Reclaiming anger

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It is 10.30 on a Saturday morning and I am sitting on the floor in front of a woman with a rolled up towel laid out in front of me like a samurai sword. I bow over the towel and take seven deep breaths then I lift it over my head and yell “Ha!” as I whack it onto the floor in front of me. It lands with a dull and satisfying thud.

This morning I did not want to come here. I signed up for the workshop on a whim about a month ago because I’ve worked with Stacia and Gero from The Art of Relating before and I love what they do. They have an incredible presence, a state of being I aspire to. When the stars aligned and I was free for their next workshop I signed up without really thinking about it. In the intervening weeks, as other events crossed my path, I questioned my impulsiveness. After all, I don’t have a problem with anger, why would I need to reclaim it?

Bowing again over the towel I breathe five times, deep into my belly, my pelvis, my womb. I bring the towel up over my head again and whack the floor three times “Ha! Ha! Ha!”

Nevertheless I tend to trust my impulses and I had been curious about Stacia and Gero’s new workshop offerings for some time so I stuck with the plan.

Come this morning though, the day of the workshop, I found myself deeply reluctant. I delayed getting out of bed. I complained to my girlfriend about how late I’d been kept up the night before. I grumpily packed ugg boots and blankets and comfort food and my personal soothing herbal tea blend. I bribed myself to leave the house on time with the promise of a chai at the other end. I arrived at the workshop one minute before it was due to start, chai in hand, and considered it a personal victory over my lesser nature.

I bow for the last time, taking one deep breath, inhaling into every part of my body. I lift the towel and go crazy “Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!” I beat the ground with everything I have but after 30 seconds I abruptly stop. I sit looking at my witness, chest heaving, arms shaking. A voice in my head says “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry” over and over and over. The facilitator invites us to debrief and I say the words out loud “I’m sorry.” and burst into tears.

A second ago I had witnessed my partner doing the exact same exercise. I relished her strength, her power, as she hit the floor with the towel. I welcomed the opportunity to hold space for her to do this and thoroughly enjoyed the process. Now that the towel is in my hands though I can’t connect with how I felt before, I can only feel the deep sense of wrongness for letting out this energy, for letting it be seen by someone else.

My stifled sobs attract the attention of the facilitator “I wonder Kiri” she says gently “if there’s any sound that would like to come out.” I respond by howling, dissolving into the loud, open mouthed, ugly crying reserved for our most private moments. It feels like a blessing. As an adult I rarely give myself permission to go to that place and I throw myself into it. After a moment it subsides, leaving stunned silence in its place. I had no idea that was in me.

I was aware that I was afraid of other people’s anger but had no idea how effortlessly and emphatically I was suppressing my own. By the end of the day I am on a high. I bound out of the workshop space, buzzing with life, ideas and connections coursing through my brain. Sluggishness – lack of anger energy, procrastination – lack of anger energy, confusion and uncertainty – lack of anger energy. All these disparate, fuzzy issues in my life suddenly have a sharply defined core. The next morning I arrive at the workshop space half an hour early. Gone are the blankets and bribes, I know what’s coming now, I’d be lying if I said I’m not still scared but I’m ready. I’ve had a taste of what’s on the other side and I want more.

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