Posts Tagged anger

Whoosh! The Bottleneck Was Removed

Just last week I sat with pools of dread, unsure how this Acting Director business would unfold.

It’s unfolding with a quick rush of energy. When a bottleneck is removed, things flow more quickly than normal. Work to shift staff and projects into place – work I thought might take a couple of weeks – was complete in three days.

The layer of dread has lifted, revealing a well of unprocessed frustration, anger, and inadequacy. Frustration and anger at past work situations where there was too much work, too much hard, not enough resources, not enough capacity. Inadequacy when I left that anger unexpressed, internalized it, and then endlessly analyzed “what’s wrong with me that I can’t handle this?” It’s still sitting heavy in my chest, just to the left of my sternum. My heart burns.

Slightly Future Me knows how this gets resolved. She is on the other side, the side where I’m not bringing quite so many unprocessed feelings to the table. The side where I’m expressing my frustration and anger appropriately, as a way to set clear boundaries and forge strong opinions.

What does Slightly Future Me have to say?

SFM: Oh! I am so much closer than you think. I’m so close, we barely have anything to talk about.

Me: But it feels like there’s still so much chest pain. It’s hard to believe that won’t take weeks to clear.

SFM: Remember the whoosh of energy when a bottleneck is removed? It’s not just about the organizational bottleneck. You’ve removed an internal bottleneck, a big one we’ve been working on for ages. Things that seem like they should take weeks are going to be done in days.

Me: Is there anything I can do to keep supporting it?

SFM: Meditation – just sitting with it and letting it unwind. Maybe try those trauma release exercises too.

Me: Is there anything else I can do to leave you little presents to make your day better?

SFM: Our weekend plans fell through … it would be lovely to make some new ones. And shimmy pop! And spend some time mucking in details this week – clean out the inbox and the phone messages please! Also, we should schedule a conversation with a slightly-future-version of me. Our next challenge is another layer of inadequacy around connecting with great spiritual beings who we need to call on for help.

Me: I thought we were already working on inadequacy? And it was going to be resolved soon?

SFM: Yes, we’re working on inadequacy/anger. This next layer is inadequacy/needs. There are lots of aspects of inadequacy for us to deal with. One of the many perils of living in a capitalist culture, with 24/7 media telling us that we aren’t good enough.

Me: Grrrrrr.

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(D)anger

Basilisk
Creative Commons License photo credit: asra_valorshon

Yesterday’s post on anger as a force for change sparked some spirited discussion among my facebook friends. One of the most brilliant and successful community activists I know said it best, “The problem is with this idea of ‘transmuting’ anger – like it must be changed or named something different (like judgment) to be ‘okay’ or ‘good.’ …. My anger simply is. And I will not call it anything but what it is – anger (and sometimes rage). No ‘transmuting’ for me because if my anger is the power that moves me then our anger can move the world.”

Anger is not my strong suit. Part of me has worked hard to be more comfortable with anger. But there is part of me that would feel happiest safest if I could just eliminate anger altogether. Some small part of me still links anger with danger. While I’ve found no etymological connection between these two words, the small ‘d’ that separates them evokes words like disaster, dire, deadly.

Yet I know this is my own reactivity. Instead of seeing anger plainly, I see it through the fear-soaked lizard brain that runs for cover, certain I’m going to be eaten. And perhaps this response ensures that I am eaten – hiding under the couch, eaten up inside that I couldn’t respond appropriately to anger. I might as well have served as someone’s fuel for all the good I’m able to do from under the couch.

To by angry in both smart and heart-felt ways, I first need to relish the full enjoyment of anger. What makes anger gorgeous? Who does anger well? When am I overjoyed to hear an angry word? More thoughts to come, and I would appreciate hearing what you love about anger!

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Anger as a Force for Change

salt march memorial, Delhi
Creative Commons License photo credit: nilachseall

“Anger controlled can be transmuted into a power which can move the world” – Mahatmas Gandhi

I have struggled to understand the role of anger in my work as a social justice activist. As a woman in US culture, even the act of expressing anger is radical. It goes completely against my Midwestern cultural upbringing to express anger visibly. I learned the fine arts of passive-aggression and transmuting anger into self-loathing at an early age. Every time I say, “I’m angry …” I feel like I’m finally expressing myself more fully.

Yet I have also watched activists full of anger get nowhere fast. The people they want to reach avoid them, dismiss them, and generally do their best to pretend they don’t exist. Sounds exactly like how we treated anger in my Midwestern family – if we ignore it, it will hopefully just disappear.

I made more sense of anger and social justice after hearing Donald Rothberg talk about the judgmental mind. Donald describes judgments as having two parts: one part insight, and one part reactivity. Most of my anger takes the form of judgment – it holds both a piercing truth and a volcano of emotion. Those who might have been interested in my insight are burned up by the explosion of hot pulsing lava. Those who were running away because they’d rather not hear my insight feel fully justified in their decision to flee. I’m left feeling terribly frustrated and unheard, and likely to explode even bigger next time since I’ve added the judgment “They don’t listen to me” to my long list of complaints.

What happens if I can tease apart my anger into these two components, separating the insight from the emotional reactivity? Can my insight – my “controlled anger” – be more fully heard by those who need to hear it? Can my emotional reactivity be healed and cared for, rather than spewed on others?

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