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Confession: I wanted to call this post ‘How To Unleash Your Wrath’, but I decided to tone it down.
Because most of us women, struggle with the idea of admitting that we feel anger at all. And, I didn’t want to scare you off – because you need to read this.
Wherever it falls on the spectrum from minor irritation, to frustration, annoyance or full on rage, this is one high-energy, high-impact emotion that you can’t ignore.
And whether you like it or not, anger isn’t going anywhere – because it has an important role to play.
In today’s post we’ll explore:
- The purpose of anger
- Why we try to contain anger
- The story of the Hawaiian goddess Pele – (Ooo she can get angry)
- 7 healthy (and fun) ways to set your anger free!
You’ll leave this blog post with a solid understanding of why feeling angry is nothing to be ashamed of – plus a great set of tools to help you to release and transmute those emotions, allowing you to reshape your unhelpful thought patterns and feel amazing!
Why Do We Feel Angry?
You know the feeling. Your jaw tightens, cheeks flush, teeth grind, chest knots, stomach churns… Your mind races with a thousand arguments, and just as many defensive statements.
Why on earth do we feel this way? Surely it isn’t very helpful.
Well, actually, it is!
Your anger is there to protect you.
Or, more specifically, to remind you to protect yourself.
It’s a natural and healthy response to threats, injustice or not receiving something you need.
Anger is like a very big red flag that invites (commands) you to stop and look at how you are being treated. For example, a common trigger for anger is having your boundaries violated – when you feel disrespected, dishonoured or exploited.
Gabor Maté explains this beautifully in his book When The Body Says No.
“I am greatly empowered without harming anyone if I permit myself to experience the anger and to contemplate what may have triggered it.”
Contemplating the trigger of your anger is exceptionally useful as it can prompt you to explore any unhelpful underlying beliefs and patterns of behaviour. Use anger as a doorway into deeper inquiry so you can learn how to protect what is sacred to you (eg set healthy boundaries) and destroy what doesn’t serve you (eg enforce consequences when people do disrespect your boundaries).
So next time you feel angry, ask yourself:
- Am I suffering from nice-girl syndrome?
- Am I being a doormat and letting people walk all over me?
- What have I been unwillingly tolerating?
- Do I need to say no more often?
So, if you can admit that anger is natural and, in fact, useful to you, why are you so uncomfortable with it?
Are You Scared Of Anger?
Even if you can accept that anger does indeed have a purpose, it doesn’t mean that you’ll accept the emotion itself without trying to squash it down.
The problem is, anger feels so powerful and all-consuming! It intrudes into your very existence, uninvited, and takes up a lot of space in your head and your heart. It’s like an invasive app which crashes all the other systems that you had running.
So, what on earth are you supposed to do with your angry feelings?
At first glance, you might think you have just 2 options:
- Lash out – Discharge
- Swallow it – Repression
But lashing out hasn’t worked for you in the past. Think back to your young temper tantrums. It’s likely you were conditioned to hold in and control those high energy emotions when they tried to escape.
Flying into a rage isn’t considered socially acceptable, especially for a lady. Aren’t we supposed to be more…zen?
And it’s probably been so long since you expressed your anger, that you might feel scared of what you’re capable of if you let it rip!
So that leaves option 2 – swallow it. Seethe silently. Let it fester and burn through you like acid. Just force it down and deny that you even feel angry. Denial feels good because anger is often coupled with shame and grief. Isn’t it preferable to bury your head in the sand rather than let those emotions burn through us?
The problem is, repression of anger and aggression can have serious negative effects on your body.
Gabor Maté describes both of these options, discharge and repression, as two sides of the same coin – both representing fear and anxiety. And both “defending against anger being actually experienced”.
Why are we so scared to experience our anger? Maybe we don’t know where to start.
I mean, have you seen any other ways to deal with anger? Probably not. The world around us does not tend to offer good role models for managing this powerful emotion – so it’s no surprise that we feel overwhelmed when faced with its snarling grimace.
