Featured image: The Irish Times
“I must remind you that starving a child is violence. Neglecting school children is violence. Punishing a mother and her family is violence. Discrimination against a working man is violence. Ghetto housing is violence. Ignoring medical need is violence. Contempt for poverty is violence.”
—Coretta Scott King
They told me I was full of rage.
I laughed, because little did they know
That my soul is on fire
And it only ever burns
Those who seek to diminish it.
Let’s talk about rage. Let’s talk about the state that many people work to repress, oppress and contain in others. Rage – the most natural feeling that arises when your reality is being ripped from you. When you are told there is something wrong with you, and not the systems that hurt you. When people use your sensitivities against you to prove a point that you are somehow mad, or god forbid, hysterical for pointing out that things are not all alright.
Now, I’m not talking about hate. I’m not talking about the entitlement of some people and the hateful states that are attached to it. I’m talking about real, deserved rage that has planted its seed as a byproduct of injustice.
If a person has gone their whole life being told in explicit and implicit ways that what they feel and know is somehow false, untrue, not allowed – where do people expect these feelings to go? I can tell you that the fury is buried within. Is it swallowed and deep down, sometimes so far down that it begins to take root and grow, and grow some more. It grows with invalidation. It grows without it being received with compassion. It grows when it is not believed.
Rage is a by-product of oppression. Rage is the product of systems that intentionally work to oppress, distort and take away from people’s dignity, liberties and freedom. Freedom to live, love, work and exist as we choose, so long as we don’t hurt others. Freedom to feel what we feel, see what we see, be who we want to be. Call out violence as we see it. These rigid, tired, engulfing systems and internalized beliefs that hold people on trial, daily for existing as they do. For existing with truth. For daring to make real and conscious the pain, suffering and wrong – doings of others.
For me, the more I was told to ‘forgive’, pressured to appease, lectured to get on with it and forget, the bigger the fire within grew and the more I began breathing it onto those who weren’t the source of the rage. I could no longer take the external invalidation forced onto me by those who couldn’t validate my pain. I couldn’t control my own rage for a time because I was never taught how, only encouraged to ‘get rid of it’ somehow. So, it turned in and scolded me or turned out and burnt others.
What I am learning about my rage is that it’s a delicate dance in allowing it fully, containing it just enough so that it doesn’t inflict harm, and then directing it out. Through writing, speaking, loving. It becomes a pure arrow – head of intention in supporting others to understand and come to acceptance and it’s only a matter of me directing its aim. With rage, you can spit fire, light the fires of others who have had theirs long extinguished, or be the fire for those to come warm their hands around. This is a choice.
Never again tell a person who has suffered injustice that their anger is wrong. Never again convince a person that their anger must turn in on themselves, burning their spirits and the spirits of others because the rage has turned to bitterness and resentment. Before rage calcifies our hearts and becomes potent enough to ruin lives, allow it to breathe, be acknowledged and validated for what it is: internalized invalidation. An inversion of spiritual treachery. A mark that a soul has been contorted by damaging words, beliefs or actions.
Stop telling people they need to ‘forgive’ or ‘not be so angry’ about real and terrible things that have happened to them and others. Tell stories about how we let it out and honour the validation of its existence. Let it soar and grow things that are full of love and give it power to demolish systems that are full of greed.
No more pacified excuses of why we need to extinguish rage. Stop telling people they need to ‘forgive’ or ‘not be so angry’ about real and terrible things that have happened to them and others. Tell stories about how we let it out and honour the validation of its existence. Let it soar and grow things that are full of love and give it power to demolish systems that are full of greed.
Enraged is a state of combat. Fighting for spirit, for mind, for soul as it is. As it has been hurt. Knowing it has been wronged. Fighting for itself, for survival, for its true state.
Every day we are forced to accept violence. Forced to normalize it in structures that have been bled dry of truth, integrity and love. We are then forced to smile, get on with it. To think ‘positively’.
There are days where my rage swallows me whole, eats me up from the inside. Takes no prisoners. It’s like a plastic wrap around my heart, seizing my chest. “Let love in”, but how do I do that when love doesn’t always live here? Where does anger go when no – one who causes pain and suffering wishes to acknowledge the hurt they inflict on others or be held account for their wrong – doings? It gets buried. Its roots dig deeper. It gets harder to soften, to unfreeze, to melt. Tell me, where does hope go when it’s no longer believed in?
Rage is an entirely appropriate response to violence. What we do with this rage can either look like the building of self and communities of unconditional love as an extension of understanding our experiences, or bitterness from swallowed fire that has slowly burnt and ravaged us and those we love, from within.
I stand alongside you with dignity, ferocity and cleansing fire. It’s time to move mountains.
For more self-study, The Urban Howl recommends The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom.
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