Angry is good. Angry gets shit done.
-Anansi, American Gods
It is no coincidence that as I have been contemplating anger and it’s place in my life, that I was watching American Gods and Anansi announced to Shadow Moon- “Angry gets shit done.”
If I really think about it, since I’ve been an adult, it’s rare that I make a BIG move, without anger being a part of it. From quitting my first job as an assistant prosecuting attorney, to leaving a man, to changing my relationship to the Christian church- MOST of the time, when I made a move. . I was spurred on by anger. But, what is anger?
Webster defines anger as “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.” Yeah, it’s that. It’s a feeling in my gut that something is wrong. That something doesn’t agree with my spirit, and that uneasiness. . .that anger. . . is usually a catalyst to get me moving.
Anger isn’t bad y’all. It’s our body’s way of telling us that something needs to change. That something needs to move. That our spirit is encountering something that it does not agree with.
The problem comes when we STAY angry. The problem comes when we not only own our anger but we hold on to it. When we nurture it, and tell ourselves our anger story over and over. Then, it’s not so much about the anger, and this outside thing that happened to cause this emotion, but about us. And we move into a space of victimhood, constantly replaying the story of how we were done wrong.
I’m all for anger, but the victimhood. . .not so much. You know why?
Because I’m nobody’s victim. I’ve experienced sexism and racism, and I’ve been hurt, and I’ve made mistakes and suffered consequences. . . but I’m still nobody’s victim. One may make me mad, but I am making a conscious choice to refuse to stay there. . . the second I do that, I’ve given my power away.
When you think about the word “victim”, what comes into mind? Someone who has been done wrong. . . well, that’s all of us. But what makes a “victim” different from everyone else? It’s their identification as the victim.
When I was an assistant prosecuting attorney, one of the tricks I used was to always refer to the person who was harmed, the “victim” as it were” as a “victim”. Particularly in front of a jury or a judge. I would NEVER use that person’s name. Because I was underlying to everyone that this was a person who was done wrong. A victim becomes defined by the wrong that was done to them. Same for the defendant. I never called him by name. Better to remind everyone what the deal was, constantly.
And that’s what we do when we hold on to our anger. We begin to define ourselves by our hurts, and disappointments, the things in our life that make us angry, rather than by who we truly are. When we know who we are, we can get angry, and then take action. When we identify as a victim, we often know who we are, get angry, but then allow that hurt, or action to then define us. . We stay in that place of victimhood, rather than acknowledging that something ain’t right. . . and making a move to change it.
I’m in the process of reading an amazing book, Wheel of Initiation by Julie Tallard Johnson. One of the exercises in the book is to write your life story. The practice was a great one for finding areas in my life I considered myself a “victim.” See, even with all my speaking truth to power, and quitting things,- I still have a lot of areas in my life where I got angry, but didn’t really deal with my anger. I let things happen and then moved on, but never really dealt with the issue. I haven’t sat down with it, and made friends with it, and worked it through. I haven’t accepted these situations, and so, they still have a ton of power over me. And I don’t want to live a reactive life, constantly responding to hurts and torments that are over, and that only hold power over me because I (my ego) allow it to have power over me.
I once had a beloved babysitter call me ugly. Actually, she called me “homely.” I didn’t know what it meant. I looked it up later that day, and I was devastated. I was ten.
I carried that pain with me for twenty years, or more. One day, actually after a particularly cleansing yoga practice, an acquaintance commented that I was beautiful. . . just beautiful. . . and the thought that came in my head was this babysitter calling me ugly. Until then, I didn’t realize that I had carried the weight of this cruel comment for years.
So on the drive home, I told myself. Rather than ask why this woman would do this, and stay all caught up on the fact that this happened to my ten year old self, I can tell myself. “This happened.” Then, this doesn’t agree with me. Actually, it was a catalyst. I became much more interested in fashion, clothes, hair, makeup after that, and discovered a real passion of mine – being cute. Which I am. And her words don’t agree with what I know in my spirit. Once I accepted that, I let it go. Let her deal with her own karma, I got a life to live, and I’m going to live it as a beautiful woman, despite what anyone says.
So, are there any places in your life where you are holding on to your anger? Can you see how the anger turned from a catalyst for change into a stumbling block, or obstacle, preventing you from moving forward? If so, you can practice this exercise:
1.) Write out the story of what happened. Not why. What happened.
2.) Re-read the story. Maybe to a close friend or lover. Maybe to a tree, maybe just out loud to yourself. (If you share your story please tell the other person that their role in this exercise is to listen, not offer feedback or advice. This may be hard, but it’s important. Because you are sharing for YOUR healing, not theirs. and while you are sharing this with them, it’s ultimately none of their business, and it’s not for them to fix. That’s why I’ve been confessing to the trees lately. They are wonderful listeners, don’t interrupt, and don’t tell you what to do.)
3.) Say out loud, or in your head if that’s weird, “I accept that this happened.” Allow yourself to feel any emotions that come up. Now, this may get uncomfortable. Internally. You’ll want to pick up your phone, or go check on something. . . get back to whatever you’ve been putting off, but bare with me. Stay in that emotion.
4.) If you are feeling tangible feelings of angst toward another person. . . allow yourself to acknowledge that the person did you wrong. DONT LET THEM OFF THE HOOK. Call them on their shit. (Even if it’s your mama…) Then, begin to contemplate that this person has their own life, and must make their own choices. At the end of the day, they must face themselves, their god, their karma, or whatever, but ultimately, ITS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS WHAT HAPPENS TO THEM,
You know why?
Because the only person that you can control is you. And the only person who you HAVE to live with is you. So now, that you’ve reminded yourself (a few times probably), that what this person did hurt you, but that their karma is their business. Turn inward.
5.)What is it about what this person did that does not agree with you? What is it about what this person said, or did that harmed your spirit? Once you can identify that thing, tell yourself, This does not agree with me. Tell yourself over and over, and allow yourself to feel that truth in your bones.
6.)A little ritual could be nice to really let this go. Maybe, you get in the shower and wash that funk off of you. Maybe you take the paper where you wrote the story and burn it. Maybe you throw some h’oponopono on it for good measure. . . which I do now, even when I’m not mindful enough to do the whole practice.
7.) Come up with a plan to move forward. Maybe you have to quit something. Or you will engage in a mindfulness practice so that every time that co-worker does that thing that sets you off, you can practice letting that shit go. Or you decide to report them. But make a plan, and get moving while you’re still in your feels. Remember, angry gets shit done.
Just because someone says or does something to you, that doesn’t mean that you deserve it, or that it is true. It means that human beings can be shit sometimes, and it’s a part of our experience.
So the next time you get angry. Take a deep breath. Try to figure out what isn’t jiving with your soul, and then take whatever action you think is necessary to fix it. Trust yourself. You got this, man.
And LET THAT SHIT GO.