Sometimes, in our rush to “let it go” and be equanimous, like all the gurus tell us, we forget that some sh*t is just not ok.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had clients describe a problem, and they’re fixated on the fact that they are unable to get over something, and I sit listening with wide eyes as they describe an absolutely outrageous situation. They move on to lament about the fact that they can’t get their mind right, and I hurry to make the Time Out sign as quickly as I can so I can say:
Let me pause you right there.
The reason you’re upset is because that entire situation is f*cking bullsh*t.
You are not the problem here. Your reaction is not the problem here.
I don’t want you to feel better. I want you to be pissed.
What you’ve described is a nonsense situation, and it is not ok.
Can you relate?
So I want to make a few distinctions. The first is the difference between your nature (primarily comprised of feelings) and your behavior. I think we often view them as one and the same. That’s where thoughts like, “If I eat good food, it means I’m a good person. If I eat bad food, I’m a bad person” come from.
It’s not your job to judge your feelings. It’s not your job to call them wrong. It’s not an option for you to say, “Here are all these ‘bad’ emotions: shame, fear, anger, rage. I don’t want to feel those. Let me bury them.” Your job is to provide them a place to land.
We so often feel out of control because we’re trying to control the wrong thing. We try to control our feelings. We try to control our hunger, our anger, our sadness, our elation, our shame, our ecstasy, our desire. We put a story to the emotions before we have fully experienced them.
But the emotions must be borne, and they will express themselves somehow. If not in the body, in unwanted symptoms, behavior, and habit.
If I’m angry at you, my anger is not what hurts you; my harsh, bitter words (behavior) could hurt you. My smack across your cheek (behavior) could hurt. The knife I use to stab you (behavior) might hurt. The silent treatment (behavior) could hurt you. But my anger is mine and and mine alone.
So when someone hurts you, that’s a behavior over which they had control that hurt you. Your reaction starts with feelings, which are beyond your control. You don’t need to reciprocate their behavior; you need to allow yourself to feel what you need to feel. Bless those emotions.
Anger can bring clarity and strength. When we let ourselves feel the full force of our anger, the clarity we receive can be amazing. When we recognize, “this is what ticks me off, this is why, and this is how I need things to be different!” we can experience the relief that such clarity can bring.
– Anita Johnston, “Eating in the Light of the Moon”
You may need anger to remind you of your standards and your boundaries. Get angry! And THEN figure out why.
The Indian philosopher Krishnamurti said:
It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
There is intelligence in anxiety. There is intelligence in anger.
In terms of steps to take, the most important thing is to give yourself space and time.
When you put stuff on your dammit list, you are practicing sovereignty.
You are reminding yourself that the things you know and want are important. That there is room in the world for your needs.
I love you, and I love your anger. You can love it too.