As a sensitive empath, anger (others’ and my own) used to scare me. It felt too loud, intense, and violent. But my emotional excavations have revealed anger’s vital – and healing – role in naming wrongs, restoring boundaries, inspiring change, and initiating reparation.
Sometimes, I get angry with my clients at work, and lately, I’ve been trying to give myself full and intentional permission to do that. Yes, these are people who have experienced domestic violence (and often a myriad of other traumas pertaining to abuse and oppression). And yes, while I know that anger and frustration are common and understandable features of direct service work with folks in high-stress, crisis situations, this is still super uncomfortable.
Which is why I never used to allow it. Also, because I believed anger was callous and cruel, a violent force wanting to take possession of my body and turn me into an abominable, havoc-wreaking monster of epic proportions.
But no, anger is just a thing we feel.
It’s a powerful energy, sure, but it need not be channeled into explosive action or hurtful judgment. And it does have to mean wishing someone ill, making them wrong, or denying their worthiness.
Allowing anger in the context of my DV work is important because if I’m going to honor and allow the fullness of others’ humanity, I need to honor and allow my own. Pushing away anger is really just a feeble attempt at transcendence and emotional bypassing that separates me from the people I’m with and distances me from our shared experience of messy real life.
None of this means I turn to aggression (or passive aggression, the greater temptation being that I’m from the Midwest) to express myself. Instead, anger is my ally in forming a grounded, assertive space from which to respond and proceed.
This happened recently. I was angry with a client and was stuck in the same room with them for over an hour. So I poured that anger into my energetic boundary (Karla McLaren writes about this practice in her book The Language of Emotions – highly recommended) and put my focus there, which allowed me to speak and act from my soft, true center, since it was grounded in and protected by my anger-fortified boundary).
And this is usually all my anger wants from me: a stronger boundary, safe space and comfortable distance, personal power and sovereignty. But even before any of that, I think my anger, like any feeling, just wants to be felt – and recognized as the valid (and quite ordinary) human emotion that it is.