By: Lauren Anderson
Yeah. Okay. I’ll admit it. Sometimes I get mad.
Okay okay- you got me. It’s not sometimes. It’s a lot. I actually might have a bonafide “temper”.
Like when something upsets me, the first place I go is anger. Once I wade through the anger, I can usually get to the heart of why I’m mad…. but it still takes a while.
I don’t necessarily like this about myself, but it’s the truth. (And now is the time for truth!) Over the years I’ve learned a lot about my anger, and I’ve learned to manage it for the most part. But it still lives in me.
In fact, if you met me now, you might be surprised to learn I had a temper. It doesn’t really show up in that traditional, fire-out-of-the-ears cartoonish sense that you might expect. And it doesn’t really show up in that typically “male” kind of scary, threatening anger way that gets depicted on TV.
But I think that’s where people’s minds go when they think about anger. I think that’s partly why I avoid talking about it. Because anger is one of our more base instincts, I think people assume that if you’re evolved you’re not supposed to have it?
Well, you know what I have to say about that? Bullshit.
Because while anger when it’s out of control, can be scary and destructive. But anger at it’s finest?
GETS SHIT DONE.
I hang out with a lot of people who struggle with anger. Either they don’t see the “value in it” or they think it’s dangerous. Or they’ve never fully let themselves get angry– so it might even scare them a little. And I agree with all those things.
As “evolved” humans, there is not enough love given to the Freudian “Sex and Aggression” aspect of ourselves. (Recognizing fully how problematic Freud is…) But Anger did a lot to keep us alive in the olden days. Anger kept us moving. Anger saw that we were protected.
Anger helped us, as a species, survive.
Cause Anger GETS SHIT DONE.
I mean honestly? It also got a lot of people killed, I’m sure. It also means WAR. Or caused communities to fall apart. Or blew up a few families and/or relationships.
And that’s what makes it dangerous. On the bad side of anger? Fury and destruction.
I can see why people want to evolve past it so bad. But I dunno.
I think I want to tell another story about anger.
I want to lean into the anger that I can channel to give me energy. The feeling that can propel me forward when otherwise I might be swallowed in grief.
The rage that gives me the fire under my ass to make a BIG CHANGE.
On the good side of anger, it’s survival at it’s most pure perhaps?
So cut to the other day.
I am sitting across a table receiving news I don’t want to hear. Watching something I don’t want to watch. But I can’t really leave without it being considered odd or rude.
I have no real option but to sit there and listen/ experience this “thing” I don’t want to be experiencing.
I don’t mean to be vague here dear readers, but in this instance, I don’t think the specifics are the important thing. The important thing was that it sucked. And perhaps we’ve all had a feeling like this?
I hated it. If I could’ve been anywhere else at that one particular moment in time– I WOULD HAVE BEEN THERE INSTEAD.
When it’s finally over, I get the A-OK to take off–so I do. Quickly. I got myself out of that situation as fast as humanly possible.
I felt like a duck ya know? Smooth body on top of the water– no one was the wiser. But underneath the surface, I was furious and peddling my little webbed-feet of self preservation.
I get outdoors in the cool night air, and I shake it off. Like, quite literally shake my body. It helped a little, but I’ll tell you– I was buzzing.
At that point in time, I don’t know what I was feeling exactly. I just know I was being really funny. And if you think anger is a useful survival tool– well, it is nothing compared to funny. Funny wins EVERY TIME.
But later on that night, the need to be funny died away, and I was left to buzz alone in my apartment. Unable to fully process what was wrong, I pick up a pile of mail and I begin sorting and moving things around.
It’s not long before I remove every piece of detritus from the countertop. I’ve broken out the the disinfectant, and I’m scrubbing the marble within an inch of it’s life.
EVEN THOUGH THERE WAS NOTHING TO SCRUB.
The only “dirt” on that countertop was the mail, and an errant dish or two from the meal before.
But here I was scrubbing as if my life depended on it. And when I was done, that countertop was so shiny, it felt like it was being lit from within. And I felt better. And I went to bed.
The next day, I woke up and that same uneasy feeling from the night before popped up. I was brushing my teeth, feeling FEELINGS, so I grabbed my rag and started to scrub again. My sink never knew what hit it. I was rage cleaning, and it felt—dare I say– GOOD?
I look around and I chuckle to myself. Those people that have those super spotless homes? Yeah. They’re probably MAD AS HELL and don’t even realize it.
Cause here’s the thing gang… I can’t do anything about what I experienced the night before. There is literally no course of action to take. It was one of those things that, ya know– HAPPEN.
And there is no brave conversation to be had, or best practices to be figured out. This particular situation doesn’t work like that. It was one of those things that sometimes I have to go through that suuuuuuuck.
And on the other end of it? I’m left feeling like I don’t have any options. So anger bubbles up. Cause nothing makes me angrier than feeling like I’m forced to do something.
It’s like this. Event happens. I have feelings. I can’t do anything about those feelings. That makes me mad. Anger shows up to help, because I think it’s my body’s way of helping me process a feeling that I can’t work out otherwise. It’s my first line of defense.
It’s my Amy Infantry on the ground, holding the enemy at bay before the Navy sends in the Top Gun.
And because I know from a lifetime of getting mad, that anger left unfocused or underutilized can turn to rage, which can quickly destroy.
So what do I do? I clean. And every chance I get… I LIFT WEIGHTS.
Nothing channels anger faster than throwing some heavy metal around. For a personality like mine? It’s a match made in heaven. For those people I know and love who struggle with letting themselves get mad? It can be a godsend.
I have to tell you a secret. (And now is the time for truth!) At least half the time I’m at the gym, I’m channeling some anger. I know there’s all these fitness gurus and articles online saying how you should “Come into your practice with gratitude and peace and joy n’ shit.”
And yeah, in a perfect world I would. And sometimes I do.
But the other times? I’m mad. I’m frustrated. I feel like I can’t move, or that I’m stuck in my skin. And I show up and work through that. And maybe that’s okay too?
Like, maybe it’s okay to be angry once in awhile. Like it’s okay to happy and sad.
Maybe the most important thing is that I’m moving through it?
You know that I’ve been doing EMDR in therapy for a while now. And in that practice, I have experienced quite a few breakthroughs in a very short amount of time. Then, I sunk into a depression, and now I’m moving through that.
I was talking with my therapist about it, lamenting. Kind of missing the euphoria I was experiencing from the previous breakthroughs. She said that the work of EMDR is not just trying to get to a good feeling. It’s mostly trying to get “unstuck”. Sometimes, things can’t be good. But we can learn to release the feelings and move through it.
I found this very helpful. “Not everything can be good.” is an interesting thing to wrap my head around. Especially in a society that values the “quick fix” above all else.
As long as there’s movement, EMDR is doing what it was designed to do.
And somehow, I feel the same thing is true about fitness. As long as there is movement, I know I’m on the right track. Sometimes that movement is intentional and lovely and filled with gratitude. And sometimes that movement is as mad as a badger in a bag.
Sometimes my only option is to learn to move through it. Anger at it’s best can help with that.
I say it’s okay to use it when I need to. To process, to move forward, to survive.
And perhaps most especially, when there’s a tub to scrub.