So you want to change the world…

…then show me your rage.

If we live in this world and feel, anger is imminent.

We can’t possibly know that 1 billion children worldwide are living in poverty, 22,000 of them dying each day*, without anger rising somewhere in us. We can’t possibly know this and 1000’s of other statistics about the injustice facing people, animals, and the environment without also touching into rage if we can find it.

As girls, we knew things, saw things, and felt things that ignited our anger. But we learned that angry women are bitchy and worse, often lonely, cast out of groups who wish not to be with the many harsh faces of rage.

Good girls, on the other hand, fit in. They didn’t burden others with big emotions, so we learned not feel too much or too little. We didn’t want to be bad, so we learned to be nice instead.

But even as we have grown skilled in our hiding, we have learned of the cracks in our armor.  There are times that with rage in our bellies we try to be kind and watch sharp bites fall out of our mouths.  We are surprised – alarmed even – to see we can be so curt, mean and even violent.

We sit bottled up. We have forgotten our rage; we have stuffed it down; we have numbed it. We have picked up credit cards, wine, gossip, and reality TV.

And then one day, we feel a spark, something comes alive in alive in us. We might first know it as inspiration or passion, but if we’ve found our “cause,” anger is somewhere there in our motivation, too.

In my life and work, I have come to understand that many of us don’t know our anger, and especially not our rage. Many believe this to be a good thing. And, I respectfully disagree.

Anger is one of the most potent energies on the planet. Its force has the power to incinerate everything in its path, and so it seems natural that we would be scared of it. Like fire, it can destroy but also renew.

In contemplating the nature of rage and anger as sources of passion and healing, I stumbled upon these wise words by David Whyte that, like they so often do, articulate what I was making sense of within.

ANGER is the deepest form of compassion, for another, for the world, for the self, for a life, for the body, for a family and for all our ideals, all vulnerable and all, possibly about to be hurt. Stripped of physical imprisonment and violent reaction, anger is the purest form of care, the internal living flame of anger always illuminates what we belong to, what we wish to protect and what we are willing to hazard ourselves for.

What we usually call anger is only what is left of its essence when we are overwhelmed by its accompanying vulnerability, when it reaches the lost surface of our mind or our body’s incapacity to hold it, or when it touches the limits of our understanding…

What we have named as anger on the surface is the violent outer response to our own inner powerlessness, a powerlessness connected to such a profound sense of rawness and care that it can find no proper outer body or identity or voice, or way of life to hold it…

Anger in its pure state is the measure of the way we are implicated in the world and made vulnerable through love in all its specifics. – David Whyte

And so with great care, curiosity and self-compassion, we invite rage and anger back into our repertoire.  At first, it hurts too much to be with.  But over months or years of allowing, breathing, healing and safely communicating, we start to learn to be with our rage until we understand it.

We learn that it is possible to feel anger that motivates us towards making changes that matter, towards communicating with compassion.  And that when we feel it, it becomes less scary.  We learn to name it.

I am feeling angry now.

I am feeling very scared right now.

I feel alone right now.

I feel vulnerable right now.

We share these tender places in safe spaces.

And we learn to reclaim these forces – our anger and our rage – for good.


* Source: UNICEF

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