During my women’s retreat at Molino del Rey healing center in Spain this past week, there was a recurring theme around anger: our repression and our expression of anger; our addiction and our aversion to anger; how anger can be helpful and how it can be harmful. It got me thinking. And today, on the eve of a total solar eclipse with the new moon in Leo, the need to reinvigorate the power of healthy anger is even more pressing on my mind.
In many cases, we have been taught by family or by society that we should play nice, get along with others, go with the flow, or embrace love and light. Such training when taken too far can lead to spiritual bypassing. In other words, many of us have developed a bad habit of shaming or suppressing negative emotions. The thing is, denying our anger doesn’t make it go away and it certainly doesn’t harness the pure potential power in this raw emotion. All it does is shove this aspect of our humanity underground where it festers… and often later explodes. Anger is part of the whole of human experience. It cannot and should not be ignored or avoided.
Yet not all expressions of anger are created equal. We see many toxic exhibitions of anger in our world these days. This is the type of unhealthy anger that results in accumulated vitriol, verbal violence, or even acts of physical aggression. Without consciousness, anger gets grossly distorted – instead of being a vehicle for positive change; it is twisted into a weapon of indiscriminate destruction. The heat-seeking impetus of unhealthy anger is uncontrolled and unfocused; it wants to harm someone, anyone, in desperation to press the release valve for pent up hatred and contempt. Unhealthy anger is vengeful and it is violent. In recent weeks, we’ve seen examples of this in Charlottesville and in Barcelona.
When we see examples of unhealthy anger, they may seem senseless or wasteful. We think to ourselves, what was the point of that? Who are these angry people converting? Who are they trying to convince?
Sometimes, the targets of unhealthy anger are individuals upon which group-level or system-level transgressions have been singularly projected. More often we witness inadvertent casualties of this toxic anger activation – unwitting bystanders who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yikes. It’s no wonder that we are taught that anger is somehow “bad” and to be avoided at all costs.
But if we swallow without question the false belief that anger is bad, then we are missing a big piece of the manifestation equation. Anger is simply information. It provides rich data from your instinctual center. It is a message from your body intelligence. If you listen to your anger carefully, it will tell you unequivocally what you like and what you don’t like to see in the world; what you accept and what you reject; what is okay and what is not okay. Anger helps us draw boundaries. It is good and necessary to have healthy boundaries.
Anger is information that can be very helpful to us in creating what we want, if we know how to use it. Anger is an emotion that some psychologists refer to as a motivator for positive approach. In other words, it enables us to move towards creating what we desire, rather than withdrawing or moving away from what we fear. The trick in enlisting anger as our ally is in using it as fuel instead of as weapon. Consider these differences between unhealthy anger and healthy anger:
- Unhealthy anger seeks to destroy what it stands against. Healthy anger seeks to build up what it stands for.
- Unhealthy anger clings to a disempowered victim identity. Healthy anger claims an empowered creator identity.
- Unhealthy anger projects and casts blame on others for the past. Healthy anger reflects and takes personal responsibility for the future.
- Unhealthy anger stubbornly defends its moral righteousness. Healthy anger staunchly promotes its moral agenda.
- Unhealthy anger is vague, generalized, and unfocused in its intent. Healthy anger is directed at a specific, focused aim.
- Unhealthy anger depends on trying to control others. Healthy anger requires centering within yourself.
- Unhealthy anger moves from a core of contempt. Healthy anger moves from a core of compassion.
It’s important to notice that anger isn’t deemed “unhealthy” because it looks unattractive or feels uncomfortable… it’s unhealthy when it is ineffective and destructive. Healthy anger on the other hand is productive and creative. A lot has been written on this distinction. One Elephant Journal article equates unhealthy anger with madness or insanity and another from Albert Ellis describes healthy anger as functional anger, suggesting several healthy beliefs to support this. Christine Hammond, the author of The Exhausted Woman Handbook, identifies four different ways of expressing anger – three unhealthy ways (aggressive, passive-aggressive and suppressive), and one healthy way (assertive).
So how do we focus and channel our healthy anger as a powerful force for creation, instead of allowing unhealthy anger to erupt unconsciously and wreak havoc and destruction?
No I am not going to tell you to count to three. No I am not going to tell you to get a tone checker. It’s nothing as pedantic as that. Truthfully, the shift from unhealthy anger to healthy anger isn’t something you realize with a few style adjustments. It requires deep inner work. It requires diving headfirst into the darkness. It requires the courage to take apart your ego and take a hard look at the shadows within. Any residual underlying victim mentality will turn actions triggered by anger into acts of aggression or oppression.
To access the untapped potential of healthy anger we must have an unshakeable foundation of self-love and self-worth. When we are centered and grounded in our own truth, there is no need to go on attack. When we embody our inner wisdom and inhabit our true power, from that place we attract. We need to stand in, instead of lash out.
Maybe what the world needs now is not sweetness and light — but rather more righteous anger, more functional anger. We need healthy anger to be the antiserum to unhealthy anger. To quote this incredibly insightful Medium piece by Ben Rode, “the world needs true leaders right now, not angry children screaming at each other.” That is, we need the deliberate, directed anger of adult consciousness to replace the fruitless cycles of childish tantrums. We need more healthy anger to power-up positive change.
Go ahead, get angry. Please get angry. Get fired up. Get focused. Get moving. Let’s all start a new chapter with this eclipse and let that powerful Leo in us roar.
About Wendy May
Wendy May is a leadership consultant, executive coach, and creator of Life Reboot — a unique retreat experience for women seeking more wholeness, purpose, and ease. Wendy has found that many principles used to shepherd organizations through change can also be used to guide individuals who are making changes within themselves. Learn more about Wendy’s coaching and retreats at https://kaistara.com and follow @kaistara on Facebook