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Madeleine Eames

- Psychotherapist
- Mindfulness Teacher

How Do You Age Gracefully When You’re So Angry?

You don’t, is the short answer. 

First of all, the phrase “aging gracefully” just pisses me off.

Why? Because it sends a message that women are supposed to age in smooth, flowing, ballet dancer style.  Not the stop-and-start, messy, sometimes scary and angry and often hilarious way we live.  Oh to be human!

I had a moment. Well, a few lately but here’s one. I was in a yoga class, which I have always loved for moving, calming and centering my body. But there was a lot going on.  Maui was burning and forest fires were headed our way here as well. I hadn’t slept well and I had noticed an unrest in my body that had been building for some time.

The yoga instructor was saying something about being calm like the sea, well my ocean was having a tantrum. Find your calm centre, she said. Where the hell is it?  I frantically searched, well not for long as I knew it was futile, and then something about being flowy and billowing in the wind when I was being blown off the cliff by a storm. So much for that. 

It had felt like a slow simmer in my bones and now burning of Mother Earth, that needed an outlet of action. 

I felt irritated, annoyed… no, I felt angry.  Not soft and gooey at all.

This moment made me wonder where we have a safe place to experience this intense, firey energy which is equally as valuable as the soft, flowy type. In fact, I don’t think we do. 

After all, it is just energy. The energy of action, passion and creativity. The energy of justice, of destruction and re-creation.

In fact, anger has given rise to the major shifts in our culture, as well as the destruction.

An angry woman in our culture is easily dismissed, and where do men express their anger in a way that is wise and not deemed dangerous?

Ok, here’s what happened. I didn’t lose it, we are all pretty good at preventing that. I noticed what happened next.

Immediately I tried to quell it, to breathe deeper and join in the class, after all I had paid for it.  Since my body was agitated, my mind raced with all kinds of nonsense, but mostly telling me to calm the f#$% down and follow the class. 

Does this happen to you? The energy of anger creates a racetrack of thoughts that go around and around digging up everyone and everything to blame?

Stop for a mo. Snapshot yourself there. This is the pause we are missing but I’ll come back to that later.

Then I disconnected. My mind went outside to the sky and my plans for later as my body went through the poses half-heartedly. At the end I was relieved, felt a little better and also very tired. 

How often do we do this? Bypass the roots and wisdom of anger, or rage by learning to “calm down”, ie. breathe, let it go, run, think of something else, or whatever your favourite distraction tool is. 

The truth is, anger points us towards something important. Something we love and care about deeply. Or a need that hasn’t been met. The flip side of rage is love.

Anger is annoyance at the neighbours dog that won’t stop barking, that coworker that irritates you, or that your spouse forgot to pick up the milk on the way home. 

But rage, rage is a different animal. If those things trigger rage, look a little deeper. Rage is your soul speaking of a violation of boundaries, a continual dismissal of your dignity, a deep connection with something you value or need. Rage patterns continue until they are met and felt with compassion and allowed to move.  

Rage doesn’t disappear with hitting a pillow or yelling at your dog. That might feel good temporarily but if done without intention it strengthens the rage neural pathways. 

When it is met and acknowledged somatically in your body as the imprint it has left behind, you can safely pull out it’s roots into a sea of self-love for your younger self, or for what is important to you. 

Yup, the way out is through. And the light at the end of the rage tunnel is finally getting out of confusion, fogginess, guilt and shame and stepping off the hamster wheel of confrontation and avoidance. 

We are so good at avoidance that when a discussion of anger arises, it is more about how awful it is, how we have exploded and felt shame, or how it sits inside slowly eroding away our life as resentment.

We talk about our own anger and rage mostly in terms of how we have unsuccessfully, to manage it, calm it, explode and feel guilty, or bypass it all together.

I have come to see that the question of why are you so angry? could be changed to Why are we not MORE angry?

The reason always makes sense. 

It’s important to be angry about climate change, not being able to feed your kids, not feeling supported, being abandoned, betrayed or gaslighted, poverty and war, families fleeing for their lives. 

It is THE most misunderstood and mishandled emotion we have. 

Imagine. What if anger didn’t have a name. What would it be? A rise in energy looking for action. Seeking to protect, to guard, to shout, to save our children, to speak out against violations, injustice and unspeakable sorrow. 

The mother bear doesn’t think about rage, she just protects. And continues until she knows her cubs are safe from threat. 

She doesn’t think about what to do, whether she should or not, or runs a narrative about “what will other bears think?” or “it’s not that bad, I’ll let it go this time.” 

No. She becomes predator. 

We are the only species on the planet that raises a portion of our population to become prey.

The widely accepted nervous system adaptations of fawning (people-pleasing) and fitting in (the good girl archetype) leave the person vulnerable to being eaten. 

The predator protects. Then she recovers, shakes and rolls, plays with her cubs, eats, drinks and life continues on.

Now imagine a world without anger. You might think that’s a good thing, but anger is mobilizing, the wise bodyguard, and also the gateway to passion, grief and healing in a deep, deep way.

We have denied this sacred energy so completely that it’s power has either turned into resentment or outwards in toxic ways. Just look at the news, or movies, or perhaps your own experience. 

Anger is real and necessary. I imagine that before humans could talk it would simply rise in an action of killing the predator, roaring off a mountaintop when a loved one dies, or channeled into dancing and drumming at the end of the day. 

Taming anger doesn’t work. It’s like telling your inner child to sit in the corner. But transforming and channeling the current of rage does. There are many reasons to rise with your anger and take action, but often there is so much conditioning around it, or fear, that it either stays stuck or does damage. 

On the other side of safe expression of rage is clarity, focus, power… and love. 

Love for your inner child who intelligently knew when to repress, love for the planet and energy to take action, or love for people dear to you and the ability to protect them.

In other words, you no longer waste precious energy on the managing and taming anger, but become a clear vessel to speak up with power, stand your ground and know that your anger is here to protect you or someone/something you love. 

So, I’m not sure about aging gracefully at all. I’m pretty sure that has to do with keeping quiet and looking good. This is not what our ancient ancestors knew. They revered and were afraid of the wild, wise woman in the forest. The Crone (Queen, wise woman) who cast spells and gave sage advice and loved deeply. The Hag (holy one) who knew in her bones what needed protection.

 I think I’d rather be her. 

That is what I call grace.

If this hits home for you, I invite your beautiful presence into a free webinar on Wednesday September 6th at 11am PST on The Purpose and Power of Anger.

Register right here: Click here 

Hope to see you there. I have some offerings coming up to help you move through anger to clarity coming up, but I recommend this webinar first. 

Much love,

Madeleine

2 thoughts on “How Do You Age Gracefully When You’re So Angry?”

  1. What are you so angry? Yes! That question!!!!!
    Avoidance . . . Resentment . . . Toxic. Well written and this really hits home.
    I have no desire to age gracefully into some gray oblivion of innocuously diminishing self.
    Thank you

    Reply
    • Yes that’s right! We are not here to become invisible, but I think that invisibility frees us up to become whoever we want to be as we age without permission!

      Reply

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