There’s this way that we, as hsps – especially those of us socialized as women – have lost touch with our anger.
We’ve learned to bury it, stuff it down, swallow it, sit on it. So that when things happen that should ignite anger, instead we find something else (something much more dangerous, in my opinion) taking its place – shutting down, shutting up, and/or shame.
In our culture, there are a lot of unspoken rules about emotions. We subscribe to these rules without specifically identifying them, but we all know they are there.
We all understand, for example, that it’s not okay to show very much emotion – positive or negative – while in public. People will stare, for godsake. We don’t want to be made a spectical, and we surely don’t want those around us to be made a specticle, either.
We understand that tears are not appropriate, unless something very bad has happened. And even then, tears are only appropriate for a certain amount of time. Then we best be getting on with things lest we be diagnosed with a mental illness.
And – especially if we’re socialized as women – we understand that we are never, under any circumstances, allowed to make other people feel uncomfortable with our emotions. It is not safe.
If we share our sorrow, we are labeled as overly emotional, divorced from rationality, and can’t possibly be intelligent or successful. We literally risk our jobs and our reputations if we share too much sorrow.
If we share our joys, we are bragging, self-centered and shallow. We risk our friendships, our partners, our respect – everyone knows a woman can’t be too happy or too successful without something fishy happening.
Sorrow and joy are one thing, but if we share our anger, we risk everything.
We risk friendships, partnerships, jobs, and personal safety. Anger, for a woman, is the holy grail of emotion because it is so protective and so healing, but also so difficult and dangerous to access. If we get angry at a male, we risk them overpowering us – figuratively or literally. If we get angry at a friend, we risk social isolation, not being liked, and breaking the social rule of making others uncomfortable.
Because of all these social rules, we often can’t even find our anger. I’ve seen it over and over again – we are being attacked, either physically or emotionally – and instead of finding our anger and fighting back, we shut down. We feel ashamed. We do a deep search for all of the things we’ve done to deserve this attack.
We become victims. All because we’ve been conditioned to hide our anger.
Anger, like any other emotion, is inherently a neutral energy. It’s how we use it that determines the effect it has on ourselves and others.
Anger is hot, like fire. It has the ability to burn away impurities – including illusions that keep us oppressed. It’s powerful, because it has the ability to burn the world down – regimes, structures and false idols. Fire can make the densest forest a barren land that gives rise to a new ecosystem.
Anger, like fire, can cut through the bullshit and allow only the truth to stand.
And anger, like fire, can also rage out of control. It can destroy everything in its path when allowed to run without boundary. And I think this is what we’ve come to fear.
That in our anger, we will burn everything down.
Starting with the social rules around emotion that keep us robotic and ashamed of the complex emotions running under the surface.
There are a lot of things these days to be angry about – the oppression of certain groups of people, the exploitation of minorities, natural disaster areas receiving little to no help from those who could lend a hand, a misogynistic US president, wars on social media and other online areas, and all the little daily micro-aggressions you witness each and every day.
All of the these things can make us feel powerless, can make us feel voiceless, can feel so heavy. And when we feel heavy, we often shut down. When we shut down, we’ve lost our sensitivity to information and our resiliency to bounce back and respond.
A world in which the highly sensitive are shut down, without their voices of warning and guidance, is a world headed for disaster.
So the next time the heaviness descends and you find yourself shutting down, ask yourself:
Where is my anger?
It’s in there – that beautiful body of yours – somewhere. It’s buried down deep, under the pleasing and the perfection and the nice girl. Perhaps you left it next to the endless box of fucks you’ve been handing out to the world, when you really don’t have the desire or energy for it.
Instead of reaching inside that box, yet again, for the 1000th fuck to give to someone or something that wants you to play along and follow the rules and shut down to make the world more comfortable, reach for the anger instead. Burn something down.
You don’t have to burn down the whole world.
You just need to burn down the illusions you’ve been living under that all the perfection and all the fucks will keep you safe.
They won’t – they’ll keep you small.
So I’ll ask you again – where is your anger?
If more highly sensitive people could find their anger, so many of these social rules – illusions of right and wrong, good and bad – would come burning down in an inferno so righteous that the founding fathers of patriarchy (the guiding rules that keep this sort of nonsense in place) would roll over in their graves.
If you are afraid of anger – if you’re afraid of what will happen when you access it, don’t be. Not yet, anyway. We’re going to talk about that in the next post. Your anger can’t get out of control if you can’t find it in the first place. So where is it? Where is it hiding?
Next time you feel that heaviness creeping in, ask yourself, “Should I be angry instead? Where is my anger?”
Because anger, like any emotion, can be of service to us. And others, too, but let’s start with us.
Anger can protect you from an unprovoked attack. Anger can burn away the veil of lies that others want you to believe. Anger can bring about a clarity of direction – fire, after all, urges us to escape away from the heat and the smoke, so anger will help you run.
Find your anger. Run with it. See where it takes you. Allow it to guide you to a cool safe haven. Do not let it take you so far that find a cliff edge, or an innocent village to burn down – let it take you to safety, to a place where you can gain clarity. Through it’s shadow, anger can heal. We’ll explore more about how in the next post.