Sometimes It’s Good to Be Angry
This past year has been an eventful one, and for me, it’s been jam-packed with opportunities to be really angry at the world and at other people. So I’ve been focusing a lot on learning to handle my anger better. Anger gets bad publicity, with some love-and-light types claiming to swear it off altogether. I wish them luck with that, but it wasn’t going to work for me. Besides, I don’t believe anger is a negative emotion; in fact, it is an essential tool, one with important messages for me and for the world. Anger, as Zack de la Rocha said, is a gift. I’d like to share with you how I work with the power of my anger, using a ritual approach, in hopes that it will help some of you too.
Six Steps to Harness Your Anger
1. Begin by grounding yourself. Whether through the use of earth-connected stones like carnelian and hematite or by other means, you need to root yourself firmly to the earth. Feel the connection between the center of your anger and the strength and stability beneath your feet. Fire is the element most commonly connected with anger, and it has its place in this ritual, but I find it’s best to begin with earth.
2. Anger can be a warning that your boundaries have been breached in some way, whether metaphysically or in a more literal sense. (If you find it helpful to cast a circle during rituals, now is a good time to take that step.) After grounding yourself, let yourself feel your anger. Envision it as a light, and envision that light surrounding you with the protective love of self that enables survival and empowers you to see when you are being treated as less valuable than you are.
3. Now take a piece of paper. Write down why you’re angry. Don’t try to get deep in self-analysis, and don’t think of this as catharsis either; what you’re doing now is honoring your instinct and conserving the power of your anger, by translating it into words. Read it back to yourself, then burn the piece of paper (safely, please!). As you watch the fire consume the paper, focus on how the light converts the source of your anger into warmth and illumination. Breathe and use the moment to reflect on this.
4. Now, and this is critical, repeat Step 3, in different words, as many times as you need to, until you feel that you have fully understood your anger. The point of this step is not catharsis, not to wear yourself out by pouring your anger onto the page. It’s to preserve your energy, honor your body and mind and their ways of protecting you, and work your anger into a manageable form, so that you can direct its power. Be alert to what your anger is telling you. Are you being wronged? Is someone you care about being hurt? Are your needs being met? If your anger seems irrational on reflection, think about whether that anger may be masking another emotion. For me this is often free-floating anxiety, but it could be hurt or worry or insecurity too.
5. Close out this part of the ritual with a purification. Sprinkle salt on the ashes of the paper, or mix them in with your incense ashes, or release them outside, while reminding yourself of your own worth and your intent to move forward in understanding and peace.
6. This may be the most important step of all: take what you have learned and make active use of it. The anger may be in a different form now, but it doesn’t have to be gone. If you were wronged, do what you can to heal yourself and prevent future wrongs, whether this means expressing your feelings to the person who wronged you, removing yourself from the situation, or working in activism or other spheres to enact change. If someone you love was hurt, take extra time to nurture and protect them, and express your empathy with their hurt. The important thing is, just like with the fire, use your anger to bring change, warmth, and illumination to the world around you.