Whether it’s frustration, anger, or what you’d call rage, it’s an emotion that’s tied to our fight response. The wisdom of our fight response shows us where our boundaries are and gives us moxie and assertion to protest or advocate for ourselves.
And yet, a society that denies people their anger denies them their boundaries.The more that’s denied, as we see in oppression, the more rage builds up and the more we are ripe for revolt.
The goal with any of this is to try to find a way to be informed by, rather than react from, our primal responses.
Befriend Your Anger
Being informed by our responses in real time comes from befriending our anger. Notice it. You can say:
I see you. What are you trying to show me?
What needs and boundaries are there?
Oh, you givin’ me that rocket fuel to address this issue? Ok, I’ll try to use it to speak up, stand up for myself, my values, and my people.
I’ll seek help so I can do this respectfully. Thank you.
But it’s also worth saying that when we try to respectfully respond rather than react from anger, over and over, and those needs go unmet, and we are continuously hurt, abused or oppressed, then the body does react. That’s survival mode.
With this in mind, anger is not the enemy, injustice is.
Boundaries and Needs
There are also spaces within us where anger arises because there is an implicit belief, through acculturation or privilege, that our boundaries can overlap another’s boundaries and needs. When that’s denied we get angry. But it is important to note that that anger is tied to some form of entitlement and a belief that we should have more reach than what is just or available.
When we find ourselves in these moments we can ask ourselves:
Am I angry because I believe that my needs should be allowed to overstep another’s needs?
What would it look like for all of our needs to be met?
Do I need to get these needs met somewhere else, as it’s clear this space, this person is not available to meet my needs?
In addition to considering how we can relate to our own anger and how this informs how we relate to others, there are also ways we can release anger and it’s accompanying sensations in our bodies. Here are my 5 favorite POWER moves to release anger in a safe manner.
- Color your feelings. Use whatever tools you have on hand: map pencils, crayons, pastels, and let your body guide the color choice and strokes. If you get stuck, use your non-dominant hand. Oftentimes, this allows us to access our feelings more readily.
- Rage Dance. Make a playlist of all the songs that speak to your anger (or borrow mine). Crank up the music and let your body move. This is very synonymous with the full-body shake that animals do in the wild to release sympathetic activation and music also has the added bonus of helping us not feel alone in our feelings. WIN-WIN!
- Push the Wall. Our arms tend to get online when we are in fight mode and they may want to push the invader away. A great way to release this is to literally push the wall. Make sure your feet are in a position that allows you to stand firmly while pushing the wall as hard as you can. As you do, notice the POWER in your arms. Keep pushing until your arms let you know they are finished. You may have the urge to shake them out afterward – follow that urge.
- Take a Martial Arts, Kick-boxing, or Self-defense Class. Sometimes we really need to do a series of kicks and punches (without hurting someone else – obvi). No matter what kind of class you choose, the most important thing is to NOTICE YOUR POWER. Notice your strength, how capable you are, how you can defend yourself if you need to. What’s also wonderful about classes like these is that they often also teach us how to discern when we need physical prowess and when we don’t.
- R-O-A-R! Admittedly, you could do this while rage dancing…but you could also do this on its own. Some people find it helpful to crank up music, go to a remote mountain top, or drive down the highway with the windows down to allow themselves to really belt it out. What’s good about this is that it can help clear out that feeling of “swallowing our anger.” If you notice your jaw tightening up – I highly recommend this one.
Anger is Welcome
Despite living in a society that continuously denies the anger of those who are oppressed, hurt, or abused, we believe in creating space for anger. Anger is valid. Anger is powerful. Anger is a part of the human experience.
Rather than suppressing your anger, embrace your emotions and all that comes with it. Productively respond rather than react to your anger, and channel that power to advocate for yourself and your communities.