Why anger is quickly becoming my greatest teacher.
Anger, it turns out, has a lot to teach me.
I have become aware of two very illuminating things about my current way of being—and her relationship to anger—in my personal coaching program:
- My current way of being’s anger is largely sourced from her feelings towards herself.
- Anger arises in the body of my current way of being to signal that her emotional processing capacities are maxed out.
I feel a mix of relief and disgust when I sit with these revelations. Relief because the more I do this work of processing my anger, the less it feels like I’m trapped in a cycle of emotional volatility. Disgust because, well, I am socially conditioned to believe that anger is an undesirable emotion to have in the first place.
These learnings emerged during a writing session, where I was reflecting on my practice of talking to anger. It soon became apparent to me that the reason I am so angry at myself is because I have a lifelong practice of systematically destabilizing my emotional, physical and mental wellbeing.
To quote the patriarchy, “Please, destroy yourself.”
Anytime I’m in a situation where I feel threatened or vulnerable, I become acutely aware of my inner instability. Anger becomes a protective response to put distance between me and that reminder. Again, I’m not saying this is a desirable thing to do. It’s just the truth about what’s happening for me in the moment.
At the same time that I’m becoming aware of inner instability, my body is also signalling that it’s processing systems are feeling overloaded. All that emotional, physical and mental instability mean that I can’t process in the moment — I have nowhere to store that information.
This is interesting to me because I have always been amazed with people who can compartmentalize their emotions and carry on functioning in their day-to-day life. This is nearly impossible in my experience and I have come grinding to a full stop at numerous points in my life because I really just needed time to process a feeling.
Most of the time, anger appears as a quick digestion and metabolization mechanism. Like fire, anger consumes quickly and leaves very little to deal with afterwards.
Unfortunately, getting angry also means completely bypassing the wisdom that can be extracted from staying in the heat of conflict. I think this is why I have come up against the same friction again and again over the course of my life. The outcome never changes because I always responded in the same way.
One of my most grounding mantras is, “Feelings aren’t facts.”
They are, however, information. The more I am able to suspend myself in those moments when anger arises, the more I am able to download the data that my emotions are trying to communicate.
Here’s what I’ve learned from talking to my anger so far:
- Central to feeling stable in my body is the need for a nurturing, supportive exercise and diet routine. When I feel strong and healthy physically, my body and nervous system feel less vulnerable in times of conflict.
- My mental stability is linked to my financial stability right now. When I am able to take care of myself fully — and can afford the food, bodywork and other resources that support my overall health — I feel less vulnerable when setting clearer personal and professional boundaries.
- Integral to feeling emotionally stable is a need for intimate connection and physical contact. When I can source energy from others, my heart feels less vulnerable while exploring a new way of being.
What’s so wonderful about this information is that it’s all grounded in the present moment. These learnings are meant to be actioned now and in the future. Of course, my past trauma and experiences are informing how I show up and respond in the now. At the same time, I don’t need to go back and unpack those things.
I just need to begin where I am.
Right now, beginning where I am means simplifying my life in ways that feel like I’m going back to basics. I’ve moved home for the next year so I can pay off the remainder of my $40,000 in student debt. The money I am spending is on a gym membership, good food and regular bodywork.
I’m only working three days a week so that I have time for my writing and school work as I complete the Master Certification through Integral Coaching Canada™.
I have time to rest on the weekends and fully digest my week. I am also making time to stay in contact with my people even though they’re spread out all over the world.
My hope is that this stability allows for me to continue to be with the discomfort of processing my emotions.
I hope that it allows me to shift how I am able to respond to conflict in the moment. Mostly, I hope that the choices I am making support me in becoming a better writer.
For, despite my emotional unskillfulness when it comes to anger, I have the capacity to deeply source the wisdom of so many other emotions. If there’s a legacy that I am able leave, I hope it’s one that validates and expands our understanding of ourselves as emotional beasts.