Sometimes Anger and Disorder ARE The Path

tanyahart

 

I’m not the same person I used to be.  At all.  Or, maybe I AM the exact same person, it’s just that I’m no longer trying to cover up the “real me” with facades to please or pacify people around me. As I’ve talked about this extensively in blog posts over the last four years, I have been working pretty continuously to unearth the most authentic Julie and to shift my life trajectory towards a direction that I really want to go.  Because….I’ve discovered….life is actually worth living and I want to do it as fully as possibly and come to the end of my time on Earth with the conviction that maybe I messed up here and there, maybe I endured some pain, but I didn’t waste the time I have been given…..that I somehow left this world better than how I entered it…whatever that may look like.

The path to waking up (becoming the realest YOU possible) is not easy.  And, more often than not, the path asks you to do what is counterintuitive, what feels the least comfortable.  The path frequently asks you to do exactly opposite of those things that have been ingrained in you since childhood.  In fact, I think this may be why so many people stick with the status quo and don’t try to find themselves or to heal the dark places….because the journey can really feel like you’re abandoning yourself and the YOU you’ve identified with for decades or more.  This is very much the dying to oneself that Jesus and other spiritual teachers talk about….to live you must first die.  You have to die to the identities you’ve attached to, to the belief systems that you took up from your earliest years….you have to come to terms with the fact that maybe the way people treated you or the things they told you about yourself were never really true at all.  And so while you may be glad to rid yourself of certain belief burdens placed on you by others, letting those things go can still leave you in a place of wondering:  “If I’m not THOSE things after all, then who am I?”

Sometimes it’s easier to stay in the dark places where you can grasp onto an identity….false as though it may be… in doing so, you know your place in the order of things.  

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So, speaking of order….Richard Rohr talks alot about the idea of order, disorder, and reorder.  The idea that you have a container for how you do life….a paradigm for understanding how things work and how you fit into the grand scheme of all around you.  But then, you start embarking on this path of asking the hard questions, of recognizing that maybe reality isn’t really the way you’ve always perceived or the way that others have told you it is.  And so you start deconstructing your life scaffolding and question everything….your theology, your family dynamics, the way you approach institutions and societal norms/behaviors, the meaning of life….everything.  After you’ve taken things apart, though, you can’t stay like that….you have to re-create a schema for how to approach life.  (Side note:  I think this is where some people can really get stuck….they begin to question everything in their lives and the world, but they aren’t able to put the pieces back together in a cohesive way, and so they become depressed or despondent).  I am all about spontaneity, and impulsiveness, and magic…but at some level you’ve got to have a sense of order in your life, because sheer chaos without a sense of a foundation in anything…..I think long term might be just as horrible as hanging on to unhealthy belief systems.

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I thought I was done being angry. 

I thought that I had examined everything deeply enough and thoroughly deconstructed my belief systems enough that it would be relatively smooth sailing from now onward, and all I had to do was to reconstruct well….you know, start implementing those strong boundaries that I now believe I deserve, starting to only do relationship with people that I WANT to be in relationship with, to paint in my mind a picture of the loving Universe I now believe in and leave behind the old images of an angry, spiteful, manipulative God.

I thought I had dealt with, or at least sufficiently acknowledged, the big traumas in my life that have jacked me up.

But as life so patiently does, it will bring things back around to you again and again and again until you learn the lesson you need to learn. And, it will make sure that you learn each lesson to completion.

I have realized in the last few weeks that I still have so much pent up anger within myself that needs to make itself known.  I didn’t know the anger existed to the depth it still does.  But, when you’re doing shadow work, you go layer by layer by layer to get down to the real you, and sometimes when you get to a certain layer, you peel it back and it’s like you unknowingly opened a pressure valve.  Emotions that you had no idea you were suppressing just explode outward out of nowhere, and you usually are caught off guard and wondering where the hell this all came from.  It can be really frustrating…..especially when you thought you had dealt with all those hard emotions a long time ago and they were resolved. 

Then, you are faced with the choices: 1) am I going to pretend like “Everything’s fine, I’m fine!” and suppress them again, 2) allow them to completely take me over and create a bitter, ever-raging monster, or 3) am I going to face these emotions, listen to what they are trying to tell me, and learn their good lessons so I can move forward in joy and freedom?

I’m always trying to choose choice number 3.  But sometimes…that pressure valve can burst so hard that its like an oil well that can’t be capped and the anger or sadness just keeps coming and coming and you feel like it will never let up.  I’ve recognized that I’m in that place this week.  I pulled back layers on some memories, and feelings that I have suppressed for decades just blew right up in my face. Fortunately, this isn’t my first rodeo in shadow work, so I understand what is happening, but it sometimes “feels” like I might be completely undone and never recover.

