If I knew how to kick up my heels like a leprechaun, by golly, I’d do it. Spring is springing in Colorado, and Mother Nature’s display is absolutely giddy-making.
As a counterpoint to so much delicate beauty, I have an unconventional proclamation to declare: I hereby pronounce that the energy of spring is, in fact, ANGER.
Yep, I’m convinced of this, so hear me out.
What propels a tender green shoot to push through the cold hard earth? What is it that makes a hyacinth, a daffodil, a crocus pop in a “Voila!” of color? What bids a leaf to unfurl, totally vulnerable, exposed?
If you’re scratching your head, I hear you. “Anger” has become a highly misunderstood word in our Western culture. It’s judged as bad, wrong, shameful. A sign that you’re a temperamental hothead. While all of these may be situationally true, they’re examples of anger that’s been misapplied in destructive ways.
There is such a thing as constructive anger.
Consider the Chinese word for getting angry, which is “shengqi” (生气). This combines the character for “birth” with the character for “qi,” which is your vital energy. Quite literally, to get angry is to give birth to your life force.
When something rankles you, what’s your first response? Sure, you can kick something, curse, beat the sofa with a tennis racket, yell at the dog, call a friend to gripe. And that may temporarily bring relief as you feel the tingling vitality of your own force. But in many cases, that’s too easy. That’s stopping short of what anger is actually calling you to do.
The deeper invitation is to move with the anger through three distinct phases:
1) Ackowledge the flare of emotion as an alarm bell to make contact with the real source of irritation that lies beneath.
2) Use that force, that heat, as fuel to break through inertia and resistance in order to take the courageous, life-affirming steps needed to affect constructive change.
3) Stay with it, conserving heat, burning through resistance, until you've re-aligned the true source of your irritation and your new way of operating is habitual.
Here's an example:
Let's say you snapped at a co-worker who rambled off-topic and hijacked a mission critical conference call. While he may be annoying, assume for a minute that it’s not about him. Maybe you’re frustrated because you feel overwhelmed and out of control by an unrealistic deadline and a lack of resources to get it all done. Maybe you’re feeling resentful because you’ve been the eleventh-hour hero for so long, that people consistently rely on you, and now it's happening again. Snapping at a colleague was just a symptom of a long-standing pattern.
Okay, so now what? Well, what's stopping you from asking for help? What's the blockage to setting clear boundaries and saying "No"? This is the part that feels least natural, where giving up is likely, but where the reward for courage is great. This is your chance to work with your own resistance, to push through and to take that first step--as hard as it seems--in doing the things that will bring a longer-term end to your irritation.
Still stuck? Need a hint? Allow me to introduce you to two of the sneakiest saboteurs to moving through anger: Pride. And Shame. If you really want to set things straight, you'll have to come clean on the way you've been complicit in allowing the pattern to persist. And the ego loves to hide behind the guise of either "I'm above that," (aka Pride) or "I'm failing and no one can find out." (Shame.) If we go back to the Eleventh Hour Hero example above, you're going to have to be honest with yourself about the fact that you've made any number of choices that violated what you really wanted: You canceled that dinner plan in order to work late; you took that call during your kid's birthday party; you told the client, "Yes," when your heart was screaming, "No!"; or instead of delegating a task to someone, you told yourself it would be quicker to just do it yourself. Heck, yeah, you're mad! And the unexpected punchline? You're mad at yourself.
(Insert your personal mantra of self-forgiveness here.)
Anger is a brilliant messenger. It tells us a lot about what we want and don’t want, what we will and won’t stand for. Are you listening? Do you have the courage to act on what you discover? The clearer we get on our desires, wants and boundaries, the less likely we are to flail, go numb or tantrum out, and the more likely we are to do things that showcase our vision, our passion, our leadership, and our level of self-respect. Interesting paradox, eh? A conniption fit and personal power are inverse applications of the same basic energy.
I leave you with the following Anais Nin quote that brings us back to the season:
"And then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
We all want to bloom gloriously…that is nature’s imperative, whether you’re a tulip, a single mom or an advertising exec. How might anger be part of the equation for you to flower? What are you waiting for?
Go ahead. Growl. Wrestle. Get in the trenches. Just promise you won’t stop until you make contact with the essence of what’s holding you back from budding, transforming and bursting free.