The Goddess Pele
Now is a good time to welcome the inspiration behind this post; the most loved, feared and famous goddess in Polynesia, Pele. I love introducing goddesses when focusing on inner and emotional work, as we can learn so much from their stories – and even invoke their archetypes for ritual, prayer and meditation to support us as we learn about ourselves.
According to legend, Pele is the creator of the Hawaiian islands. She is known by many names: The sacred embodiment and goddess of fire, the queen of lightning and volcanoes, the earth-eating woman, Tutu Pele or Ka wahine ʻai honua.
The stories we have about Pele tend to focus around her lovers, divine passion, jealousy and rage. Like the Neolithic goddess, she embodies the full life cycle and has the power to both destroy and create life.
When she is offended, Pele’s retribution is sure and swift. She is fuelled by her passions and cannot abide disrespect in any form. It is said that many lava formations found across Hawaii are in fact the remains of those who dared to cross her.
Legend also has it that anyone who steals a rock from one of Pele’s volcanoes will fall under a dreaded curse, which delivers a stream of bad luck. The visitor’s centre at Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park receives more than 2,000 pounds of returned rock each year from people who believe they are held under Pele’s hex.
The takeaways from the stories of Pele are:
- Her destructive lava and firepower literally create new rock formations and land.
- It is essential to fuel the fires of your passion – lest your heart turns to stone!
- Upheaval isn’t comfortable, but it is sometimes essential to purify, cleanse and bring about a fresh start.
Now let’s look at how we can put these lessons into action in our daily life.
7 Healthy Ways To Release Your Anger
Now we understand that anger has a purpose and can be the key to transforming unhelpful patterns within our lives, we can move onto the fun stuff…releasing it!
Because even when we explore the triggers, anger can still stick around for longer than we need it to. And being a big, primal, all-encompassing emotion, when anger fills your head and chest, there’s no room for anything else. *Especially true for empaths like me.
So here are 7 of my favourite ways to unleash my wrath! They start off calm and civilised. You could do the first 2 on the list with a nice cup of tea. But from there down…shit’s gonna get REAL (aka fun!!). Each of these tools has a shared part 2, which I have included at the end. Don’t skip that bit!
1. Write and Burn
The first release tool is to write (and burn) a letter of forgiveness. One of the simplest ways to release anger is with its equally powerful arch-nemesis…Forgiveness. And that means forgiving those who may have wronged you (even inadvertently) and even yourself if necessary (eg a younger version of you perhaps).
But before you begin, let me reassure you that forgiving someone doesn’t pardon their behaviour. It’s not saying YOU were wrong.
So here’s what you do. Free-write a letter of forgiveness in whatever way feels right to you – but no pre-planning, editing or spellchecking. Just let the words flow.
And then, if you feel moved to do so…burn it! Be safe of course, we’re all grown-ups here. And then, if you feel like taking it a stage further, bury the ashes in the ground. Release the negative energy back to the earth and get grounded. This simple practice is SO freeing. It feels wonderful. I do this regularly.
2. Burn Meditation
Tool number 2 skips the letter altogether and jumps straight in with the matches. Use the powerful element of fire to meditate on your anger and visualise it raging like an inferno, clearing a path of lava out of the old and gradually dying down and paving a new, clean passage.
You can burn sage, palo santo, a candle or a full-on bonfire. This is your ritual – this is your release so follow your intuition. You might want to try burning oils such as clove, cinnamon, ginger or sweet orange. Great crystals to include in this meditation include amber, lava rock and citrine.
3. Breath of Fire
Tool number 3 is starting to get a bit physical. Moving heavy energy like anger is often easier when we get our bodies involved – and this tool invites you to try the breath of fire. This is a yogic form of breathing that makes me feel like a panting puppy – it’s a bit weird, but has loads of benefits – including anger release.
Here is a step by step of how to do Breath of Fire from DoYouYoga.com:
- Sitting up tall, with a straight spine, hands placed on knees with palms facing upwards and your eyes closed, start by feeling your belly expand with each inhale and contract with each exhale.
- Breath of Fire is powered from the navel point (solar plexus) and the diaphragm is used to pump the navel in and out with each exhale and inhale.