It’s funny and yet tragic how stuff from our childhood can continue to hurt us decades later.  When we’re smart and have fully developed prefrontal cortexes and can at least logic to a certain extent….yet the traumas and beliefs that were ingrained in us at a pre-verbal level can just continue to rock us to our core and unconsciously influence our actions, our relationships, how we show up in the world, and how we perceive everything around us.

***********************************************************************************************************************When I was growing up, I was generally taught that anger is bad.  Of course, I learned there is self-righteous anger and indignation against injustices in the world that are justified, but those must be tempered in order to be effective.  Ephesians 4:26 was an oft-quoted verse by adults in my life: “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,” And even the ability to be angry without “sinning” seemed to be stifled…it was like, you can be angry, but go off and be angry by yourself so no one else has to deal with it.

I’ve since realized that I developed an unhealthy relationship with anger because I didn’t know how to be angry in a productive way, and I really didn’t know what anger was for. Why would we have this powerful emotion within us if we could only use it for a max of 24 hours (if you take the Ephesians verse literally?).  I definitely developed a “stuff and then explode” approach to anger.  I would repress and push down all of my angry emotions, thinking that I was “bad” for being mad or upset, and then those undealt with emotions would eventually blast out everywhere in unproductive ways.  Then, of course, my outbursts would be viewed as completely over the top by those who experienced them, and on more than one occasion as an adult, I would be basically be labeled as struggling with female emotional hysteria. That would usually piss me off even more, and then I would start crying, which of course, would make me even madder and…

I was so often told that I didn’t have a right to be angry, that my frustrations weren’t valid.  I was also gaslighted very effectively while growing up, and so I came to believe that I was usually the core of whatever problem happened to exist at the moment.  I became very good at being super apologetic any time I was genuinely upset, because, I reasoned, it was most likely my faulty reasoning and own inherent “badness” that made me feel angry in the first place.

I now know this is a load of bullshit.  I have ALOT of good reason to be angry about my past.  I’m not being hyperbolic or attention seeking when I say that some fucking horrible things were done to me, and they came with a healthy dose of shame…..the kind of shame that takes hold and messes with you for years.

Another thing I learned as a child was that you aren’t supposed to talk about the bad things that happen to you.  You’re supposed to protect people’s’ reputations, not air dirty laundry, let bygones be bygones, all of that. I did just this for decades.  I kept all of my secrets to myself….other than telling my therapists and a few friends a small smattering of the things that wrecked me.

I have since changed my view on this.  There’s an idea that someone told me about, that they attributed to Maya Angelou.  It basically goes like this:  if people want to be remembered by you or spoken of by you better, they should have acted better.  This was mind blowing to me when I first heard it.  Of course!!!  Why should I have to carry secrets, and make excuses for people’s bad behavior, and always give them outs, and sacrifice my own emotional and mental health just to maintain their reputations?  When they are the ones doing the hurting and acting poorly?

I’m not into letting anger and rage run unbridled in such a way that I retaliate against people that hurt me and, in doing so, cruelly take revenge.  I’m not into what could be perceived as outright slander, and I don’t want to ruin anyone’s life.  BUT, I’m at the point in my life where I NO LONGER WANT to have to minimize myself or to be unable to speak about my own hurts just to help someone save face.  I want to be able to speak my truth in a way that helps me heal and move on, because that is my right as a human being.

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It was NOT OK to have iodine poured into deep arm cuts I sustained as a 6-ish year old when I got a hold of a razor and wanted to try it out….to TEACH me a lesson so that I would never touch a razor again.  I was a freaking 6 year old for God’s sake!  I can still remember exactly where I was as that iodine was poured on my bleeding arm, and I stood screaming as it seared , relentless burning pain, deep into me.  I am so angry.

It was NOT OK for me to be slapped or hit out of nowhere as a child when perceived infractions on my part were suddenly remembered and imminent corporal punishment was deemed necessary. I am so angry.

It was NOT OK for my beloved kitten to be kicked and shot to death in front of me, to teach me  not to play with unvaccinated feral cats, when I was a little girl who loved cats more than anything in the world.  I am so wicked angry.

It was NOT OK to be given passive aggressive, shaming,  silent treatment in public for playing a stupid Amy Grant instrumental piece on the piano at a secular function.  How was I, as a junior high kid, to know that doing such things could potentially be offensive to God and makes me a horrible person?  I am so angry.

It was NOT OK to be handed dark secrets as a child, when I was too young to be able to shoulder that kind of pain and responsibility for others. I am so angry.

