I used to be really angry.
I thought it was my personality because, well, I come from a long line of angry people. I can feel them getting angry as they read these words. But I soothe myself with the belief that most members of my beloved family don’t actually read much of what I write. And now I’m getting a little angry!
There’s no doubt that my temperament from birth was not relaxed and happy-go-lucky as most. In almost every photograph from birth to eight years old, I look intense and irritated. It was my second, third, and fourth birthdays, or another joyous family occasion, but you’d never know it from the look on my face.
As I grew into my teens and early adulthood, I remember the visceral and cellular feeling of anger welling up in me. But as is the experience of so many women, that’s exactly the time when society starts to tell us that “good girls don’t get angry.” We aren’t allowed to be depressed, anxious, or worried. We are encouraged to be lighthearted, easygoing, and forgiving. But, of course, never angry.
Decades later, through various life experiences and my work as a Professional Coach, I came to the understanding that all emotions are valid and need space to be seen and acknowledged before they can be processed in a healthy way. However, well into my forties all I felt was an existential squeeze.
Due to the pressure that arose from being squeezed by anger on one side and society’s rules of how a proper woman “should” feel on the other, my anger alchemized into what so many women, and especially those of my generation, carry with them daily.
Rage is not anger that’s doubled or tripled. Instead, it’s anger that’s grown exponentially.
By the time our anger has turned into rage, it’s very difficult, but not impossible, to transform it into a force that has the power to serve our emotional and physical well-being. So many of the folks I encounter in the world of coaching and in my private circles are suffering from chronic mental, emotional, and physical pain that is the result of decades of unresolved rage.
I believe that therapy is an excellent place to start for dealing with rage. Most of us don’t even know we’re angry, let alone rageful, and even if we manage to access the emotion, we don’t know why or where it began. An excellent therapist can be a priceless ally in this difficult but necessary deep dive into one’s past.
My job as a Professional Coach is to support people who have already done the work of understanding their past and are ready to move to the next level.
I coach people to come from their future — not their past.
As such, by the time I begin a coaching partnership with someone, they are well aware of their anger (if it’s a repetitive emotional pattern) and are ready to explore and learn new ways to express, communicate, and ultimately transform this most powerful of emotions.
Anger in and of itself is not a negative emotion. But if not alchemized into a more useful public expression, it is at best a waste of energy and at worst, a match we take to our relationships, and of course over time, to our lives.
Anger can also seem incredibly justifiable and lead us to believe that it’s a necessary emotion for creating positive change.
Anger is a powerful spark. It lets us know something is not working for us or in the world at large. And we often mistakenly believe that we need to be outraged to change something. But anger doesn’t have staying power, and if not transformed to a higher emotion, it burns out and burns us out with it.
The opposite of anger is not the smiley face most of us have adopted. The opposite of anger is calm determination.
It’s easier said than done, but it’s a practice and not an unchangeable genetic trait like I used to think it was. I still have whatever tendency had me showing up as an angry person, but my devotion to the practice of replacing angry reactions with calm determination has literally changed who I am.
Calm determination looks like forgiving but not forgetting, making changes but not holding grudges, giving fiercely but also setting boundaries, loving unconditionally but also with integrity for all.
Calm determination is playing the long game, understanding that true power is about impact and influence rather than a show of force that however dazzling will not produce any positive change.
Calm determination is Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Wayne Gretzky, Oprah Winfrey, and Chadwick Boseman.
Calm determination is me and you, if you’re willing to do the work.
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