A Bit about Rage
Rage sits at the crossroads of personal transformation. Those of us seeking spiritual enlightenment will inevitably stumble upon personal rage on the path. Rage is not to be understood as a useless emotion, empty of story or knowledge. Rather rage is fierce clarity and untapped fuel. Embraced with compassion, the energy trapped in rage becomes an intimate and empathic teacher of balance, integrity, and inner peace, greatly enhancing our relationships and service. When we push rage away, we can't transform it. Rage requires our love and a practice of mindful and kind awareness towards our self and others.
What is Rage?
Rage is an oppressed child emotion housed deep in our bodies, minds and spirits. We react to our rage as if it were an emotional enemy to be annihilated, a fire to be feared. Yet rage is the descendent of our traumas, the twin of our shame, the burden of our denied histories, the foreign language of our emotional pain, and the wisdom that helps us heal. Rage is a natural resource of misused energy, and it exists-even rules our lives-whether we acknowledge it or not.
What is the difference between Rage & Anger?
Rage and anger are often considered one in the same but they are distinct experiences. Both rage and anger are emotions that we feel and may or may not express. Anger is more associated with a current injustice, disappointment, or dislike-someone says something ignorant and your first impulse is to set them straight, or a driver cuts in front of you without signaling and you shout out in the safety of your own car. These are forms of anger-they come and eventually we get over them and move on. Those finding themselves in a perpetual state of anger wear Defiance-one of six disguises of rage.
Rage, on the other hand, is an accumulation of anger-an experience that is fundamentally rooted to something older and more personal, often a childhood experiences that shamed us, or a child living in a chronic atmosphere of fear. With rage, we feel more shaken, confused, and often paralyzed in fear. Our experience feels foreign, frightening, and intolerable. In fact, an older memory wants to emerge but we can't allow it, and this is often an unconscious process that haunts our lives. The primary job of rage is to keep us from re-experiencing intolerable shame.
I don't have rage, do I?
Many of us go through our lives maintaining a good front. We may have all of the trappings-good job, higher education, and material gain, yet we have an inherent discontent with our lives that won't go away. We manage to look OK from the outside, hiding those periods of despair when we feel everything caving in on us. We express confidence on the surface and feel fear or dread underneath. We know we feel chaotic and on the edge, but we hide it, sometimes beautifully, even from ourselves. This is accomplished by wearing Disguises of Rage.
What are Disguises of Rage?
Disguises are our rage child's armor-the coats we wear year round to cope with the chill of life, even on a warm day. There are six Disguises of Rage that high functioning people wear:
- Dominance-You control to avoid being controlled. You distance from others and abuse power to manage your terror of tenderness.
- Defiance-You use anger to divert your need to be loved, often by your perceived enemy.
- Distraction-You avoid intolerable feelings of emptiness by filling yourself and your time with self-defeating diversions.
- Devotion-You take perfect care of others, sacrificing your own well being to avoid knowing and receiving what you deeply need.
- Dependence-You stay financially insecure and emotionally distressed. You deny your personal power out of your fear of losing love.
- Depression- You would rather disappear than disappoint others. You shut down to avoid overwhelming feelings of grief and rage.
Disguises attempt to hide what we fear, but they have a way of creating more fear in our day-to-day lives and in the lives of others. With Disguises, we convince ourselves that we are in control of a chronically frightening life, one we would prefer to accept as normal. Yet Disguises are symbolic of what is ungrieved-blocked energy that constricts the heart and all matters of the heart. Disguises are ambassadors of the past-old stories of rage that require our loving attention.
Why do I disguise rage?
By the time we are 12 years old, we are well armed in our Disguises of Rage. They are the result of both childhood trauma and a rage inheritance-the unresolved rage of our parents and ancestors that we carry out of an unconscious loyalty to them. We relive what is unfinished through our Disguises, and these Disguises continue to rule our adult lives until we transform them. While Disguises have played a significant role in our survival, they interfere with our healing. We perceive these obscure expressions of rage as being safer and more acceptable than the truth they pretend to hide. Awareness of our Disguises of Rage is healing and often comes as a revelation and a challenge. Crucial is that we engage in a process that reacquaints us with our basic goodness, and cultivate our capacity to embrace the ignorance of the world, and ourselves, with tenderness.