It was NOT OK for me to be sexually, verbally, and emotionally abused by adults in my life and to be called a liar more times than I can remember. I am so incredibly angry.

It was NOT OK for the Church to use patriarchy and purity culture and really poorly exegeted Biblical texts to make me feel like shit about myself as a woman for decades, and to then manipulate me into allow myself to accept feeling like sexual property for years within the institution of Christian marriage.

It is not OK for these and so many other things that happened to me, to happen. It doesn’t matter if they occured as random isolated incidents.  They still jacked up my life. It doesn’t matter that so much of my childhood was indeed privileged and idyllic.  Sometimes that made it worse because people didn’t believe me when I tried to hint to them about the bad things that I didn’t know what to do with.

It doesn’t matter what happened in the pasts of those who did these things to me.  We all have bad things happen to us, but that NEVER justifies the perpetuation of those bad things onto others.  Just because I had shitty things happen to me in my own childhood does not give me a pass from trying to be the best parent I can be and not hurt my children.

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Richard Rohr has been brilliant in helping me learn how to deal with anger, and understanding that anger is absolutely necessary at times.  Sometimes you have to allow yourself to be so completely, freaking angry that you are finally willing to fight for yourself…..that you finally realize that you have worth and deserve to be treated well….that you deserve to exist in the world…..that you deserve to have you boundaries honored and respected.

But like anything powerful, anger needs to be harnessed appropriately in order to be effective and not steamroll other people in the process.  It is through Rohr’s teachings that I’ve learned that I can totally be furious at something for a while and hold space for that anger all the while tearing that thing apart in my mind….and eventually the anger will cease and be replaced by love, acceptance, and a transcendence above what is no longer serving me while bringing along with me the things that do.

This is where I’m currently at.  I am so completely angry about certain things right now, mainly the memories that I listed above that I have finally allowed myself to look at and feel completely, entirely to my bones…..angry .enough that when I think about them it is quaking emotion that is felt down to my core.  But I know that I won’t be angry forever.  I’m not afraid of my anger anymore because I know it is part of the path forward. It won’t consume me. Being angry doesn’t make me a bad person. I need to pay attention to my anger so that I can keep deconstructing certain places in my life and be able to rebuild them in a healthy way. And…learning to let myself be really angry about the past is what is helping me learn when to become appropriately angry at things that happen to me as an adult.  This is a process…I’ve put up with some abusive shit from people as an adult, but as the years go by, I can spot it quicker and am tolerating it less and less.

But…I’m not only angry about things that have happened to me.  I am angry because I have dear people in my life who are still enslaved by manipulation, and shaming, and lies that they believe about themselves because of abuse that happened to them starting in their childhoods.  They are shamed into submission, shamed into secrecy, gaslighted constantly and convinced that THEY were always the problem…that THEY are the ones that need to be “FIXED”, to start acting better, to confess their wrongs.  And then, when they feel their justified anger start to rise up within them, they become paralyzed because they too were taught that they didn’t have a right to be angry about anything. They aren’t able to take that step forward in the path of deconstruction and allowing disorder to happen, because they are convinced that expressing their own anger will prove that they are bad people.

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This post is not really about me trying to air dirty laundry or gripe about things that have hurt me, even if it sounds like that.  I’m trying to make the point that we can’t ignore the ugly stuff in life to move forward.  We can’t label some emotions as good, and some as bad.  They all belong, and they all are there to tell us about what is going on inside of us.

Maybe I’m trying, in my own small way, to be a bit of a  bodhisattva……working to heal my own pain and broken places is a a good goal for myself, but more than that, I want to do the hard work and then talk openly about the journey so that others who have walked the same dark places know that they are not alone. Moving through life feeling alone and unheard and unknown and having your feelings dismissed, I think, are the true definition of hell. I don’t want anyone to feel that way.  

The path to awakening and becoming our authentic selves requires that we observe and honor all the parts of ourselves….to not shy away from the things that feel uncomfortable or overwhelming. We can’t just embrace the happy moments, or console ourselves in our grief, or simply accept depressions as they arise.  We must also acknowledge the hot, scary emotions and learn the lessons they have to teach us.  They are also part of the journey, and if we ignore them, or try to tamp them down because they are not as socially acceptable or they may get us into hot water with people in our lives who want us to keep protecting secrets, then we are denying a significant portion of who we are, and are in effect, abandoning ourselves.

I will no longer abandon myself, or any of the parts of myself. I will show up for myself and welcome ALL of me….the angry parts, the sad parts, the joyful parts, the parts that are afraid. Inviting in each of these in and listening to their voices are what show me the way.  They are the path.

When it’s over: I want to say, all my life.

I was a bride married to amazement.

I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder

if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

-Mary Oliver

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