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Uniting in Anger

Updated: Feb 5, 2019

Anger is what it is. It's up to you to decide whether the driving force is love or hate. Author: Samantha Bryan


Image sourced from https://personalliberty.com/understanding-fear-self-defense-revolution/

Last week, I finally sat down to watch the highly-recommended comedy special, “Nanette” by Hannah Gadsby.


It was so good.


Seriously. Go watch it. This human has an excellent brain, and her messages are super important.


But of course, this wouldn’t be my blog if I wasn’t complaining about something, right?


Anger is simply saying, “nope. This is no good.” Anger saves lives. Anger creates boundaries and containers for healthy, respectful relationships.


The end of “Nanette” kind of broke my heart. For the entire hour +, I was along for the ride, hanging off of every word she said, raising my fist at the TV in solidarity and support. And then she just….dumped me.


I do want to take a quick timeout to honor that celebrities and public figures are people, too. Not deities. You will disagree sometimes, and that’s totally okay.


Nonetheless, I was sad.


At the end of her special, she closes by saying that we must no longer unite in anger, even if that anger comes from a place of love. But the way she spoke about anger did not sound like the anger I know. The anger she spoke of sounded more like hate and self-loathing. I kept saying, “yes, I agree, but I don’t think we use that word the same way, and you’re really breaking my heart right now. Please, please don’t spread this with those specific words; it’s so unhealthy.”


I agree with her, to an extent. The actions many take out of anger are quite unhealthy, and no, we should not unite over that. Hate crimes start with anger. But so do human rights movements. So let’s be a little more clear—


Anger is simply saying, “nope. This is no good.” Anger saves lives. Anger creates boundaries and containers for healthy, respectful relationships.


When anger is told that it is not allowed to exist, or that it’s the only thing in charge, the human brain goes into wild places, because anger never disappears. If it isn’t allowed its own channel, it’ll just go hide behind some other emotions or impulses. That’s when we get stuck in rage, fear, willful ignorance, prejudice, unrelenting sadness, and terrible violence. Anger says, “I will keep you safe”. And when you say “go away, anger”, your brain says, “oh shit…now I’m not safe. OVERCOMPENSAAAAAATE!!!” That could be shutting down, dissociating, or lashing out.


It breaks my heart when people conflate anger and hatred. We are in this mess to begin with because of our misinformed ideas of anger, and the vast efforts to destroy it, particularly for anyone of a marginalized demographic. Unless, of course, one’s anger can be used against them by those who seek to oppress them. Consider, for example, this need in our white-supremacist society to hold on to the stereotype of an angry black woman or a violently angry black man to justify racially motivated injustice, and excuse oneself from personal accountability.


Control a person’s ability to stand up for themselves, and you control their entirety.


When I heard Hannah’s words and desires around stopping anger, I knew what she meant. She was exhausted, and sick to death of bullshit. She no longer wanted to see people hurting themselves or others. She wants to live in a world that doesn’t hurt. She wants people to join together in joy, love, pleasure, and benevolent laughter.


This is what I heard between her words. And yes. Yes, yes, yes, YES to all of this.


But we’re not there yet. We have to work toward that, because we’re so far down and lost that it’s going to take a lot of strong effort by every single person on this planet to do better, to hope for better, to believe in better. So right now we’re angry. We need to get angry for things to change. Not hateful. Just angry.


In my interview with Aepril Schaile, she mentions that she came across the theory that anger is actually a form of optimism, because in order for a person to be angry, they have to believe that things could, or should, be different. Apathy and acceptance, I believe, are the greatest dangers to modern social progress.


Think about it—when you’re in a failing relationship and you fall out of love, you fight less, right? Because at the end of the day, you’re just like, “ugh. Whatever. I don’t even like you. I’ll say whatever you want to hear so you just go away. Fuck my life.”


Or when you’re at a job that is zapping the life out of you, but you don’t believe you have any other options, so you just whither away for years getting kicked in the shins by your miserable boss, setting the timer on Monday for when you can finally go get blackout drunk on Friday before it all starts over again.


Anger, instead, looks like telling your partner that you love yourself, that you deserve better, and that you’re not going to put up with getting screamed at or degraded.


Anger looks like going to HR to report that your co-worker put his hand on your ass for the last time.


Anger looks like asking a child who’s locked out and sobbing in front of his house if he’s okay.


We NEED to unite in anger.


Not hate.


When I started The Scarlet Tongue Project, I felt completely isolated in my anger. I was silenced, told I was crazy, told I was scary, told I was weak, awkward, quiet, etc. I wasn’t allowed to use my anger, so I had no idea how to use it when it inevitably came up. Most of the advice I got was to chill or “let it go”. Rarely did anyone pause to consider what might be on fire inside of me that was causing this. At that time, conversations on anger were not flooding in online like they are now, nor were they happening in my various communities of friends. Now you can’t even flutter your eyes open in the morning without being smacked by someone’s flying rage fit. Only a couple years ago, you actually had to sit down and do research to find people brave enough to talk about these things. Now, we can’t escape.


One of the greatest blessings of this project was that I stopped feeling isolated. I found people I could process with, people who understood, people who would teach me, and people who knew how to harness anger in order to move forward with great love and strength, to create epic change and love in the world. Friends began coming to me and saying, “thank you for doing this. I’m so fucking angry all the time. I just never felt allowed to express it.” This week, 6 artists are flying into Mexico City to join me for an art residency related to the film. Our intention is to come together, discuss anger, discuss how to build community, explore how to free ourselves from social constraints, how to support others in their desires to live in truth and openness, and how to create action and change for a more beautiful, just world. It is anger that is bringing us together. And it is so profoundly powerful and magical.


When Hannah said that we cannot unite in anger, of course I took it personally, because that is the entire mission of my project—to create communities where people feel safe and inspired to stand up for themselves and others in the face of injustice, to be witnessed in their authenticity, and to move forward to create their best lives with the support of others.


If you are angry, sure, you can use that to fuel an agenda of fear and destruction. You can also use feeling confident and happy in your skin to go cheat on your partner with 50 people. Emotions are indicators, not actions themselves. The energy you draw from your emotions can go anywhere you put it. I encourage you to find others when you’re angry. Find someone healthy to talk to, find groups to join, go see a show that inspires you and helps you imagine worlds of deeper love, greater tolerance, and goddamn it—FUN.


If you are angry, see if you can push to the other side of the voice that says, “SHUT UP.” Try to invite your anger in. Listen to it. Ask your body what it needs to feel relief. Then find others who support you, and maybe even share your dreams.


If you separate anger from hate, what does that look like? Does it have its own space? Can it lay close to feelings like bliss, pleasure, and satisfaction?


My anger does. And I’m so grateful to the wise, creative folks around me who can hold that, because they know that on the other side is a super badass world of experiences and ideas that we can’t wait to manifest.


Unite in an anger that flows. Unite in an anger that doesn’t get stuck. Unite in an anger that gives you energy to create. Unite in an anger that is from love, and leads back to love. And if you’re not sure how, then unite with people who do so you can find the help you need.


I’m sorry, Hannah, but the brilliance of your work did, in fact, powerfully unite people in anger. They learned something. They felt desire to be better people. They felt love and compassion for you and for themselves. Thank you for that. That was a gift. And now you get to move on to something else, which is the whole point. But please don’t dishonor what brought us to this beautiful place of eye-opening and change.


Anger does not have to be suffering. Anger can be revolution. For many of us, anger IS revolution. And the revolution needs you. I hope to meet you there.

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