Is rage bad?
Our rage child is not the problem. She is simply a child emotion lodged deep inside of our bodies fighting for her [and our] lives. The problem is our denial of her existence, disrespect of her power, and disregard of her contribution to our healing. We distract ourselves from our rage child because it is not safe to see, feel or express her, yet our fear of rage negatively impacts the integrity of our lives.
Nelson Mandela says: "When we can sit in the face of insanity or dislikes and be free from the need to make it different, then we are free." Our challenge is to learn to embody the fierce energies of rage without story, shame, blame, or revenge; to develop such presence with rage that we can witness it come and go without urgency or repulsion. Our first priority is to take care of our own pain, just as we would attend to a child hurt by a hit-and-run driver-we probably wouldn't run after the driver. We each have a rage child within us that, when triggered, is hurting, calling us to attend to our own pain. What's bad [used loosely] is when we over-identify with our thoughts and feelings, and habitually betray our nature by harming others and ourselves.
Is rage good?
Rage is indeed good news-a gift that allows us to investigate the universal nature of suffering and freedom through our own inner experiences. Each disguise of rage has a corresponding wisdom that is revealed when we relax the armor of our disguises and rest in our basic goodness.
- The Wisdom of Dominance-Discernment
- The Wisdom of Defiance-Passionate Clarity
- The Wisdom of Distraction-Free Will
- The Wisdom of Devotion-Harmony
- The Wisdom of Dependence-Originality
- The Wisdom of Depression-Solitude
How will healing rage help me?
When you are unaware of your own personal rage and its impact, you cause tremendous suffering and perpetuate generational legacies of rage in your children and loved ones. You're like a lively dragon dancing wildly at a party, so into your own world that you don't realize that your tale is destroying the room and everyone in it. Or maybe you are like the man on his death bed arguing: But the light was green-I had the right away just before taking his last breath. His gravestone reads: He was dead right! Or you are like me and had open heart surgery before the age of 30 only to realize that it was the beginning of a spiritual journey that would open my heart.
Canadian poet and song-write Leonard Cohen shares in his song, Anthem, "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." Our understanding and acceptance of personal rage deepens our capacity to let light in. With an open heart, we are able to honor the basic goodness of all who suffer, especially ourselves.
With practice, our interactions are more present, honest and compassionate, and our actions wise, intentional, and joyful. We know intimately that our and others' expressions of rage are not the deepest truth that wants to be told. The deeper truth is the heart's longing for our rage and those of our parents and ancestors are dignified. This only we can do. Healing personal rage supports:
- More life force
- Ability to rest in your own skin
- Ability to be in control of your life
- Loving interactions with others
- Forgive more easily
- Less need to judge others or yourself harshly
- More truth-telling and less attachment to outcomes
- Less demands on intimate relationships
- Enhanced confidence to overcome fear, shame and anger
- More kindness toward the difficulties that life offers
- More acceptance and less need to change others
- More gratitude for life in the moment
- Less mental, emotional, and physical disease
- More intimacy, joy, and happiness
How do I heal rage?
Oscar Wilde shares: "Hearts are meant to be broken. This is how we heal." Rage is akin to matters of the heart, and healing requires that our hearts be broken again and again. To heal rage is to take that risk, come out of hiding, and recognize that what and who we fear-even hate-is our greatest teacher.
Transformation is our nature. It is our birthright to be kind, joyful and happy. When we are paying kind attention to rage, it ceases to be a problem. The antidote to our fear and discomfort with rage is to cultivate a compassionate mind and heart, intellectual understanding, moral consciousness, humility, and an ambition that leaves a good legacy. We need more than aspirations and inspiration-we need practices, as close to us as each breath, that supports us in discovering who we are-who we have always been.