Tag Archive for: change

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I have been thinking a lot about rage lately. About how we hold it and offload it, about who ends up being the container for it and what it feels like and how much energy it possesses.

Rage is the product of anger and fear suppressed. It is borne of a feeling of powerlessness. In my own life, it has shown up as the result of childhood molestation, gaslighting, and a lack of agency or ability to change my circumstances. It multiplies in dark places, building on itself until it can no longer be contained, and it is this aspect of rage that I find the most compelling. It is also where I see the most possibility.

Men like Harvey Weinstein who have massive quantities of rage seek to dispel that energy at some point. No being can walk around and function while they hold that storm within them. And as women (or those with feminine qualities) are seen as the containers for emotion in our society, it follows that men like him would seek to literally insert their rage in to the women around them, the women they see as the perfect vessels to hold their rage. These kind of men tend to hold their rage as long as they can and then expel it outward in violent acts, often toward women.

We have even, in many cases, normalized that response. The Australian ex-rugby player who killed his wife and children last week prompted an outpouring of grief and shock, but also comments from men like “he must have been pushed over the edge” or “she took his children away from him” as though it was somehow understandable that a man would discharge his feelings in a way that destroys the lives of people he purported to love.

If I think about the archetypal feminine and masculine (not gender, but the qualities we have ascribed to the Feminine and the Masculine), so much of how we address our rage is in line with those energies. Masculine energy is associated with linear thinking, decisive action, control and competition. Feminine energy is about nurturing, creativity, emotions and collaboration. Our culture has embraced those notions along gender lines and it is killing us.

The problem with rage (and energy, in general) is that you can’t let it go or give it over to someone else entirely. If you don’t transform it in some way, the seeds of it will continue to live within you and grow again. It is why men who assault others don’t often stop – the issue hasn’t resolved itself. It is why some men choose suicide – often after they’ve killed others. It is why most men choose methods of suicide that are loud and outrageous. These men have embraced the notion that transforming their rage by processing it, feeling it, talking about it, examining it is unacceptable, not masculine. And if you don’t know how to morph it in to something else, but you don’t want to feel it anymore, you have to try and get rid of it. And if our culture has told us that it is acceptable for men to be outwardly expressive and show their anger, and that women are the nurturers, the carers, the containers, it somehow feels ok for men to offload their rage on to women.

The human body is not designed to hold emotion or energy. If it were, we wouldn’t have to continue breathing or eating to sustain ourselves. We wouldn’t have to find a bathroom every few hours in order to eliminate the things that aren’t necessary. When we hold on to rage, trying to contain its energy within us is destructive. It continues to ping around in our bodies and brains, wreaking havoc. Even if we think we can wall it off, it sits inside us like a coiled cobra, muscles quivering, senses alert, ready to strike.

Rage makes us hyper-focus on control – the masculine energy seeks to control others, and the feminine energy seeks to control itself. Female rage often turns to depression, anxiety, dissociation. Male rage often turns to violence. And when that energy is offloaded, it multiplies like one candle lighting another. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. But it can be transformed, and until we begin recognizing the rage we carry and learn how to transform it, we will all continue to swim in it. It is and will continue to be the legacy of toxic masculinity, perpetuating physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence, shame and isolation. Excavating rage, examining it, owning it, and alchemizing it in to something that can be used to build rather than destroy is freeing. When I have taken the time and done the hard work it takes, I feel free, light, strong. The space that rage used to inhabit becomes a place for hope and optimism, and the energy builds connections that end up serving the collective. It is on each of us to do our own work, but we can create a culture where the work is important and necessary and normalized for all of us if we begin to recognize the power of rage and just how much of it we are all carrying.

Most people I know avoid change. Those people who thrive on it, seek it, relish it, are usually known as nuts or thrill-seekers or drama queens. The rest of us like our comfy chairs, revel in our routines and predictable scenarios of day-to-day life, right?

Until it comes to buying something new. That new car? We love it when a friend gets one – we want to ride in it, sit in it, push all the buttons and listen to the engine. When someone gets a new house we all crowd around for the tour and bring housewarming gifts. Even better when it’s us who gets something new, isn’t it? Even though it’s primarily functional and meant for some concrete purpose, we still feel that grin creeping across our faces when we walk out to the parking lot and spot that sexy new car sitting there or open the closet and see those gorgeous new boots.
We get compliments on changes like new jobs and new relationships and can’t wait to share the news, so why do other changes freak us out so much? Is it only those changes we didn’t choose that are scary?
Losing your job is scary. Moving is scary, whether you choose it or not. Being in a situation where you can’t predict or control the variables puts most of us in a state of panic. The loss of something important to us is also stressful – for a child it can be moving on from their favorite teacher or having a friend leave town. Changes are usually complicated, but so often bring as many new opportunities as they do questions, and, honestly, the majority of changes in our lives are gradual.
Personally, then opportunity to have some level of predictability and control over any change gives me a much better chance of adapting to it positively. Maybe the trick is to remember that ‘control’ is an illusion except when it comes to my own actions and that change is inevitable. Nah, that’s too big a lesson for today. Maybe if scary changes came complete with that “new car smell” we might be a little less averse to them. Although, all things considered, I prefer the scent of dark chocolate…just sayin’.

I gave up on making New Year’s Resolutions in 2010. My last memorable resolution that I actually achieved was in 2007 when I threw myself a bit of a Nerf ball in saying that I was committed to perfecting the cheesecake that year. That being said, I did actually bake dozens that year and I think I did achieve Cheesecake Nirvana at some point. Once completed, it lost its luster. Or it could be that I was good and sick of cheesecake. No matter, once I was diagnosed gluten intolerant in 2009, it was a moot point, anyway.

Since then, I’ve learned that once I start thinking about things I want to improve about myself, it’s hard to stop. I have this habit of scrolling through an interminable list of self-defined flaws that I wish I could just fix with a tube of spackle and a putty knife and after a half hour and the beginnings of a good belly-ache, I grind my teeth in frustration and resolve to think about it another time.
Slow down.
Play more.
Eat healthier.
Exercise more.
Pay more attention to the dog.
Keep a cleaner house.
Sell my manuscript.
Pay more attention to my writing craft.
Spend more time with Bubba.
Take fewer shortcuts in life.
It goes on and on. And when I decide to take just one thing and focus on it, I can’t seem to pick which one is the most vitally important for right now, so forget it.
That isn’t to say that I’m completely giving up on doing things to improve myself and my life. I am committed to moving forward and growing, but I’m hoping it’s possible to do that without labeling those things as “Resolutions” and putting them out into the Universe to be checked off (or not – thereby producing that horrible feeling of failure to accomplish something I said I would).
And in all of this resolution-mining, I’m wondering what happens if I take a minute to list the things I DON’T want to change about myself. Have I ever really started a New Year with a list of those things? I’m pretty damn sure I haven’t. So, here goes:
Stay compassionate and caring.
Continue to enjoy cooking.
Continue showing my girls that they are important to me.
Continue striving for balance in life.
Continue learning about new things.
Continue finding humor every day.
Continue caring about myself.
That’s a good start. I think you should make your own list. Come on! Do it. I dare you.