Anger is not an emotion I am comfortable with. When I am angry, I often cry. When others around me are loudly, expressively angry, I feel afraid.
My father never did what most people would consider “hitting me in anger,” though both my brother and I were spanked. So who knows? Things were somewhat different then, I suppose.
I did see my father tear a door off its hinges. I did see him throw things in fits of rage. I knew that when he went for walks when he was angry it was so he wouldn’t do something he’d regret.
And my brother—who has largely conquered the demons of his temper—used to kick in doors, break things, throw things, etc.
And I have been so angry with a lover that I threw a two-pound block of cheese at his head. I pushed a girlfriend of mine once in anger. I threw a bottle of seltzer water at my brother once, and once I was so angry with him that I actually saw red. I could feel the blood rising in me as though I were a cartoon. I’ve thrown things against walls and broken a bowl on a tile floor.
In general, though, most likely as the result of my own infrequent episodes of wrath and certainly my terror in the face of my brother’s and father’s rage, I shy away from anger. I haven’t had any explosive expression of anger in several years.
On one hand, I’m glad for that. I’m glad not to break crockery or terrify myself or anyone else. I’m glad not to see red and feel my blood pressure spike through the ceiling.
Nonetheless, there is a loss. There is a loss because I have sort of thrown the baby out with the bathwater.
Anger has become entangled with shame and fear and sorrow and guilt. Ugh. What a horrid mess of yarn that is! Terror of my father and brother. Fear of my own capacity for rage, however infrequently it has manifested. Guilt for what I have done in anger. Shame from the things my family members have said to me in the throes of their anger.
I feel fierce love and fierce compassion and burning-hot desire for justice at times. But those all feel different from anger.
I have read that anger is like a finger pointing. That it is telling us that somewhere we feel as though we have been transgressed, that our boundaries have been pushed or broken, or that we feel abandoned or needy, for example. That anger itself is not the point, but rather it points toward what we need to see.
But it need not, perhaps ought not be bypassed, anger for neediness, for example.
All of this is making me think of the necessity of honest anger. Of claiming it, naming it, owning it. I want to be clear that my anger is about me, as all our emotions are. Other people’s anger is about them, and mine is about me. I want to take responsibility, and yet not live in fear of my own emotions.
And perhaps not so coincidentally, this week I read a piece from “On Anger,” by the Stoic philosopher Seneca. And recently, I pulled a card in a divination ritual.
The card was Sekhmet, the lion-headed Egyptian sun goddess who is sometimes associated with anger, even outrage. Her colors are red and orange, and she is known for a great rampage. The materials that came with the card suggested an invocation and ritual around anger. I’m modifying them and will spend some time in ritual space today.
Making this ritual made me think of you.
How often have you made a little ritual for yourself? Are there places in your life that need exploration or healing, places that might benefit from the power of symbol, music, writing, ceremonial action?
It’s something to consider, eh?
It’s also something I’m happy to work with you on. Feel free to contact me if you’re in a stuck place or a place in need of healing and we can see if I might be able to help.
Oh, and for those who are interested, the oracle I am using is the Goddess Oracle card deck. The book that comes with it has so far impressed me. It has an invocation/prayer for the goddess on the card, a short mythological impression, a description of the card, and a suggestion for a ritual associated with the card. I really like it so far.
I don’t always use what’s in the book, of course, but it’s a great starting place. When I pulled Hekate of the Crossroads and Sheila-na-Gig I didn’t do much with the book, because I was familiar with the goddesses. Still, the invocations were helpful. And with a goddess like Sekhmet, whom I don’t know as well, the book was a good starting spot.
Speaking of starting spots…where are you? Where do you need to start? What will help you get starting, get moving, rolling toward the next inviting place.