My last post was about anger, and how important a teacher it can be when channelled constructively to create change. I included a very funny song, one of my funniest, about using your anger to set boundaries and forge new territory.
But I had much more I wanted to share about the subject, so here it is, Archangel Anger, Part 2.
I know how harmful anger can be. Anger directed outward (or even inward!) with the intent to project guilt and punish, can easily sever the delicate strands of connection in our relationships. But does that mean that anger is always destructive? A knife that, in the hands of a murderer, violates the flesh, in the hands of a surgeon can heal. Can anger, as well, sometimes serve the purposes of healing? Is there such a thing as healthy anger?
It wasn’t easy for me, to find and embrace the gold in my anger. All I had seen role-modeled while growing up had been people either attacking and hurting each other with it, or stuffing it down and hurting themselves. As a pre-teen, I watched my oldest sister enter adolescence at full throttle, expressing her anger and challenging my father’s authority at every step. In response he sometimes used physical force to assert his power and vent his own rage. Observing my sister get hit, I concluded that being overtly angry was dangerous to my health, so I went underground.
I became adept at being emotionally invisible, hiding from my feelings so well that even I had no idea when I was angry. My game plan was to not care about anyone enough to feel anything vulnerable, but underneath those walls of apathy and the pretense of detachment I was as angry as my sister was.
Where did all those feelings go? Right up into the confines of my head, a very exclusive (one member only) club ,(Club Head) where I could take all that intense, burning energy and transmute it into intellectual superiority and passive-aggressive judgments. I excelled at putting people into boxes and categories. I got to be high above them, looking down on their blatant imperfections from my private ivory tower. Of course, I would often fall from those heights and drop into self-judgment, feeling ashamed and inferior to others. So the game of solitaire continued, superior, inferior, superior, inferior – but never equal and connected.
My spiritual studies affirmed that anger was indeed a downer, something to be quickly forgiven and released, like taking out the trash. That helped me continue my subtle war against it. I was committed to non-violence and non-aggression, so if a hint of anger surfaced, I rushed to forgiveness meditations and visualizations to destroy it, not realizing that the first step in forgiveness is to be with and accept what I actually was feeling.
I was a nice guy with no backbone, terrified of my own shadow.
In relationships I became a doormat, a yes-man with no access to my “no”. I traded in my truth for a lukewarm version of myself, a version that had an aversion to anything that could lead to conflict. I was a harmony addict, not such a bad addiction, but one that was interfering with my ability to experience fire and passion, autonomy and authenticity, and even intimacy.
My ship was permanently anchored in the harbor, never making waves or rocking the boat.
There is a scene from the classic film about the life of St. Francis, Brother Sun, Sister Moon, that helped me understand how necessary it is to be able to feel and say no, sometimes with power, in the name of love. Francis had been experiencing a spiritual awakening, and his heart was opening through spending time with animals and the beauty of the forests and meadows outside his hometown of Assisi. One Sunday morning his exasperated father, furious at his son’s deviant behavior, literally dragged him to church, determined to have Francis worship and behave like everyone else in the community.
Formally (and reluctantly) dressing the part of the son of a rich merchant, Francis glanced around the church, his heart going out to the poverty stricken people standing in the back, a stark contrast to the wealthy, who were seated up front, adorned with the finest robes and jewelry. You could tell from the anguish on his face that he was deeply troubled by what he saw.
He then gazed upon a huge and bloody portrait of Jesus on the cross, who, as the story goes, was having a particularly hard day at the office. Francis tried to connect to the spirit in Christ’s eyes, but was having great difficulty with the image of torture he beheld. He had been making personal contact with a very different Jesus, a being of pure joy, and felt none of the passion of the Christ within the projection of suffering and sacrifice his eyes were resting upon.
While the rest of the congregation was reciting an uninspired and dreary chant, Francis suddenly found his voice as well. Summoning up the outrage within him, he let out a bloodcurdling scream at the top of his lungs: “NOOOOOOOO!!!!!”
The entire church stopped singing, shocked into silence. After a few moments, Francis softened, and smiled sweetly. He again said no, this time ever so gently, took off his fancy clothes, and gave them to a particularly downtrodden brother wearing rags that he passed while walking out of the church. He then proceeded into the rolling fields of nature’s bounty, where Francis held his own Sunday service, naked and free, the way his whole and holy spirit had beckoned him to be.
It’s important to let people know what you stand for. It’s equally important to let people know what you won’t stand for. This is the Grace of ArchAngel Anger.
Because I often stand for flexibility and going with the flow, my anger can seem like a hard, foreign substance, an obstructive rock in an otherwise flowing river. I love going gently downstream in that flowing river, but it is necessary sometimes to be willing to stand on a rock and not let myself be moved.
It is on that rock that being true to myself becomes more important than pleasing others. It is upon that rock that I build things like integrity and self-respect. And it is on that rock that I summon up the outrage needed to breakthrough into an outrageous life.
Here is some tapping to support you in receiving all the health benefits of your anger before letting it go.