“Why aren’t you angry?”
A few years ago I sat in my therapist’s office, recounting a story of a person that I felt had wronged me. I expressed my sadness, my feelings of not being good enough, of hearing this person’s hurtful words as truth.
“If someone said that to me, I would be pissed,” the therapist said. “I would begin distancing myself from that person. Not obsessively apologizing.”
It’s important to note that I had seen that therapist for a while by that point. I consider her one of the best therapists out there. So her honest words felt comforting rather than harsh.
I shrugged. What the hell was anger? I couldn’t even recall the last time I felt angry. What did it feel like in my body? Did my breathing get heavy? Did my skin get hot?
You see, I never chose Anger. Anger seemed aggressive and self-indulgent. It seemed wild and out of control. So when Anger showed up at my house, I promptly slammed the door in her face. Instead, I called up Depression and told her to come quickly. And to bring the tissues, please. I chose Depression because it seemed more socially appropriate. Depression was passive and avoided conflict. People generally don’t get mad at depressed people. And the last thing I wanted was to upset other people. So instead, Depression and I curled up in my bed and binged on trash TV. In between episodes of Gossip Girl, I reminded myself of what a hot mess I was. That I wasn’t deserving of love. That I was a terrible person. Depression nodded along in agreement.
Depression and I became close friends. I knew exactly how this feeling felt in my body. It felt like bricks on my chest, a slowed pace and closed eyes. Constantly choosing Depression fed the voices in my head that told me that I wasn’t good enough.
Fast forward to today.
Through a breakup.
Through a panic attack.
Through more therapy.
Through finally developing a meditation practice.
A few weeks ago something happened in a relationship that flipped a switch in me. I felt wronged. And at fist, this feeling manifested as panic. My heart began to race. Heat rose in my chest. My breath became shorter. Immediately, I wanted this feeling to go away. I wanted to pick up the phone and call up my good friend Depression. But instead, I took some deep breaths and gently set aside my need to “fix” this feeling. I sat with that heat in my chest. I noticed it, I breathed into it.
Hello, Anger. It’s nice to meet you.
Anger had arrived in a leather jacket and skinny jeans. She had sand in her hair from sleeping on the beach and smelled like patchouli oil. She was equal parts lover and fighter.
At first, Anger let me cry. She rubbed my back and told me to feel all the feels. Then, she took my hand and showed me the way. She showed me how to set clear boundaries in relationships. She told me that I my heart was worth fighting for. And when Guilt showed up at the door, wanting to tell me what a terribly selfish person I was, she told that nasty monster to go away.
Then she took me out dancing.
It ends up, that Anger is a total babe. Anger is electric. Think Sandy from Grease, after her bad girl makeover. Anger doesn’t take shit from anyone. She protects the people she loves and says what’s on her mind. She is boundary oriented and radical.
I fell in love with Anger. She is not overly aggressive as so many women think. Instead she is present and thoughtful.
Then, a couple of days ago I woke up and Anger was gone. And the funny thing is, I missed her. This emotion that I had fought against for so many years came and left….and I missed her. But Anger left behind a boat load of wisdom. She taught me that setting boundaries is one of the greatest acts of self care that we an give ourselves. Boundaries tell people how they can treat us. Boundaries tell people what’s ok and what is NOT ok. She taught me that guilt has no place in my home. She reminded me that life is beautiful, and messy and wild. But most of all, Anger taught me that I must be my own best friend. That I am responsible for having my own back. And when we show up for ourselves in this way, two big things happen: 1) We create space for more authentic connections, and 2) We can show up for others in a more honest and loving way. I think that’s a win win.