The Healing Power of Anger
Tolstoy famously opens Anna Karenina by declaring, “Every happy family is the same but unhappy families are all different.” Over the years I’ve noticed healers have their own expression for a unique and challenging childhood -- they call it “initiation.”
My initiation into healership happened early on. My father had been one of the casualties of the Reagan Recession and found himself taking any meager job he could get, often far away, which meant we didn’t see him a lot. But with a hair-trigger temper and bipolar mood swings, my mother wasn’t meant to raise three children on her own. Without any warning, a strange glaze would often slip over her once-caring eyes as she exploded into violent rages, screaming how “worthless” my siblings and I were and that she “wished we were never born.”
Being a sensitive kid, I naturally took her anger to heart. I often found myself falling into temper tantrums of my own to release the raging emotions I had absorbed. But my mother punished me for this bad behavior and I learned to trap these humiliating emotions deep inside of me. I came to believe that my anger was a shameful thing that needed to be scuttled off into the shadowy corners of my life. So I tucked those raw feelings into my gut, where they collected over time, building into full-blown panic attacks and depression once my teenage years hit. These internalized aggressive energies would plague my entire adult life, that is until my mentor Barry Gordon at the Connecticut Healing Institute taught me “to love my anger.”
It all started with me sharing a story to my Bioenergetic healing classmates about how I was jumped by five teenagers in Brooklyn. After hearing the tale, Barry suggested that I express my rage. “That perpetrator energy can stick with you if you don’t let it out,” he said. But the last thing I wanted was be violent like those kids. Barry then brought out his secret weapon for cases like me – a plastic baseball bat. He asked me to beat a pillow with the bat, but I just didn’t have the heart. It wasn’t in my nature, I thought. So he asked the class for a volunteer.
A housewife was the first to put her arm up. “Who are you angry at?” Barry asked. “God,” the woman was quick to answer. Barry gave her the bat and she started swinging, taking a breath with each upswing and then letting out sharp words on the exhale. Her voice grew loud and strong and she beat those pillows with all her might. Suddenly, she wasn’t mad at God anymore, but her father and she yelled until the anger subsided and a new emotion was let loose -- sorrow. She sobbed and sobbed and when it was over, she looked more alive and healthier than I'd ever seen her before. Her anger had transmuted from volatile and dangerous electricity to a soothing, empowering force.
“God loves you for your anger,” Barry told the class. “It means that you care.”
Inspired by the woman’s courage, I stood up next and picked up that bat. I was also angry with God. How could this divine power let humans be so rotten to each other? Was this the best that grace could offer? At first I couldn’t get into my anger. It didn’t seem available. I shrugged my shoulders, setting down the bat. Barry wasn’t buying any of this. “Look at me,” he pointed at his eyes. “Sink into your anger. Feel it. Be it.” I thought of all the violence terrorizing our world until my anger with God pumped through my veins. I hit the pillow hard with the bat. Molecules of rage rose out of my nervous abdomen and shot through my arms, releasing upon impact. Primal roars shook out of my belly. I hit and hit that pillow until it wasn’t God anymore, but my own mother that I was furious with. How could she have been so cruel to her own children? How could she not love us? How could she not care? How could she think she could get away with treating us the way she did?
I crashed the bat on the pillow, yelling words of profanity with each blow. All that energetic rage my mother had put into my body came bursting out of my auric field, exploding against the pillow. Suddenly the wave of anger crested and the sorrow that had been smothered underneath floated to the surface. I began to cry from the grief of growing up with a mother who didn’t know how to love her children. As I did this, a sense of calmness overcame me as I realized that my mother did, in fact, love me. She’d always done the best that she could. She had her own wounding that limited her capacity to express her love for us, just as my wounds had restricted me.
When I got back home in New York, I decided to try something I rarely did – I gave my mother a call. She was cheerful and practically buzzing to hear how my “Big Apple adventures” were going. I told her briefly about the healing program I was attending, wondering what she would think. “I’m so proud of you,” she told me. “I’m proud of all the things you’re doing. You’re such a free spirit. You always have been. I know you’re following your heart.” I could barely talk from the lump swelling in my throat. I was so thankful for her love.
After the call, I realized it was my own fault for having been estranged from my family over the years. It had been more than a decade since my mother last raised her voice at me. She had done her own personal work once the kids had left the nest. It was time I did the same. I also realized that Bioenergetic therapy had been right about my own energetic defenses. According to this healing modality, many of our mental and physical illnesses are caused by not releasing the protective shields we put over us when experiencing traumatic events at a young age. For the last twenty-plus years, the world had been changing around me but I was still viewing it from the frozen emotions of a small child. I had trapped myself inside my own terror.
Recognizing my own anger helped me learn compassion for people with tempers. I suddenly understood that they were dealing with some strong frequencies that desperately needed transmutation. Unlike my mother, I had shut this force down inside of myself for years. Rather than releasing it in quick outbursts, my rage would seethe out in ugly bits of passive aggressiveness. But now that my relationship with anger had shifted, I could see that these fierce emotions were a beautiful part of the human story, especially if they weren’t repressed, or expressed in inappropriate ways that hurt others. Anger itself was a sharp, cleansing current that other emotions hitched a ride on when released. It took a great deal of energy to keep this powerful force at bay. So, for the first time since I was very young, I allowed myself to get angry here and there instead of cutting off these experiences before they arose. I came to know my anger as a graceful wave, one that would roll over and then pass, but always making me feel more connected and loving afterward.
