The Guardian of Rage
Thank you Loralee Scott for your provocative introduction to the Sacred Rage series. I especially loved your final question, “If rage were a person, what would your relationship with her be like?” Reflecting on my personal relationship with rage, I’m filled with three energies - the energy of fear, the energy of dissociation, and the energy of unbridled retaliation.
For me, rage is most often kindled by fear - fear that exists in direct response to the experience of harm, or witnessing harm to others. And a more insidious type is the slow-burning internalized rage that results from having to live with an externally sanctioned lie. Either way my rage is an extension of feeling powerless to affect change or bring justice.
But my rage does not exist alone. She has a guardian, an internal moderator who tries to contain her. And the guardian’s first response to offensive behavior is most often dismissive. The guardian whispers these words, familiar to so many women,“There’s nothing you can do about it, so put it out of your mind. Don't waste energy on things you cannot change.” And while this sounds an awful lot like “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change” from the Serenity Prayer, it’s also the mantra of dissociation. So not only do we train ourselves not to waste energy on things we cannot change, we also train ourselves to stop feeling the pain of the original offense.
Acceptance has its place in every life. But too often, for women, I believe acceptance is used as a go-to word, as a more socially acceptable substitute for the deeper truth of disconnection. Most often we don’t truly accept, we just disconnect. And shutting down our feelings also shuts down our courage, so we never get the opportunity to address the second, more active part of the Serenity Prayer - “grant me the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” The guardian of rage is more like a prison guard than a guardian angel, and our feelings are held captive.
So my rage is building internally, guarded and hidden. She’s a geyser waiting to erupt. And on the rare occasion when her pressure builds up too much, she releases through me with such unbridled force that people think I’m irrational, and my diatribe is never well received. And frankly, most often I regret the effect of my words on others, including those whom I love.
My rage frightens me because she’s like a race car with no gears. Full speed or full stop. Careening and overtaking, or locked up in the garage. This isn’t healthy but I believe it's very common for women. So how do we learn to modulate and express our rage in a way that can be tolerated and heard by others?
Do we need to banish the guardian, or might we barter for a looser rein? The guardian is a safeguard, for sure, but its orientation is in fear, not courage. Perhaps the first step to acknowledging rage is a side step - perhaps the first step is to convince the guardian to make enough room for rage to breathe on her own. We need to give the guardian courage to trust that containment is not always a solution. We need the guardian to become more of a mentor than a moderator.
My rage has no self-entity yet, like an unborn child still in my womb, kicking and ready for life. But how to welcome her into the world? I fear the labor of her birth may just be too much. I fear the simple joys in life that I hold so dear will be obliterated by her arrival. And my fear empowers the guardian of rage to further contain her. It’s a self-enclosed circle, going nowhere.
If my rage were a person I’d approach her with caution. I’d have conditions. I would ask her to accept the existence of goodness. I would ask her to consider that she needs the slivers of beauty I have carved out of life as much as I need the unblunted truths she promises to deliver. I’d ask her to be mindful of her pace and not outrun me. I’d want her to see me as an equal, and I would want to have a covenant with her.
Joined in a covenant of mutual respect, then maybe the guardian of rage would become redundant, and move on.