Ali W. Rothrock
Harnessing our anger informs our action.
Posted August 3, 2022 | Reviewed by Vanessa Lancaster
- Society tells us that anger is unhealthy or means we have not properly worked through negative or traumatic experiences.
- Feeling anger means you’ve refused to let what happened to you become normalized.
- Let your anger inform your action.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about anger. There was a time in my life when I was both fresh from trauma and still experiencing it that “angry” was the primary adjective I would have used to describe myself. At the time, I just wanted to be rid of that emotion as I thought “being fine” was waiting directly on the other side. I thought the anger was the problem, and that feeling it was a barrier between where I was and where I wanted to be.
So often, society tells us that anger is unhealthy or means that we have not properly worked through negative or traumatic experiences. If we are feeling anger that consumes us or prevents us from functioning, we deserve trauma-informed care to help us process that, but I’ve found that changing my relationship with my anger allowed me to harness it for good. I wrote about this in my second book, After Trauma.
To me, resilience means actively letting go of the feelings that made me sink. It means letting go of the anger I’d had toward myself, forgiving that younger part of me, but keeping the anger directed at the system that harmed me and those in it that perpetuate it. I had to forgive myself but not forget. Jude Ellison S. Doyle wrote a powerful piece in response to the groundbreaking film Promising Young Woman and spoke some truths about rage:
We cannot all emulate ourselves on the pyre of our trauma; that only does the abuser’s work for him. Nor will violence provide the clean, easy healing it promises. What we can do is listen to the rage; honor it, speak it, tell its story without censorship. Rage is a messenger with valuable news, if you’ll stop to hear it … It’s saying that you deserve to live and look: Here you are.
Stay angry. Your anger isn’t working against you. It’s informing you. I used to think that if I felt anger or even rage at my past experiences, that meant I hadn’t overcome them. I thought it meant I hadn’t dropped the rope. But that’s not the purpose anger serves. Anger and violence are not the same things and in my case, feeling anger means I’ve refused to let what happened to me become normalized. It never should have happened.
If you are someone who has experienced a trauma or any sort of negative experience, feeling angry about it doesn’t mean all the work you put in to heal didn’t work or is invalid. Let your anger in. Let it inform you. Let yourself feel the injustice of what happened. It doesn’t mean your anger is hurting you. It is there