Transmuting anger and restoring from conflict.

by | Apr 29, 2019

If you really knew me, you’d know that I get angry. And in that anger – like a human – I do things that I don’t like. I’ve been working for years to understand anger.

I’ve learned that anger is a response to a boundary violation or a theft of power/agency. It’s my internal alarm system letting me know that I’m in danger of being harmed, or that harm is already occurring.

It’s instant, it’s automatic and it’s painful. Anger has me: be defensive, want power over, to be competitive, and to take from others. It’s not pretty. And it’s the most reviled emotion I know of. 

What I’ve been looking for is how to get rid of it. How to *never* be angry again. Ever! 

As it turns out, that’s not a real thing. People who “don’t” get angry, stuff their feelings and do things that are far more destructive than yelling or being defensive.  

Stuffing anger and feelings in general is one of the causes and contributions to basically all the “bad” things in life: violence (domestic violence, violence against kids, violence in general) addiction, depression, anxiety, and so on. There is also evidence suggesting that stuffing feelings and not being allowed to say no deeply affects your health.

It’s as if when you boundaries are violated, you’ll do anything to restore your power.  You can see that in defensiveness, mansplaining, people not willing to be accountable even when you catch them lying, etc. We will defend our identities at all costs – that’s normal. It’s not our ideal world, it’s not what we want, but it’s totally normal.

.I’ve been working hard to find tools that help. Help me really. And today I had a long conversation with one of my coaches about anger that I wanted to share with you.

We worked through a situation years ago where I said I’d teach a class for someone else’s workshop that went wildly awry and affected me in ways that I didn’t realize. 

Here’s what happened….

A teaching team invited me to teach at their retreat. We I talked about it some. And I agreed to teach, having not really done anything like this outside of my little circle. I realized weeks in advance that I did not have enough information to be successful and asked repeatedly for more information. Both by phone and email.

It never came.

Because I was doing my best, I went ahead and modeled my class on that teacher’s style and what I had recently seen them do. I went through their presentation and made sure to hit all the similar points. I spent hours putting together that presentation. Graphics, slides, hand outs. I was ready. Nervous, but ready. I’d promoted them and reached out to invite people to their list.

When I arrived, the teachers were no where and texting got me nothing. I eventually found the room. I taught my class and nearly 80% of the class signed up to have a call with me. That’s way better than I’d ever seen anyone do.

And I thought that was awesome! Nearly 40 people wanted to work with me! And that felt huge.

The next week I talked to one of the teachers on the phone. She asked me how I went and I said, pretty great. She said I was terrible and that the other teacher was so angry he didn’t even want to speak to me. I was super hurt.

But I was *also* super confused. 

I was converting clients and it was working for me. The clients seemed happy, I was happy. But the teachers were pissed. What the hell?

Two weeks after that I got a call from her saying that I owed them money for all the clients I converted and it was x percent. I didn’t even realized that was a thing. There was no contract, no information up front, nothing. I went through all my notes and found nothing about this. I even asked her about it and she said she “forgot” to mention it. And she apologized for not mentioning it. I was further any and confused.  I said that I’d think about it, but we didn’t have this as an agreement.

Then she followed up by saying what a disappointment it had been to work with me. (Whoah, right?!)

I was shocked, I was sad. I was totally devastated and hurt. And eventually, when I realized how different her opinion was from the folks I talked to who had been at the retreat, I was pissed. I felt manipulated and used.

To put a icing on the cake, I saw her a couple of months later and she grabbed me and hugged me and said, “Don’t worry dear, all is well. You have been forgiven.” Whaaaaaa?

I felt absolute fury. 

That say we were again speaking at the same event. I had to leave the room to get myself back under control. And I wasn’t really ok again until she left. Fortunately that was before I actually had to speak or I’m not even sure what would have happened.

But something else had happened. Something that I didn’t realize.

I also made a decision in the moment she was shaming me that I’d never promote anyone else ever again. That promoting people is evil and causes harm. That was the effective end of promoting other folks. And since then promoting other people just hasn’t gone that well (shockingly enough).

But that was under all of this anger.  The anger was actually protecting me. Protecting me from further harm by keeping this woman away from me. Or rather keeping me away from her.

Is she a bad person? Probably not. A bit unethical, probably. But more likely just a human, trying to get her business to go up and up and up, like we’re taught. And not paying much attention to anyone else, like we’re taught. She made whatever assumptions she made and followed her cultural programming and did what she did.

And my anger protected me. It was a good thing I was protected. I didn’t go ot her workshops or sign up for anything. I didn’t agree to do anything more with or for either of them. I was protected…. until I had better tools to care for myself. 

Fast forward 5 years.

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of clearing work. And I finally got to this piece because it’s all tied up with money, being seen and  the big one: trust. It came up because a couple of folks have recommended her to be a guest on my new podcast.

And I went through all this stuff in my head that I should clear this all out so that I could invite her. “Everyone says I should invite her.” But in the clearing I was left with a question of whether I should reach out to her or not. Because in order for me to work with her, I’d need a clearing conversation and a pretty comprehensive apology. And, frankly, I’m not sure that she would do it.

And my coach pointed out that not everyone is available for partnership.  Not everyone is available to restore themselves and do the work to bring integrity to themselves as the people in their lives. Even in restoring myself and my own honor, it doesn’t mean that the person on the other side is: worthy, honorable, or available to do the work or even hear my perspective. And that’s what’s normal. 

I am not normal. Well I mean, I am. But I also work to restore myself, understand what’s happening and have better relationships. I want to be in love with my people all the time and so I’ve been learning to restore being in love.

I’ve nearly always been someone who’s willing to clean stuff up. And I’ve often pursued that and wondered why others haven’t. And I’m getting it. Not everyone can or is available to clean up, make amends and stay in hard conversations. 

And I know because that’s where I started. 

In college I remember running from a room because we were doing this Gestault thing for our class time and I just couldn’t take what was happening in the room and i couldn’t really sit with it. And I couldn’t really sit with the follow up. It was too big, too much, too many emotions. I later regretted that. But what 17 year old can sit with all of that? It’s ambitious – at best. And again probably a little unethical to do with young people who don’t understand what’s happening.

And so my anger and my fear and avoidance kept me safe until I had more tools to process and unpack it. And while I’ve done it, I’ve still had a ton of judgement about why other people don’t or won’t jump in and have the hard conversation now! 

But I do know – it’s hard. And revealing and vulnerable and a lot. 

Just being able to hold your space when something is coming at you is an act of human spirit and is not for the faint of heart.

This is all to say that I forgive myself for any time and every time I have not being willing to stand in the fire. When I’ve run away or not been available or not felt worthy or had too much going on. Or any reason for not being available, or wanting to engage.

And, if you’re willing to receive compassion for it, I  forgive you too. I forgive you for any time and every time you’ve separated yourself from other people because you were scared or overwhelmed or angry or feeling shame. I forgive you. It’s totally normal. 

It’s human to protect ourselves and to avoid and to stay small and out of sight. To use food, alcohol, sleep deprivation, busyness, drugs, pot, CBD, or any of a number of other things to keep distance. It’s totally and completely normal.

And now I’m transmuting that. I’m choosing to engage exactly where I want to engage. I’m choosing to tell myself the truth and get closer to my anger and learn from it and notice it and honor it. I’m turning the light on. Again. I’m clearing stuff out, again. I’m re-committing to love and partnership, again.

I’m human and I fall down and I will again. And so will you. It is what it means to love. To be human. To love and show up and care.

The commitment is not to know everything, the commitment is to resilience and to coming back and standing in myself and my power and moving from there. 

I’m here now. Again. How about you?