Holding onto anger is akin to refusing to give birth to your baby that’s due. It’s ludicrous and in the natural order of things, impossible. You can be terrified to feel it, make jokes about your refusal to admit that it’s there and do all sorts of mental gymnastics to attempt putting that uncomfortable feeling in a cage.
While I’m aware the analogy is not perfect, give it a chance. The process of birthing an emotion has a similar trajectory. An impactful event penetrates your psyche, causing a “charge” of energy we call “emotion.” If the emotion occurs at a stage in psychological development where the person has the capacity to see the emotion as something passing through rather than something that they are, the “pregnancy” can come to full term and the person can deliver a healthy understanding of the energy that has passed through and develop a relationship with anger that shows them what is really true in a situation.
But what happens when you mentally attempt to force anger into a cage of thoughts about it; labelling it wrong, projecting it onto other people in the form of blame and equating the feeling with who you are? Essentially you are forcing yourself to go against nature. You can tell yourself you don’t have time to deal with it, but to continue with the child analogy, as a parent, whether you want to or not, you are required to take care of that child. This is what is meant by taking responsibility for our experience.
What is still not yet taught in the mainstream education system is this simple fact: once an emotion is felt fully, it passes through. The thing is: anger doesn’t have to be a labour-intensive process like giving birth. It can be felt, acknowledged and moved through incredibly quickly if we allow it the space to be rather than denying that it exists. What makes it so painful is the holding on until it has developed into its own entity and we have to go through the painful process of giving birth to it. This can happen in the form of a mental breakdown, an illness or an altercation with someone because the anger finally explodes.
You may be surprised at how opening yourself to the feeling rather than trying to be logical and analytical about it (both mental processes that when used almost exclusively without paying attention to the body lead to mental imbalances and illness), allows you the freedom to feel anger as it changes form.
To give a visceral example: a hockey player feels angry about losing a game and smashes their stick against the boards. The feeling is expressed instantly and is done with. No one is hurt and no one is left fuming. Simple.
Feeling the emotion fully may leave you with an understanding you didn’t have before or weren’t willing to see quite yet. You may realize you can no longer be in the presence of a certain person in your life. You may find out what you thought was causing the anger was not actually the starting point of your anger.
You may discover there are more layers of anger and that may frighten you. But you are on the road to integrating the energy generated by the experience rather than holding it as some part of yourself that is unacceptable and separate from you. And in this process, you start to see the beauty of anger and how it can shake the truth free of all the ideas you caged it with.
Myra Nicks is a columnist for Black Press and editor of The Sylvan Lake News.