I kept regular “anger dates” with myself to release these destructive energies and purify my auric field. Tension in my jaw, abdomen, and heart loosened through this process. I became lighter and happier in my body, and with life in general. Just before graduating healing school, I was given my “healer reading,” meaning my teachers would tune into the quantum field and express any words or thoughts that came to them about my upcoming practice. Many of them said that writing and speaking would be just as important as holding private sessions with clients. Barry told us, “I hear anger keep coming up. You need to speak about anger, teach people how to love it, and to release it. Don’t forget anger is an important part of your healing path.”
Barry couldn’t have been more right. During the course of my practice, I’ve come to love anger as one of the most powerful tools in my healer kit. Internalized anger leads to a host of mental, physical, and spiritual “dis-eases,” including depression, anxiety, long-term grief, low self-esteem, masochist tendencies, fatigue, a sense of being overwhelmed, suicidal tendencies, and aggressive degenerative illnesses. I find many of my clients are being attacked and imprisoned by their own energetic system. And one of the most effective ways to break them out of this vibrational cage is to help them connect with and transmute the very frequencies that are causing the problem.
Clients are often hesitant when I suggest getting in touch with their anger. They’ve come to believe it is a shameful, dangerous, and impolite emotion, just as I had once believed. Even as they grab a plastic bat, clench their fists to punch a pillow, or lift their foot to stomp the floor, they usually find themselves deflated in the final moment, saying things like, “I’m not angry right now” or “I just don’t feel it in me.” I have a little healer trick for this. Nothing gets people into their anger quicker than having them repeat,” “I won’t get angry! I won’t get angry!” Just a few sentences of this will have them punching pillows for a much-needed release.
And this is when I get to observe the beauty of my clients and their ability to take their healing into their own hands. I hold space and serve as a witness to their process (having an active witness greatly augments the therapeutic process). Meanwhile, they are breathing in to painful, disregarded aspects of themselves, and their bodies, pulling these energies up through their lungs and throat and releasing them through words and sound, and the physical power of their fists or feet. They make contact with stuck, blocked, dark, and negative emotions, discharging these vibrations from their energetic systems to be transmuted into light. Much of this converted energy reintegrates into their field, creating more space, power, creativity and love. Once the anger is released, tears often surface as my clients let go of long-held shame and sorrow. I then ask them to cycle the emotions they are feeling through their heart, which keeps the energy flowing for release and transmutation.
Afterward, I like to run golden energy along the circumference of their auric body to help strengthen and seal their now more expansive field. I also have them send healing energy (or sometimes prayers if they are inclined) to the ones they directed their anger to, which helps unstick some of the karmic bonds between them. If there’s time after all of this, I will have them lie on the table to receive hands on healing work, as its easier to channel light in to these areas now that they’ve opened up.
I’ve met a number of energy healers that question the necessity of anger therapy and shadow work, saying that they only want to focus on the light, not on the dark. But I believe this "spiritual bypass" can hinder the healing process, as it only works on the surface, not going into the deeper woundings that need to be connected with and released in order to create the necessary space for light to come in. Some argue that they don’t want to put negative energies like anger out into the universe. In my experience, therapeutic anger work converts these denser vibrations into creative power, which then gets released as positive manifestation into the world. Often there is a gentle feedback loop, where warm, healing frequencies boomerang back into the clients’ field once rage is released.
Another concern people have is that clients may become “anger addicts” or “rage-aholics.” Although there is a potential for this, it seems unlikely as I encourage clients to create “anger dates” with themselves, so that the work happens in a safe, healing container. For those who already have anger management issues, this process creates more mindfulness for when they experience rage in their daily lives, and they learn to discharge these energies in more appropriate contexts. They also learn a way to channel anger when it arises by circulating these strong energies up and down the central channel of the spine, while staying centered in the loving, unifying vibrations of the heart. They don’t project these potentially harmful vibrations on to others, nor do they deny these intense emotions (which leads to self-harm); rather, they cycle these potent frequencies up through their field, allowing for more personal strength and energetic support.
Unfortunately, in the United States, there are few outlets for people to express their anger in a therapeutic manner. As discussed in my last RS article, “A Nation of Masochists,” Americans generally aren’t allotted a space to express their frustrations in a healthy manner, so we see this discontent expressed with societal phenomena like “road rage,” office shootings, bully bosses, and even the proliferation of Prozac and other mood suppressing pharmaceuticals.
Fortunately, Americans can reach out to their local anger clinic, Bioenergetic therapist, or Core counseling center to help transmute unconscious rage into healing light. My long-term hope and dream is that we can reintroduce the mystery schools to our educational curriculum (not just for kids, but for adults), where we create transformational structures to guide us along the initiatory path, connecting with and releasing our shadow energies to illuminate our lives, and the world around us.
In the meantime, I encourage readers to get to know their anger as it arises. Don’t simply shut it down or wait for a rainy day to deal with those disruptive frequencies. Treat yourself to an anger date. Climb a mountain and scream out a friend’s betrayal to the sky, grab a pillow and yell out that abandonment issue with your dad, dip your head under water and roar out that time the six-graders beat you up. Breathe in, connect with, and release those energies to a sympathetic universe. As wild and unruly as it can be, once we give anger our attention and love, it becomes an amazing cosmic gift, one that enriches and empowers our lives.
Jonathan is a Bioenergetic Healer and Reiki Master. He has a private practice in NYC and does Skype sessions (He gives discounts to the Evolver community). Jonathan will be facilitating an Energy Medicine School starting in January. www.talathealing.com
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Image: "Smoking Fist" by leunix on Flickr courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing