Lately, I’ve been going to a pretty amazing therapist. They’re the first I’ve starting seeing on a continuous basis. Before, I got pretty easily frustrated or overwhelmed or flustered by regular therapy appointments. But this time around, with this person, the chemistry is different. The conversations have felt cathartic, like I’m digging deeper into myself, my behaviors, and recurring anxieties or attacks. I learn something new every time – and actually taking notes on it, y’all!
Understanding and Accepting My Rage
Rage is a fucking terrifying emotion to experience as a child. When a parent or an elder yells, hits, releases rage on you, it makes you think: “What did I do to deserve this”? And shame…well, it’s right there after the fact. You feel emotions of sorrow, hopelessness, melancholy, loneliness, self pity, and guilt.
Growing older, and experiencing more public displays of patriarchy and disrespect, my shame graduates to humiliation. And that is what fuels my anger – the feeling of being outed, disrespected, belittled. I feel a lack of control and a chasmic injustice.
I feel angry when I feel disrespected,
I feel angry when I feel repressed,
I feel angry when I feel controlled,
I feel angry when I feel humiliated,
I feel angry when I feel treated unjustly,
It’s not just about disrespect
It’s not just about repression
It’s not just about control
It’s not just about humiliation
It’s about you taking away my dignity in that situation.
In another situation. And another.
Time and time again
Until it becomes caught. Contagious. Cancerous.
Patriarchy is often the inciting incident that flames my rage. When another human being demeans me in public or wields aggression in my direction, I am consumed by a deep, burning, hate-inspired fire. After an episode, I often feel annoying amounts of helplessness, self pity, and despair. And then I invariably unleash that on others at another time or place. As a result, I truly believe patriarchal (or controlling, ignorant) behavior is the disease of our culture, of our nation, of our time.
Food for Thought: What Are the Different Levels of Rage?
- Surprise – at the instance in question; whether it is being whipped as a child or yelled at on the side of the road or called out by a haughty older man during a sports game).
- Irritation and frustration – a blaze in my cheeks, accelerated pumping of my heart, a detachment from the joy experienced moments before;
- Humiliation and powerlessness – from there, a spiraling sense of personal embarrassment, disrespect, and lack of control.
- Rage – a more global state of injustice. Fueled not just by this instance, but all the instances before that, which represent a greater reality that’s hard to accept. Sparks animalistic, sometimes ‘murderous’ anger.*
* Rage is an innate response that is primarily action oriented. Rage tells us to DO something, change something, as a means of protecting yourself. Sometimes this translates to a harm-oriented impulse; you want to cause others the same degree of harm that they forced upon you. But of course, you know this is not a feasible or socially permissible; and so, fueled by a desire to destroy, you turn to the only thing that you can ‘safely’ unleash upon – yourself.
outside my control,
I shriek and shred myself
so you will heal me
so you will hear me
so you will hold me
so you will see me
so the chasm between closes
and the wound seals
– scratch marks
Rage as Protection
Protecting yourself from what, you ask?
It’s like road rage. You’re not just getting angry at someone cutting you off; your enraged that they did something that stupid which put other people at risk. Your rage is to protect yourself from people who don’t care enough that they are willing to harm others.
Part of rage, too, is having a real hard time accepting reality. When your reality rubs you the wrong way, microsggresses you, and reminds you time and time again of a larger system stacked against you, well, It’s really hard to accept that. You don’t want to.
Gosh, even talking about it.
This reaction, rage, amongst women, amongst the oppressed.
This conversation, here between you and me,
between women, between the oppressed.
“Calm down. It’s not a big deal. It just happened once.”
In other words:
“Your experience is not valid enough”
Who’s voice is that? Who says that to you?
say that to you.
In so many ways.
In so many words.
But ultimately, that’s not them talking.
That’s the internalized oppressor.
When injustice happens, we can learn from Ford. She still showed up. She spoke even though her voice shook. In the aftereffects of rage, channel that sense of action into something healing, something productive. Build that network of support. Ask friends for help in clapping back, or simply staying safe, staying accompanied, distracted, wound down.
We can and will and should show up, but we have to be strategic; we have to be safe.
- How do I enter mindfulness and self compassion when rage enters my space?
- How do I manage conflict in rage mode (which is a completely different state than irritation mode)?
- How do I be gentle with myself in a harsh world?