Recently I heard a woman on a podcast talk about “sacred rage.” For thirty minutes I ate up every word she said about a woman’s right to be angry and the power in her rage. It was balm for my soul.
What Does Anger Mean To You?
Before we dive into this topic, I would like to challenge you, dear reader, to think about how YOU feel about anger. What has the world taught you about anger? Do you let yourself feel it? Do you feel guilty if you do? Do you try to suppress it? How does anger motivate you to act…or does it?
Lies We’ve Been Told
Most women were not raised to appreciate our fierceness. We often have to dig deep to bring this powerful aspect of ourselves to the forefront. My three year-old’s got this fierceness: just tell her she can’t wear a tutu and take away her fruit snacks. All-caps RAGE.
But sadly, the subtle messaging girls get over time is this: Don’t be angry, be sweet. Be accommodating. Be quiet. Be good. Our unapologetic fierceness gets stifled.
Just a couple Sundays ago I heard a church leader tell the young women group that anger is from Satan. I wanted to offer my spiel about sacred rage and how angry women literally change the world. I wanted to share that anger is actually just a top layer emotion, and—if allowed to be felt, expressed and explored—will reveal a much deeper-rooted emotion that can heal wounds and drive change. But alas, I bit my tongue.
For a man, explosive anger is easily dismissed or justified. But for a woman, it’s a different story. If she expresses her rage, she will often be viewed as out of control, a bitch, or just bat-shit crazy. It’s a glaring and ridiculous double standard, and it’s actually no wonder that feminine rage is a real phenomenon. We are simply human beings who get angry, but as long as we feel unsafe to express it (or even acknowledge it), we just get angrier. It’s a vicious cycle.
My Hopes For You
I want to share some background about how I have spent the last year confronting my own anger. In sharing, I hope to accomplish a few things:
1. I want YOU to feel empowered to acknowledge and confront your anger if it is something you have dealt with or are currently experiencing (resentment, though not the same as anger, counts too because it is something you have to work through and can be a symptom of your anger).
2. I want you to be honest with yourself about where the anger is stemming from. Anger is a layered emotion; there is always more to the story. Be a soul archaeologist and dig deep, knowing that it will require work but also will reveal some beautiful truths that can help you heal and move forward. More importantly, anger can be a powerful catalyst for necessary change.
3. Lastly, I want you to let go of any negative associations you have around the idea of feeling anger. Suppressing anger is not only bad for mental/emotional health, it causes issues with physical health as well. So…remember that anger isn’t bad; it’s your teacher.
Messages From My Subconscious
Last summer, I felt anger simmering within me, and I was very confused about where it was coming from. At the time I wasn’t fully aware that my subconscious was trying to tell me something. I sort of just let the anger well up inside me until it approached a rolling boil. I kept trying to placate myself by ignoring it or distracting myself. But that just created MORE anger. It doesn’t go away.
My initial diagnosis for myself was “Pandemic PTSD.” I determined that I needed to confront the residual effects of Covid before I could move on into a “happier” place.
If my feelings were a layered cake, anger was at the top with resentment appearing just underneath. My unexamined resentment was a sore left to fester; I was literally carrying it around until it seeped out of every pore. So I did the work. (Just google “how the pandemic hit women the hardest” and you can see what helped me feel validated.) As I heard more people talking about the effects of the pandemic on women, I let out a big exhale. Validation is often the first step in healing.
Another remedial technique I used was mentally stepping out of myself and reexamining all the hats I was forced to wear while the world was shut down, like an objective observer. That “observer” told me: you did too much and you’re freaking tired. It shouldn’t have happened the way it did.
I started to feel better just by giving myself permission to explore my anger and resentment. But I learned quickly that the pandemic wasn’t really the cause of anything; it only illuminated and exacerbated a sad truth: Women carry the load and are undervalued. Sometimes we take it as a compliment about how much we do (cue Beyonce “Who Run the World”) but in this particular case, there was no singing and dancing on my part. I found that my resentment was palpable. And it wasn’t the root emotion; it went deeper. I kept digging.
A Patriarchal World
This is where the feminist in me was born. I grew up in a conservative home and church where women’s issues weren’t talked about. But as I listened, read, researched women’s stories and viewpoints, it didn’t take long for me to start to notice the inequalities around me because *surprise*– our culture is still deeply entrenched in patriarchy and male dominance. How could I have missed all of this?!
Many women feel resentment because they feel STUCK in their prescribed gender roles, and I am no exception to this. Beyond that, women are tired of alive-and-well sexism and exhausted from carrying out imbalanced expectations. Also, we feel confused when we are given a pat on the back for all that we do. The thing is, we aren’t superheroes and we don’t want sympathy…we just want HELP. I have never felt this more strongly than in 2020/2021 at the peak of the pandemic. I was emotionally and physically DROWNING, and people would constantly say, “I don’t know how you’re doing it.” If they only knew that I wasn’t doing whatever they thought “it” is. I was merely surviving.
I was able to finally make sense of my bubbling anger and understand where it was coming from. I realized that my strong feelings were no longer just MY problem—it became clear that women’s issues and patriarchy should be EVERYONE’S problem—a longstanding villain that men and women should be collectively working to slay little by little, day by day.
Underneath It All
This is when I became aware of what lay at the root of it all: feelings of inferiority and unworthiness. I had never before realized the shackles of my conditioning, about how society’s view of women was deeply imbedded in my subconscious. It’s not like I was walking around feeling “less than men,” because the messaging is very subtle. But after 35 years, it added up to A LOT of false ideas about my value, and it finally manifested itself. In hindsight I see that my bubbling anger was inevitable, and the pandemic just pushed it right up to the driver’s seat and took hold of the wheel.
Once I finally came to terms with this, I wrote my piece To Be She. It was an exercise in self-honesty and awareness. I took a magnifying glass to my life, evaluating the constructs and experiences that have shaped my identity and my own feelings about being a woman. (By the way, I HIGHLY recommend engaging in a similar exercise. It’s extremely healing just to be able to bring to light your own programming and how much of your feelings of worth might be tangled up in cultural bullshit).
The idea that as a woman there are certain roles we need to play, certain behaviors we need to accept, certain emotions we can and can’t feel is just LUDICROUS. Writing that piece felt like an awakening of sorts, and now I can’t imagine ever going back to sleep.
I have unearthed some beautiful gems as a result of exploring my anger. The most important one was RE-LEARNING that my worth is divine and my fierceness is a superpower. My anger and resentment weren’t what I initially thought they were (bad/from Satan/pointless); they were a clue, my teacher. Examining them lit a fire in me to start doing work that needs to be done for myself, my family and the world. Anger brought me back to myself.
So reader, ask yourself: What can my anger teach me? How can I use it for good? Then let it guide you to a deeper part of yourself. Let it compel you to speak up and speak out, shut down injustice, start important conversations, change the status quo. Let it morph into sacred rage, which is synonymous with POWER. That power is your gift from the universe and a catalyst for healing everything wrong in this world.
Watch out for the angry woman y’all. She will move mountains.