The emotion we most fear is the one we need to let ourselves feel. The key is doing it safely—and alone.
I often hear people suggest that anger is an emotion covering up another emotion, such as sadness or grief. But I see anger as its own pure and perfect emotion. Beautiful. Necessary. Right.
Your anger is yours to feel. It is not merely the result of someone else’s behavior, though it may seem that way. It is simply your reaction to events. We all have a storehouse of anger inside us. It is not for another to battle our anger, in fact there is no need to battle it at all. To “win” the battle: Stop. Feel the rage. Then run for an hour, dance until your feet hurt, pound the air, punch a punching bag, beat up your bed pillow, yell and moan and slam—alone, alone, alone—until you are empty, sweaty, blind from the fire, and exhausted.
When anger arises, own it. Do not give it to somebody else as if it’s theirs to deal with. Rage safely with it. Go somewhere alone and do the thing that you know how to do that demands the most physical exertion from you. I remind you: Do this alone.
Anger teaches us how to determine the self from the not-self. It shakes us awake to our higher state. It creates a force strong enough to break our disillusionment. It challenges love to grow. Love can often get stagnant and pleased with itself, but ultimately love wants to grow, and anger can crash open this stagnation and nudge love into new territory. Anger helps us finish the story of our pain; beg for forgiveness for not knowing; grieve for the inherent suffering of the human condition. Grief can be gentle and quiet, or it can need to push, raise its voice, wail in agony. Anger is the blade that tears our grief open, letting it out of our bodies.
Many of us are afraid of anger, probably because of past experiences where another’s anger has been aimed directly into our hearts and across our bodies. We remember the pain of receiving another’s anger against our will. So we have become afraid of feeling and expressing our anger for fear it will do a similar damage to another. That’s why it’s so important to do your anger alone.
Anger has a place. Own it, feel it, give it expression. Revel in its perfection as a pure emotion, helping to teach us about our fundamental and fierce desire to love.
Kate Niebauer is a dancer, writer, and painter living in Oakland.