At AoCC, we pass the mic and amplify diverse voices. This week, it is my distinct honor to offer you the voice of my friend, Crys Wood—author, truth-teller, and visionary—for the second time. Her perspective as a Black woman and agent for change gives us food for thought–and a way forward.
I suspect you’ve heard about “channeling your anger,” whether you read about it, overheard it, were told to do it, or told someone else.
Well, I gotta say, I couldn’t picture how to channel my anger the first time I heard about it, and the next two hundred times didn’t make it any clearer. But I was a happy person, so why would I need to know?
Then the fall of 2016 happened, and I got very angry indeed.
The Angry Era
Month after month, year after year, I grew angrier without pause, accumulating a fury I had to lug around because I didn’t know how to let it go.
But I wanted to keep feeling like a nice person and being seen as one, so I buried my fury behind a smile, as many women do. Before long, wearing a mask became necessary, and—alas and thank God—I could put one on and take my smile off.
That’s why I never minded mask mandates—those early years tattered the edges of my social mask, but the start of the COVID era ripped it clean down the middle.
Maybe it was the same for you?
If so, this is where my Gramma would start off, “One thing sure, and two things certain…” because there are three things to share from my experience in managing deeply rooted, tall-as-the-sky, wide-as-the-sea anger—
- Anger doesn’t just go away.
- Anger can’t be hidden forever, or even for long.
- You may be angrier than you think.
And here’s an extra, which took me decades to learn: It’s right and good to feel angry.
Advocating for Anger
Maybe you, like me, were raised to believe anger was a bad thing, an emotion to hide or hide from.
I was told “You don’t get to be angry” and “You don’t have a right to be angry” and “You don’t have anything to be angry about,” when the truth was I did, I did, and I undoubtedly did.
I still do.
So do you.
Anger is our natural human response to threat (actual or perceived). It arises to protect us; it shows us where the line is and tells us when someone’s crossed it; it aims to set things right when someone’s done us wrong.
Anger is a potent motivator, and yay for that, because no one is driven to change—or create change—by middlin’, run-of-the-mill emotions. No one writes a meh-nifesto to gather folks around a cause. A movement fueled by meh doesn’t move.
But a campaign fueled by anger has its own problems. To top off its tank and keep the engine running requires staying angry (which is unhealthy) and cultivating an abiding anger in others (which is unpredictable).
As difficult as it is to manage our own anger; it’s impossible to control anyone else’s.
So, our anger is right and good, but its resultant violence can be contagious and devastating, whether firing off a heated email or firing a gun.
We get to be angry. We have a right to be angry. And we have heckuvalot to be angry about—trust me, as a black woman in the US of A, I receive a limitless supply of infuriating things.
But our right to be angry needs to be wielded in the right way, because unmanaged anger swiftly becomes unmanageable.
Activating Our Anger
Pure anger is natural, valuable, and hazardous. It requires thoughtful processing before it can be safely used.
Any actions that sprout from anger will inherit its hazards, and that’s just the way of it. You can’t grow an onion from a carrot seed—what you seed is what you get.
Our anger needs (and deserves) to be felt and used for its purpose, and then set free so we’re acting from a place that’s safer for ourselves and others.
Rather than “channeling” my anger, here’s how I go about metabolizing it—
- Allow the anger. Let the feeling arise without minimizing or bypassing. This can be done incrementally, and for your psyche’s safety, it may need to be.
For me, allowing anger means venting to an understanding friend or talking with one of my inner selves (silently or aloud). My meditation practice absorbs some of my violent energy, and I often surrender the rest by screaming (silently or aloud).
- Listen to the anger. Ask it: What do you hope to protect me from? What line has been crossed here? Who’s done us wrong? Is there anything else I need to know? then listen in for the answer.
- Learn from the anger. Rather than rail and flail, uncover what’s worth fighting for. Ask yourself: Why is this so important to me? What button does it push? What memory does it trigger? For example, if an overturn of Roe v Wade has you fuming, then set your sights on reproductive rights. School shootings leave you raving? Point that energy at expanding gun safety.
- Release the anger. Bow to it. Thank it for its help and attention. Invite it to go’head on its way. It’s been heard, and you’ve got this now.
- Act on the lesson, not the anger. Your values are a safer place to work from than your anger—instead of fighting against what angers you, fight for what deeply matters.
- Any action is better than inaction. Doing nothing only supports the hopelessness that can uplevel anger. Take any effective action, no matter how small it may seem. Small actions can make a big difference, particularly when amassed with the actions of others – and the AOC Checklist facilitates exactly that for issues that deeply matter.
Now, utilizing this process is also a process. It gets easier with practice, and I don’t always stay ahead of my anger, but it’s always worth the try.
Maybe it would be the same for you.