- Now that you understand the movements of the diaphragm during breathing, open the mouth and pant like a dog through to understand the diaphragm pattern. Once you have a rhythm, close your mouth and breathe through your nostrils. Now you are doing it!
- Quicken the pace of the inhale and exhale, but keep them equal. There is a quick inhale and quick exhale with no pause between them at the rate of approximately 2-3 cycles per second.
- Begin practising for 1-3 minutes at a time. When done correctly, your chest will remain relaxed and slightly lifted and your hands, feet, face and abdomen will also be relaxed.
Please Note: If you feel dizzy, giddy, or light-headed, slow down your pace and ensure that both the inhale and exhale are of equal duration. Breath of Fire should not be done by menstruating or pregnant women, or children younger than 16.
4. Grip and twist
Grip and Twist is tool number 4. You’ll need an oblong cushion or a bath towel folded in quarters. Your cushion/towel needs to be around the size and thickness of your forearm. This one is really simple.
Go ahead and grab your towel or cushion with both hands and grip it hard, squeeze it, twist it and work out your aggression. Don’t be scared to make noise if that feels natural. Let your jaw clench if it wants to. Squeeze, twist, grip and let it know how pissed off you are. And then relax – and giggle if you like. 😉
Tool number 5 is a keen favourite of mine. I even like to do the first bit as a ‘come hither’ hint to Gavin on occasion.
Have you ever seen a dog get angry? It starts to curl its lip into a snarl. Sexy huh? Give it a try!
Just start with one lip, expose your canine tooth – and let it grow into a growl maybe. Have fun with it – nobody said being angry had to be so serious. Snarl, growl, bark – scream. Once you start, don’t hold it back. If you need to use a cushion to scream into, go ahead. Warning: this can get addictive.
6. Free Dancing
Mmmm hmmm, now we’re really talking. This is going to take courage, even if there’s nobody around, because you’ll probably feel weird. I’m going to ask you to put on some tribal type music, I’ve got just what you need right here – with a visual of fire.
Put on this music, turn it up and let your body move – there is no wrong or right way. Add in some stomps, let your hair go crazy, shake your head, make scary faces, jump up and down, make noise, swear, growl – activate that angry throat chakra my friend!
This is free dance. And it’s powerful medicine for your soul, so let go and dance out the anger. Yes, you’re going to feel like a numpty for a few seconds, but you’ll be thanking me later.
Tool number 7 is the furthest away from a cup of tea that you can get.
It’s a step beyond free dancing, for those times you just can’t shake your angry feelings. This technique is called swamping – you’re going to fully embrace the shittiness of your anger. No stuffing down – no hiding from it. You’re going to transform into the wrathful Pele.
- Dress in something that embodies anger – something red perhaps, or even a bin bag.
- Smear your face with red lipstick or mud or chocolate.
- Incorporate any or all of the above techniques into your super wrath releasing ritual.
- Light a fire, burn your oils, put on your music, squeeze your cushion, stomp, shout and FEEEEEEEL your rage.
- Let it rip through you like an enormous volcanic eruption aimed towards every person and situation that has ever dishonoured you. Let every single cell release its pent-up rage. Keep going until you are spent.
As I mentioned, all of these tools have a part 2, which is this:
Let the fire/energy die down and ask yourself ‘what do I deserve?’, ‘what will I no longer tolerate?’.
Know that you are ready to replace your old patterns. And as the metaphorical lava you released cools and solidifies, it will become the new foundation for your life going forwards – that you have created and chosen!
Now doesn’t that feel good?
Anger is a big, intrusive primal force which can destroy you if you thoughtlessly discharge it or suppress it inside.
Remember that you have the power to transmute your powerful angry energy into something far more useful.
Inspired by the goddess Pele, you can use your anger to:
- protect what is sacred to you – setting healthy boundaries
- destroy what doesn’t serve you – enforcing consequences of disrespecting our boundaries
- create what pleases you – repave your limiting patterns and tend to your passions
So I’m calling on you to stop being scared of your anger and instead see it as a signal that something is off balance and needs your attention.
Make a commitment to get curious about what is triggering it. And then use the tools that I have shared to release and transform your anger into the foundation for the life of your dreams.
Ready to give it a try?