PRESENCE. Allow the feeling of anger to emerge in your body, not suppressing it for fear that it is bad or inappropriate. Expressing blaming anger is a destructive choice, for both the one who expresses the anger, and the one who receives it. A better choice is to allow the anger to be, without judging it or pushing it away. It is a creative challenge to find a way to express your anger that is not destructive. Often physical release helps – walking or chopping wood, painting an entire canvas every shade of red. In this way we take responsibility for our own feelings, and don’t look elsewhere for the release of blame. This doesn’t mean not standing up for yourself. On the contrary. It means being fully present to your feelings and stating it to the person, or circumstance (as in an illness) that is the object of your anger as an “I” rather than a “you” statement.
POLARITY. The sister dimension of anger is grief. Sad/mad: two sides of the same nickel. We can sometimes deny or push away anger out of the fear of discovering what is underneath it, ie, profound grief. Rage and mourning need to find an outlet. Often we feel both simultaneously, and must, literally, rage and weep and cry out to the Universe. If these feelings are bottled up, it can literally eat you alive. The body keeps score, and suppressed rage or grief can create physical symptoms from ulcers to migraines to many other maladies.
POWER. Once the full range of feelings has been allowed, the possibility emerges to transform anger into the healing power of the self. By “self” I mean your deepest inner being, your sense of its value, your compassion for its imperfections, your will to love, protect, and advocate for your self. This includes your body. Anger transformed into fierceness on behalf of the self can be a powerful force for healing. It can manifest in many ways, including a sense of inner peace and connection to a larger spiritual experience.
PROTECTION. We all have vulnerabilities, especially when faced with an illness in ourselves or others. Being aware of this, tending our fears, and creating psychological protection, can help us get through such experiences as chemo, radiation, or surgery. This also applies when we are the object of the anger of others. Especially those of us who had known trauma or abuse, are particularly re-traumatized by a blast of anger, or when we are subjected to a necessary but frightening medical procedure. Entering a breast MRI machine with its loud noises and odd music, can feel like an assault. At such times, we can use imagination to put ourselves in a safe place: a cabin in the forest, or, in my case my grandmother’s white porch swing. We can create a “shield” wherever we go. An imaginary protective barrier that protects us from every possible assault. We can put a favorite protective pet on the shield, or an Earth Goddess, or, for Christians, the Virgin Mary, whose very presence would disarm anything or anyone out to do harm.
These reflections on some aspects of Anger were compiled for a workshop I am giving at Cancer LifeLine in Seattle on Saturday, March 23, 2019. Northwest Hospital Medical Arts Building. Free, for those experiencing the illness, and also for families, friends, and caregivers. Register on line at cancerlifeline.org