Right now, we need to be pissed off: Anger wisdom changes things.
20 years ago, I co-wrote The Anger Advantage. My co-authors and I wanted to change the world with our message: Your anger wisdom helps you know things.
So many people misunderstand anger. They shut it down in themselves and others, dulling their senses and undermining their ability to learn and grow.
A few people read our book. We received letters from men and women, telling us how relieved they were to know their anger was a sign of health. Yes, you heard right. Based on a series of studies we conducted in the 1990s, we saw that when people (women, in particular) learned to feel, acknowledge, speak, and use their anger consciously, they healed from traumatic experiences and accomplished big things.
Then, my friends and I forgot about anger for awhile. I got busy raising my son, collaging, and moving furniture. I logged several thousand hours of EMDR therapy and listened to how people’s spoken narratives evolved as they went through the process of trauma recovery. Clients zoomed through several shades of feelings, painting an emotional rainbow, until they came out the other side and felt like singing or moving furniture!
The rainbow of EMDR feelings typically looks something like this:
What do you notice here? My clients start with anxiety, almost always; everyone’s process varies a bit. But most often, they work their way through anger at about the mid-point of EMDR processing. Once we hit the anger, I know we’re golden.
Why? Because anger lets us know for sure we deserve good things, not abuse, not violence. When we feel anger, we feel our inner selves cry out in protest of something that’s disturbing that threatens our well-being in some way. We also get clarity on the facts when we allow anger wisdom to do its job.
The anger part of our recovery comes before the softer, more understanding emotions can emerge. If protest is blocked, we loop around in fear, shame, and sadness without ever connecting all the dots that let us move beyond what happened. Once the anger parts of trauma are allowed to process fully, we move forward, grieve our losses, feel compassion for the other, and ultimately find peace.
When we try to skip the anger, we get stuck. We stop evolving. We act badly or we get sick.
I’ll be back with more on the subject of your wise, healing anger. But for now, remember that anger, even outrage, is just an emotion and we all experience it for a reason. We choose how to express it; that part’s totally under our control. But we ALL need our anger, individually and collectively. Anger makes us smarter. Anger helps us heal.
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