went into hiding because of trauma, or maybe parts of you just weren’t ever nourished or recognized so they’re standing shyly behind a curtain waiting to be welcomed in. Maybe pieces of you got fractured off in a time of great fear or shame, or maybe they just drifted off to contemplate peonies and they forgot to come back in from the garden.
But you know who’s most conspicuously missing?
The powerful, loving, badass presence of anger.
Too many little girls are taught to lock their anger away in a cage or in a closet.
Use your inside voice.
That is not nice.
No one will like you if you’re like that.
Use kind words.
Oh come on honey.
Be the bigger person.
Hang out on a playground and watch how grownups talk to little girls. In a thousand subtle and blatant ways, girls get told that they are not allowed to be angry.
That their anger is dangerous.
The messages continue into adulthood:
And so the angry part of them goes deep into lockdown.
Anger is a powerful ally.
It’s a signal that a boundary has been crossed, that something is happening that needs to be addressed. It is there to keep us safe. Just like fear, in its purest form, is always trying to keep us safe.
She is there to protect us.
To speak out against injustice.
To break the chains that need breaking.
To stand up for the little ones.
Without her, we agree to things we shouldn’t agree to.
We enter into contracts that rob us.
We put up with behavior that is abhorrent.
We make excuses for twisted patterns in ourselves and others.
We turn our eyes away from things that need to be seen.
We swallow truths that need to be spoken.
Anger is a loving guardian at the table, and she carries a big-ass sword. We need her there, integrated and listened to.
The problem is, imagine taking any healthy loving human being and locking them up in a cage for 20 or 50 years. Think how contorted she would get. How desperate. How filthy and furious and twisted.
This is what happens when we lock away our anger.
Instead of being a benevolent ally, our anger can feel like this evil force in us that makes us crazy or mean or spiteful. (Not surprising– anybody would roar out of that cage with an unholy fury.)
And so my kind, loving, evolved, beautiful clients whisper to me that they’re so horrified when they find themselves getting so furiously angry. Even with ALL THE yoga and meditating, dammit!!!
How they scream at their kids out of nowhere, leaving themselves appalled and shaken.
How they unleash on a rude customer service person.
How they nearly sabotage months of negotiations with a cold cutting comment.
How they take it and take it and take it and then they just explode.
They want to know how they can stop being angry.
But actually the way to feel better isn’t to avoid the anger– it’s to feel it all the way through and LISTEN to what it’s desperately trying to tell you.
The problem isn’t that they lost their temper.
The problem is that it took them SO LONG to lose their temper.
That anger is trying to show them where things have gotten out of alignment. Our task isn’t to exile our anger even further– it’s to integrate her, to welcome her back to the table. To give her a bath, and a safe place to sleep for as many days as she needs, and a return to her rightful place among the council.
Because with her benevolent protection, we’re infinitely stronger. Safer. Quicker to set boundaries and say no. Quicker to cut cords that need cutting and keep dangerous people out of our inner circle.
And when we’re protected in this way, you know what happens?
We are kinder. Clearer. More loving. All of our tenderness gets to bloom because we’ve got Anger standing there watching over her. And the world could use more women blooming like that.