What to do with rage: Healthy strategies after an awful year

Displaced rage

In my neck of the woods (and the Facebookwoods) people have had a hard week after a gobsmacking year! It goes on and on: the 1% tax grab, Trump stirring up the Middle East and begging nuclear war with North Korea, then firing back at abused women in the divisive Pensacola rally; meanwhile Mueller painstakingly exposing and following the lies and more lies. It was a tough week.

One of my old friends on Facebook asked, “Today, I found myself weeping in the car out of rage about the on-going state of the world. Our society is not super comfortable with folks processing anger and rage out loud. Many of us suffer in the silence of depression due to the weight of carrying our unprocessed anger. We need to lift each other up and  make our common journey through this broken world livable. WHAT ARE SOME HEALTHY STRATEGIES YOU USE FOR PROCESSING ANGER/RAGE?”

Another old friend immediately exclaimed: “This is like the fifth post like this I’ve seen! Meanwhile my mom and I are over here yelling about everything that’s going on. The rage is intense.”

It has been a tough week after a tough year. but people are not giving up! A few people responded to my friend’s tears in funny ways (it was on Facebook after all!), but most were serious. Some suggested drinking, it’s true. And one said, “I usually just bury it deep inside until I’m full of rage and then lash out at something irrelevant.” You might relate. But a lot of people had some great ideas to suggest. So I am relaying them to you in their honor.

My mind went to Galatians 4:21-5:1, especially this part: “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” I go to my faith when rage tries to tie me up. I don’t see how we can stand against the wind of slavery and deny false gods the attention and honor they demand unless we are free. We are children of the “free woman,” not the “slave woman,” Paul says. Some responses to the present national disaster strike me as “children of the slave woman” responses, as if we can get the “master” to set us free if we reason well, shout enough or organize better. The government is not my master. And being “in power’ or “out of power” is not all that matters. Let’s tell the truth and be the truth and bring the liars down. But let’s do it as people who come from God, not just more powermongers or victims.

That being said, the FB users had some good answers to the question: WHAT ARE SOME HEALTHY STRATEGIES YOU USE FOR PROCESSING ANGER/RAGE?” If we are free, what keeps our minds and hearts in freedom while we are getting blown away by the latest thing the powers-that-be are perpetrating?

These are not all direct quotes, but I hope they honor the gifters.

Express your anger

There’s no perfect solution. Allowing yourself to start sobbing in your car is more productive than people think. I repress so much out of habit. I imagine others do too. So if it comes out in big tearful moments, then that’s fine. Cry! And be okay with it. Pray! Ask Jesus to comfort you. Sometimes it’s just saying “Jesus” in the midst of the cry.

Cry over unrelated things — Inside Out is usually good for some solid sobbing.

Primal Scream Therapy is still suggested. My dad often came back from work, changed into work out gear, silently wheeled his Nordic Trac exercise machine out to our deck and then screamed out into the woods.

Some people conflate “processing” with “avoidance.” An immediate reaction to anger might be “turn off the internet for a day.” A lot of us avoid feeling our rage so it gets tamped down and turned into depression. Many of us aren’t comfortable with rage because we fear it taking over. But either expressing or suppressing rage could lead to depression, since the outcome in both cases is likely to be still feeling powerless, negatively impacted by a bunch of stuff nearly completely out of our control. If we are free in Christ, rage doesn’t kill us and might fuel us, since we are done with being in control or merely reacting to people supposedly in control.

Stop drinking and start exercising

One person got back to the dialogue to say, “I just got back from a solid run/walk interval session. I run without earbuds or music so I am forced to focus and listen more deeply to my body — from my foot falls to concentrated deep breaths to my heart-headspace.

Another person also started running again, but they like boxing even more. Another agreed, “I’m not very strong so if I punch my punching bag for like 7 minutes I feel amazing and exhausted.”

There are a lot of options: kickboxing, “beating the shit out of a bike in spin class,” lifting weights and yoga. They all help us put our focus on training in a discipline and channeling energy into something constructive. Maybe this is not the year for a passive quiet Advent, but an angry, active one!

Stay awake

You are angry because evil powers are doing evil. Keep in mind that making the oppressed depressed is a strategy for them, not a mistake. They are making the chaos and despair. It is an industry, not mere self-expression — boycott their “products.” Don’t give in! Try, if possible, not to let them get to your emotion. They are counting on us to completely lose hope. Don’t let them steal your freedom and joy. Those treasures are gifts from God. They don’t need to be earned or approved.

Another person started a daily action email blast. He made it super simple and stripped down to make it easy to know what to say and what to do. He sends letters to his congress people everyday via ResistBot.

One person summed it up with, “just watch this video:

Get spiritual again

One person said, “I have started meditating but that is more just to focus.”

Many people use music to meditate. They find it powerful for helping them process the full range of their emotions (one person said, “Most of those I express through crying”). For the past few years, one friend has been educated, inspired, and released to cry by Praise 107.9.

Another friend offered the Daughters of the King Devotional for December 8: “You Are Not Alone”

Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are” — 1 Peter 5:9, NLT

You are not the only one whom God has chosen.
You are not the only one who loves the Lord deeply.
You are not the only one who has said yes to Him.
You are not the only one fighting on the front-line.
You are not the only one He is pruning.
You are not the only one being used by Him.
You are not the only one who is sacrificing in order to obey Him.

The enemy loves to make us feel alone. If we’re doing good, he’ll say you’re the only one. If we’re doing terribly, he’ll say you’re the only one.”

Get on your music and art

This may not be something most of us have tried when we are angry: “The focus of creating has been a good way for me to process through shit. For me, it’s comix, particularly the inking, where my marker traces over penciled lines. There’s something autopilot about the motion and my mind becomes incredibly focused on each line (and whatever music I’m playing in the background).” Just go away from everyone for a bit so you can reflect, or play guitar or music.

Draw (even if you think you can’t) and see if it helps. Also, look into Danny Gregory’s Everyday Matters. He teaches about how sketching ordinary items allows us space to slow down, process, and recover.

Play drums!!!!!!

Sing! One friend says, “We’ve been making up songs, channeling emotions into melodies and loops and chants and prayers. I’m often surprised how quickly a song can come through when I have something I have to get out of my body.”

Such great ideas!

We are free to try them all: “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Don’t let anyone steal your joy! We can stand against the oppressors because we come from a place of freedom when we are in Christ. The beloved of God know to whom they belong and the heart of their homeland is truth and love.

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About Rod White

Pastor for Circle of Hope, http://circleofhope.net , grandparent, church planter, peacemaker, comrade, spiritual director, psychotherapist, silence lover

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