For some time now, I’ve been trying to find better ways to make room for anger. It’s been an educational journey. I’ve learned to make deliberate space and to actively give myself permission for whatever feelings I’m having. There have been some significant times in my life when I simply wasn’t allowed inconvenient feelings, and I’m having to re-train.
Anger is a protective emotion. It’s a healthy response to violated boundaries and injustice. Without it, what happens for me is that any problem arising gets internalised. Instead of holding my boundaries, I’ll feel like I’m not entitled to them. Instead of challenging injustice, I’ll understand that the problem is all my fault. A person who is not allowed to be angry will have a very hard time functioning well.
One of the things coming up for me is a change in relation to my history. There are many things in my past that were grossly unfair, only I didn’t have the experience and knowledge to identify them at the time. To take a simple example – I grew up being routinely shamed for not being able to run, throw, catch, do gymnastics and being treated by teachers like I was lazy and it was my fault. I’m intensely hypermobile, these are all things my body just doesn’t do well. These are things that cause me pain, and that I was always at risk of taking damage from.
Of course when I was growing up, no one was much aware of this sort of thing. But, my world would have been so different if anyone had treated me kindly and even considered there might be stuff going on with my body. I couldn’t hold a pen properly, or a violin, my fingers were all wrong on pianos, but no one put it together, me included.
There is something restorative about allowing myself to be angry now. There is something in my anger that soothes the child inside me, and gives me back some dignity. I was not lazy, I had body issues. I was not making a fuss – I was easily hurt. It wasn’t fair, and being able to say that as an adult comes as a relief.
I’m going round similar things as I look back at my experience of being bullied as a child. I’m allowing myself to be cross now about things that were forced onto me, that didn’t suit me or made me unhappy. I can’t change the past, but I can change my stories about the past. I went through a lot of things that really weren’t fair, and I can allow myself to be angry about that now. There’s no one to shut me down and tell me I cannot have my own feelings about such experiences.
We may not be able to change a situation, but the person who is allowed to feel angry can hold onto the edges of themselves in better ways. Life is always going to knock us about. If we are allowed to resent the hard bits, to get cross about boundary violations and unfairness, we get to maintain a sense of personal integrity. Anger may not solve a problem or allow us to act differently – there may be no real options. But, the person who can get angry doesn’t internalise their experiences in the same way. If you know you were worth more and deserved better, you take less damage from problematic experiences.
And apparently, it’s never too late to start making that space.