She walked into the house after a long commute back from work, with eyes flashing angrily at her mother who opened the door. She went straight into her room and banged the door shut. It was clear that she was outraged. Unfortunately the reasons were so many, that the moment she looked at her mother, anger rose up in her with a vice-like grip. At times in this raging madness, she would bang her head against the walls. She wanted to destroy herself and everything else that came in the way. She wrote dark songs sometimes, and tried to drown herself in blaring rock music. What was strange though, was that lately the anger needed no reason. She was angry all the time. It had become a habit, perhaps even an addiction. That is when she was afraid that she had lost control.
This is a scene from my life about 8 years ago when I had just graduated from college and started working. Even during college days there would be several ‘episodes’ of rage – I remember riding my bike down at a high speed at 3am in the night all alone from my college back to my home, a distance of about 7-8 kms without any helmet, because I was outraged by a band member not listening to me as we were going through rehearsals for a performance.
I am no stranger to rage. The earliest I remember of it was my mother who would be outraged during my childhood. I would clamor in fear at her rage while she threw things around during those times. Though these episodes weren’t frequent, they were memorable. It inevitably bred fear in me for she was the authority in my life.
Seeing rage for what it is
Over time though, being on both sides of it, I’ve learnt that rage is not about violence. Rage is a tendency to take ‘it’ out on someone or something – the anger that has been suppressed for so long that the mind-body-soul cannot contain it anymore. But rage is a lot more than anger. At the heart of it, is severe pain – an anguish, a grief that feels like it is literally tearing the soul apart because of which a person is driven to ‘compliment’ it physically – by taking things apart in the outer world. This can manifest into throwing things physically, the urge to break things, and worse still, wanting to experience physical pain. Over time, the only solution I have found is a process that I make my clients go through when they have ‘anger issues’.
Show up for your anger
The first step I usually take my clients through, is to help their anger have a voice. Allow your rage to abuse, curse, shout, give it a pillow to hit on the floor or pages to tear or scribble on. Keep expressing it until it is truly and fully out of your system without injuring yourself or anyone else. The next step is to sit with it.
The Heart of rage
Often the heart is bleeding. It is in grief or is blocked completely or partially because of guilt. Through meditation or Breathwork, I take my clients to the point where this rage was created. It is not the first time one got angry, but in fact a significant point when anger was suppressed when it needed to be expressed. As a result it was not just anger, but grief or anguish that got buried because you couldn’t express it. Essentially, the core belief is that you abandoned or rejected your own voice. It could also be accompanied with a sense of betrayal.
Grieving is expressing the sorrow triggered when you were denied something you intrinsically felt you deserved. Experiencing and expressing all the thoughts and feelings connected to grief is crucial. It is a wounding that has happened in the heart. It is experienced as a loss of who you were or thought you were. Allowing yourself to go through that grief is necessary only upto the point where you come to understand what this loss, this ache is about. What part of you went missing as a result of this? Once you understand this, you can…
You cannot remain angry at a person who understands your grief. You can be that saviour for yourself. Understanding that in those moments when rage got created you couldn’t have done anything different, shifts the perception into forgiveness. Eventually you understand that your intention behind what you did or didn’t do was not to abandon or reject yourself. You therefore take responsibility for the anger. It simply wasn’t personal. At this point you must truly question your loss. Is it something you really lost? Or has it shown up in your life in another form? My favorite, Byron Katie says, “Forgiveness is the understanding that what you thought happened didn’t really happen“.
Healing rage in children
Children are masters who will expose every hidden trait that lies within you. Rage in children is reflected rage – it is actually a deep-seated rage either or both parents or whoever they are around the most, have within themselves and is unresolved. It often does not belong to the child. I had one such case where the mother told me about her child’s outrage when he was given something to eat. When we looked inside her past, she had a distinct episode of rage in her own childhood where she was subjected to a very harsh treatment by her mother for not having finished her lunchbox which resulted into rage. The moment she saw this in her own childhood, she understood where the rage came from. The next day she told me excitedly how her child had stopped throwing tantrums altogether during mealtimes. Furthermore instead of being triggered by him, she was able to logically tell him the consequences of not having food and allow him to make his own decision whether he wanted to eat or not. He made his own decision to eat.
A senior therapist told me of another case she had handled. A child was brought to her who refused to go to school inspite of having good grades. When she started the session, all he said was that he was angry at one of his teachers. This teacher had punished him for not following instructions and drawing something else from what she had asked the class to draw. He said he was angry at her. So the therapist gave him a pillow and asked him to express it. He did all sorts of things to express his anger. He then asked if he could go to a room alone somewhere with it. She told him to go ahead. He then went away with the pillow and when she quietly peered into the room, she found him stabbing and stamping on the pillow calling out his teacher’s name. After a while the rage was spent. His grief at not being allowed to do what he felt like doing was expressed. He went back to school a happy, light boy. It is unimaginable to think what this rage would have done to him had it not been expressed and understood.
I often recommend an anger corner in the house where kids are shown, by example, that whenever any family member is angry, they go there to vent it out. A school in Bangalore based on the principles of spiritual parenting has such a corner in their classrooms. It has clay, colored paper, and other things that kids can walk up to at anytime, even in the middle of the class, to vent out their emotions. When they feel done, they rejoin the class. The class goes on as if nothing happened. This gives them a clear message – Anger and all other emotions are completely okay.
Rage – Shiva Energy
The occurrences of rage in my life have significantly gone down. In fact the last time I went into a fit of rage, it was spontaneous and I automatically stepped into the witnessing consciousness. A dialogue between the Higher Self or the inner guru and the outraged protagonist ensued. The inner guru was listening and responding to the agony and the outbursts the persona was venting out, while the awareness behind it was heightening until nothing remained but a deep inner silence without any distinctions. During this the body was moved by the rage, tears were shed, agony felt, while I was simply watching this drama rise and collapse. I seemed to have no involvement in this process whatsoever. I daresay I’m fascinated by these spells now. They deepen my understanding of me being just a witness. In the aftermath, I felt lighter and freer. There was an acute rise in sensitivity of my human existence and I felt like bowing to the earth humbled by its power. I appreciate these spells as the Shiva or Rudra energy, the Destroyer that is, which personifies itself through me during those moments. In this vast tapestry of human experience, I understand that this energy is needed to burn down the false personas based on lack. After all, you cannot wean off personas.