The Holy Trinity of Anger
Back in June, I was given the honor of speaking for Church of Slut in Cambridge, MA. Church of Slut is the brain baby of Vanessa White, aka Sugar Dish, the director of The Lipstick Criminals and The Slutcracker. This is an incredible recurring event that offers art, expression and vulnerability in a welcoming, inclusive space. This blog was originally my show notes for what I was going to talk about, but I’ve gone through and adjusted it a bit for my readers at home.
I find myself these days wanting to go in a new direction with my work and how I perceive and approach the world. The things I was passionate about before were true for that time, and the beauty of life is that, should we choose to live with consciousness and meaning, we also get to grow and change and adapt to evolving needs of the world around us.
My previous work with anger no longer serves me, the artists I’ve worked with, or my audience. And I’m perfectly content with that. It served a purpose for a time, and I’m deeply enjoying the transitions while maintaining access to old information and resources, should I need them. What’s been birthed from this process is my desire to utilize anger as a way to invite more joy and playfulness back into my life. I’ve begun to see fully embodied and grounded anger as a three step process, which for Church of Slut I called "The Holy Trinity of Anger". Read below to learn more!
Anger, when used in a healthy way, is a tool. It is not meant to be a state of existence. It’s an indicator of when a boundary has been bumped up against or violated. When anger arises, it needs to be fully cycled through in order to fully integrate the information and create real change. Our survival in today’s times both demands and requires our anger. At least we have the power to choose to use it wisely.
A full cycle of anger has three steps:
Acknowledgement, Action, and Letting Go.
That last part took a while to make its way onto my list. And for good reason. Women and marginalized folks have been hearing for generations that they’re not allowed to be angry; that they don’t actually feel “angry”-- they feel “sad”, “confused”, or “afraid”. Or, my personal favorite-- “crazy”.
Recently on social media, a post kept floating past my eyeballs that said “forgiveness” and “letting go” are things said and forced upon women as a form of gaslighting. That’s facts.
So for the longest time I would not accept “let go” in response to my anger, because that felt like a threat.
But when we look at the research from a scientific lens, the reasons for not holding onto anger are not about repressing and ignoring it. In fact, it’s the opposite. We’re learning that chronic anger leads to a long list of diseases that include anxiety, depression, digestion problems, skin problems, and stroke. Through this project, I have spoken with numerous women who have autoimmune diseases, whose symptoms only began appearing after exposure to long-term anger and/or violence. In relationships, whether romantic, friendship or family, consider the impact from long-term anger: breakdowns in communication, harbored resentment, paranoia, verbal or physical outbursts, disoriented thinking, isolation, exclusion, impulsivity, and so on.
This does not mean that anger is bad. Anger is good (or neutral, if we consider that there's no such thing as a good or bad emotion; they just are). But with everything, it can be abused. The model of anger most of us are familiar with is a model of abused anger. This is very convenient for motives of social control-- those with power use it to dominate, and those who are vulnerable are taught to be afraid of it and avoid it (or overuse it to the point of burnout), leaving themselves open to coercion.
So if you want a life of more joy and more emotional freedom, I’m gonna give you a tiny crash course in how to get the most mileage out of your anger. This crucial time of resistance needs you. We need to remember that when we fight for human rights, we’re fighting for a chance at having lives that are worth living. I’ve come to find that getting angry just for the fun of staying in a rage loop is really only masterbatory and reckless.
Obviously the following is oversimplified for the sake of time, but it’s only meant to be an introduction. Intersectionality deeply impacts how each of these plays out, and I invite every and anybody to reach out directly if you have questions or want to have a conversation that goes further. But let’s jump in:
First Phase of Anger:
Acknowledgement-- I am angry. This is what I’m angry about.
Second Phase of Anger:
Action-- doing something about it. Establishing personal boundaries. Collaborating with others to create change.
Third Phase of Anger:
Letting Go-- trusting in yourself that you’ve done what you can, or that you are currently doing what you’re able. Allowing integration of joy, peace, fun, etc into your existence to honor your wholeness.
Why do we need all three? Because they’re synergistic.
Acknowledgement without action leaves us open to repeated violations, and the "letting go" isn’t letting go: it’s bypassing or denial.
Action without acknowledgement typically manifests as bursts of misdirected rage or ungrounded and ego-driven fights. You’re not actually going to get anything done because your actions are superficial. It’s toxic and destructive, and any “results” that look like change usually don’t stick.
Acknowledgement + action without letting go leads to burnout and disease. If you are someone with trauma, this will keep your trauma activated. Staying mad will make your psyche muddy, and you’ll be unable to get mad in that intentional, laser-focused way that’s so needed right now.
Here are a few quick exercises if you would like to take your understanding further. Anger is as much a physical and relational emotion as it is cerebral, so let’s integrate our bodies into this concept. Before beginning, I want to acknowledge that we are all here from different walks of life with different truths, experiences, and stories we’re carrying. While they are not inherently related, anger and trauma tend to form a special bond with each other, so I advise anybody who does not currently feel safe digging into their minds or bodies to please not force yourself to do these exercises without also having professional care available. I support love in all forms, and sometimes gentleness is the most powerful.
If you do feel ready, let’s begin:
Acknowledgement. Find a quiet place where you can be somewhat still, and either close your eyes or soften your gaze. Scan your body and see if there is any place where you feel or are holding anger. Once you find it, simply acknowledge it; name it if you can.
Action. The first step for using anger to create change is getting the word out there for others to respond to, even if that “other” person is yourself. You are your own team of hundreds, if not thousands of parts, and getting all of those parts online with your intention creates the greatest impact. You can do this exercise solo by placing down two pillows next to each other. Sit on one and face the other, and say (or yell) “I am angry” three times from that place you identified it earlier. If three times isn’t sufficient, keep going until you feel complete. When you’re done, stand up and sit on the other pillow, facing where you were just sitting. As many times as you expressed that you are angry, respond to yourself by saying, “I support you.” When this is done, return to the original pillow and allow yourself to absorb this support. If you feel open to trying this with another person, go ahead and sit across from each other and do a call and response with “I am angry”/ “I support you”. Take turns being able to say both. I believe that real world transformation is only possible when we are able to hold space for other people’s anger as much as we put our own out there. Friendly reminder: other people's anger isn't always about you.
Letting go. Letting go doesn't mean forgetting or ignoring what happened. It means trusting that we have done all we can, or the best we can at this time with the skills/knowledge/resources we have, to honor, repair, and establish the necessary boundaries our anger has requested. Again, find a quiet place where you can be still, and either close your eyes or soften your gaze. Wrap your arms around yourself and squeeze gently, or find a place on your body that feels safe to apply some reassuring pressure to, and just quietly say to yourself, “I’ve got you.” Say it as many times as you feel you need.
The world will try to convince you that your life does not have value. If you stay in a constant state of anger, your body and relationships will break down, and those who oppose you will win. Stay educated and get angry. But remember that pleasure and joy are also acts of resistance. They make our lives worth living. So before I wrap this up, I just want to take one more moment of pause so you can reflect on what you're grateful for and what brings you value, as we each personally define our own value. It can be loved ones, an accomplishment, the fact that you made it here, or even something as simple as one of the five senses.
Hold that in your heart and let it infuse your being. Thank you for reading and playing, and I hope that you find your own way to enjoy the rest of the day.