From an early age, rage was a familiar feeling. I have vivid memories of holding my arms down by my side in a concerted effort not to raise my fists. I can recall heat surging through my body and my teeth grinding together. The need to scream was great and sometimes I did. The rage felt so big. I spent most of my childhood and young adulthood learning to channel this anger.
When I was in first grade, I transferred to a new school in the middle of the year. While my classmates were kind, there was a small group of second graders who decided to pick on the new kid. This group of 3 to 4 girls would circle around me on the playground and take turns taunting me and pushing me. When I told my parents about what was happening, I received permission to defend myself. To know I would not get in trouble at home was liberating.
The next time the older girls cornered me outside I was ready. I planted my feet and told them to leave me alone. They did not and their physicality became more violent. All of a sudden, my fear went away and rage filled my little body. “How dare they,” I thought. “Four against one is not fair.”
I let loose. I moved my arms like windmills and screamed with fury. How dare they, how dare they, repeated like a mantra in my head.
Needless to say, my behavior caught the attention of the teachers and the fight was broken up. The teachers made ALL of us sit in timeout. I was so mad. I couldn’t believe the teachers didn’t see my point of view. Fortunately, my parents did and did not punish me for getting in trouble at school. Rather, they praised me for standing up for myself.
This experience taught me some valuable lessons.
I learned that sometimes doing what is right for you won’t be understood by all and may even result in unintended consequences, e.g., getting in trouble. I also learned the price may be worth it.
After I stood up for myself, those second-grade girls never bothered me again. Initially that result surprised me. It’s doubtful I landed any harmful blows. (Windmill arms are not very accurate or powerful.) So it wasn’t physical pain that made an impression on the older girls. Perhaps it was my fury. My unwillingness to be their victim: to no longer be the meek accomplice to their bully.
Standing my ground served another purpose. It acquainted me with my self-worth.
It was not until I had the thought how dare they that I was emboldened to fight for myself. I had to believe I deserved better – I had to believe I had worth – to defend and to protect myself.
As an adult, I have made a commitment to be non-violent. Sometimes this commitment is a challenge to keep. I still have days when I feel the rage sweep through my body like a heat and the desire to lash out is strong. I know these days are the times when I must, as Valarie Kaur states in See No Stranger: “Step away to rage” so I may “return to listen.” (p. 134)
Audre Lorde, a civil rights and lesbian activist, poet, feminist, and author, had this to say about anger:
Anger is loaded with information and energy. Every woman has a well-stocked arsenal of anger potentially useful against those oppressions, personal and institutional, which brought that anger into being. Focused with precision it can become a powerful source of energy serving progress and change. (p. 134)
If you are feeling anger or rage, you do not have to hide it or suppress it. Rather I invite you to find a safe container in which to express your anger, so you may learn from it. Quite often we experience anger when our boundaries have been violated, when our worth has been devalued, and when our values, like justice, have been trampled.
Too often girls and women are taught to “be nice,” “not make waves,” and “turn the other cheek.” The dominant culture also asks other marginalized groups to repress their rage and to silence their voice. The unspoken message is “don’t make me uncomfortable with your anger and your demands. Let us keep the status quo.”
If we want to create equitable and inclusive communities, then we have to be willing to listen for the needs behind people’s rage.
Let us support one another by providing safe places to rage and by listening for the unaddressed needs. It is only when we uncover the underlying needs that we are able to discover all the amazing possibilities around us.
Kim Bushore-Maki is a soul-driven entrepreneur who understands the undeniable urge to create a business and a life filled with meaning and purpose. Her vision of opening a center where women could heal and grow led her to open Shakti in the Mountains in Johnson City, Tennessee: a place where the creative, feminine energy is nurtured and valued.
Five years later, Kim is still in the flow of supporting and building a healthy, vibrant community and now guides retreats, teaches yoga, and provides one-on-one services for women who want an immersion experience into the life-affirming, Shakti energy.
Kim’s training as a therapist and yoga teacher allows her to safely and compassionately guide women on a heart-centered journey to Self, where women re-connect with their beautiful, authentic spirit.