Tough. Demanding. Doesn’t suffer fools lightly. Volatile. Impossible. Direct. Pointed. All of these have been used to describe me at some point in my life. I have a track record of being an angry woman. It’s been part of my personality for a long time. In truth, it’s hard to scratch the skin of any woman over the age of about 30 and not find anger in some format but I’m just a little more expressive of it than most.
The problem with being angry most of the time is it’s damn hard on the head and harder yet on the body. The physiological high of the adrenaline rush has an addictive quality. Life is just a little bit larger, colours are a little bit brighter, and the mind is a little bit sharper. Anger brings with it it’s own power trip which reinforces the continuation of the state. Sometime in the distant past, I might have been angry and with just cause, but over time, it became a habit.
Yoga has helped. I’m much calmer, less quick to react, more patient with others and myself but occasionally, something arises to remind me that I’m still very much a work in progress.
The work I’ve been doing on the mat is loosening more than just the connective tissue of my body. Anger seems to be boiling out of some cauldron deep within me. So far, it’s an unformed, nebulous, lurking anger that seems without direction, cause or form. I don’t know who I’m angry with (if anyone) or what I’m angry about (if anything), it’s just this backdrop of unspecified anger.
Meditation proves to be no relief, at least not in the short run. If nothing else, it’s making it worse because the act of being still allows these emotions bubble up. Meditation brings me to a sense of awareness of something I’d rather not be aware of at all, thank you very much. .
So what wisdom does yoga have to offer me as I try to sort out this situation? First, and thankfully, yoga doesn’t tell me to just wish it away and pretend it isn’t happening. My anger is real. It might be ill founded, related largely to my ego, and directly proportional to my emotional need to be right, but it is real and real in its consequences. When we’re angry, we’re angry for a reason, even if it’s a pretty specious one on the surface.
In my fantasy world – you know the one where I’m 6’, blonde and have 7% body fat – I picture my yogini self as a island of tranquility, a veritable oasis of wisdom and discernment. The reality version is much less sanguine. Things still piss me off. People still have the capacity to annoy the living daylights out of me. And when I turn to yoga, I thankfully am not innudated with some Pollyannish claptrap. Yoga tells me to be angry, to neither deny it or repress it. Yoga doesn’t expect me to justify it or rationalize it either. It simply accepts it for what it is — another human emotion.
I can’t help but compare this to a cultural notion that we shouldn’t experience any negative emotions. There’s a cultural expectations that we should always be in a state of positive emotions. We should be happy. We should be tranquil. And when we’re not, there’s something wrong, potentially pathological. In particular, we have a strong cultural stigma against anger in women.
What a relief to have ‘permission’ to be angry. It’s one less thing to be peeved about. This cultural notion anger is appropriate only for men and is somehow unacceptable in women just winds me up but that’s a rant for another day.
Still yoga offers some relief. It acknowledges my anger but it teaches me something else — how to cope with it. Yoga teaches me that I’m not my thoughts nor am I defined by my emotions. Right now, I am experiencing anger but I am not my anger. And yoga teaches me that all things are subject to change, including my anger. Perhaps this is the best solution for my rage at things unformed — sit and be angry. let myself experience the emotion in its purity without trying to construct a narrative around it. Walk away from the temptation to concoct stories that justify my feelings.
I feel anger. I am not that anger but I feel it. It simply is. And tomorrow, it will be different because I will be different.
Thanks for reading and Namaste,