Mad Mama: Your Beautiful, Righteous, Motivating Anger
I was so tired of feeling depressed. After weeks of dragging through life, one morning in my meditation, I practiced something new:
Feeling and expressing the anger I’d been hiding.
My meditation teacher had encouraged me to try and shake myself out of the self-hating, soul-beating battle I was currently mired in:
“Try chanting with the force of a rageful lioness. See if that doesn’t move your energy!”
Getting angry was scary for me. I had grown up with a mom who, while loving and wonderful in so many ways, also had an angry streak. Her rage had been pointed my direction more than once, and it made me averse to confrontation.
Moments of feeling the heat of her anger are some of the scariest childhood memories I could recall, and I had always promised myself I wouldn’t “indulge” in that emotion.
After all, I was a spirit-seeking, human-loving, tree-hugging hippie. Isn’t anger bad for your body? And the world? And worse, what if I hurt someone with my anger, like I had felt hurt by my mom?
I have a lot more compassion for what my mom was going through at that time, now that I have the hindsight perspective of an adult. Her sister and father had both committed suicide within a couple years of each other when I was very young; I can’t imagine what the was like for her. Without excusing her lashing out at my, nor minimizing my own hurt, I can see how she was truly struggling to do her best.
And I’ve grown, I’ve seen it’s possible to have a more mature relationship with anger. The real danger is when we turn the anger we feel inward, trapping it inside, struggling to keep it contained.
And as I have experienced first hand, anger turned inward can lead to depression. So I embarked on a study of healing, healthy anger, and began to experiment with ways I could feel it, move it out of my body, and even begin to use it as a source of energy.
Doing a little reading and research, I discovered 3 upsides to anger:
- Anger can be motivating: Anger can make you feel strong and powerful, so you’re more likely to take action towards what you want. This study shows that when we see an angry face we are more likely to take an object that we want. Getting angry in the face of challenges and obstacles can help you push through.
- Sharing your anger can help your relationship: Have you ever been in a relationship where you never had a fight? Were you really just hiding your anger? I have. That didn’t turn out well. Because I wasn’t being authentic, which lead to resentment. This study shows hiding anger can be bad for a relationship. Used in loving honesty, (yes that’s possible) anger can be used to find solutions together.
- Anger can show you what’s really true about you: Your anger might finally shine a light on a habit or way of being that’s holding you back. This study showed that anger helped more people see and deal with harmful behaviors and take action to change their habits.
After seeing anger in this light, a new realization dawned on me: I felt entitled to anger on behalf of the people I care about. I call myself “Mama Bear” when I feel protective of my friends and family. I will stand up for underdogs, my son, and a girlfriend being mistreated. So why wouldn’t I allow myself the same protective energy that anger afforded?
I began see that being an “angry woman” is a negative image in our culture, and while I was willing to go there for others, I wasn’t willing to stand up for myself with the same fierce self-love.
If you’ve been suppressing your anger for years, or most of your life, it can feel incredibly healing to finally let it out.
Now I’m not talking about becoming a rage-a-holic who get addicted to anger, nor am I talking manipulative anger which you energetically use to keep other people “in line.” I’m also not advocating for looking for ways to get angry in order to have a “good reason” or fuel to makes changes in your life. Those forms of anger are straight up self- and relationship-killing.
But what if you could use anger as a healthy, helpful tool, when it naturally arises? Just as heat transforms metal into useful tools, could anger turn a shitty situation into a powerful learning and growth opportunity?
4 ways to let your rageful lioness off the leash:
- SING IT OUT: Rock out to music with powerful lyrics, singing at the top of your lungs, feeling the anger in your body. I’ve driven down many a highway yelling out the lyrics to Linda Ronstadt’s “When Will I Be Loved?” or “Delilah” by Florence And The Machine. Chanting meditations done with the forceful energy of anger also works. I can attest to that. Here’s my playlist on Spotify:
- DANCE IT OUT: Use similarly powerful music and dance your heart out, stomping, banging on the floor, sing/screaming…in the privacy of your own home is fine. Getting wild in nature with headphones or without is another option. Trees and the earth can suck up your anger is a really beautiful way. Feel free to roll around on the ground or sand, too. Find a quiet, secluded location to truly let go.
- DRAW IT OUT: Get a big piece of paper and paints, pens or crayons and draw what you’re feeling. Art therapy works.
- MEDITATE/CHANT IT OUT: On recommendation from my meditation teacher, I entered into an evening chant, using the mantra he’d shared with me, and directed the words out of my body with anger, loud and fierce. After 5 minutes I was on fire. Hot face, clenched belly. After 10 minutes, I was quietly chanting, the anger having dissipated and released. Soft tears fell down my cheeks, and I was able to sit silently before going to bed. The next day, as the sun came up, I felt the calm after the storm, and I realized he was right
Feeling and letting the anger out washed something clean. And slow, graceful shifts began to appear in my life.
Think of your anger as a cleansing fire to burn away the old and create a new way of being.
After my first “lioness” chanting meditation, in the privacy of my room, I felt charged, but quiet. Clean, aware, and vibrant, yet calm. Something had released.
Most of us “light seekers” have been thinking anger is a negative emotion that we should avoid.
I think anger is a valid way to brighten your desire, stop doing shit you hate, and get into action.
Anger is a powerful catalyst for change. The strength of your desire to change, whether it comes from positive or negative emotions, is directly proportional to the likelihood that you’ll take action and make lasting change.
Women and more heart-centered men, or as my husband calls himself “a sensitive new aged man,” are especially prone to this: we think anger is bad, so we don’t allow ourselves to feel it. We try and melt it away with loving-kindness meditations, justify injustice with empathy, and remind ourselves that anger can be toxic.
When we try to ignore or squash our anger, we disregard a powerful tool.
And we sometimes let the desire to be good, loving humans get in the way of the truth: that our anger is an emotion that we can feel good about feeling, just like any other.
Allow yourself the healing power of this strong emotion. Use it and express it with intention, as you would love. You may find yourself feeling motivated, aligned, and stronger in yourself. I know I do.