Co-Founder and Facilitator of The Bridge Retreat, Gabi Krüger shares her perspective on the healing power of expressing anger safely.
“On The Bridge Retreat I was recently introduced as the ‘Queen of Anger’. As much as this makes me chuckle, it also makes me reflect on how I came to be an advocate for this widely misunderstood emotion. Like so many of us, I grew up with very conflicting messages around anger. At the hands of my dear father, (who I can now appreciate was suffering from post war PTSD), I experienced so called open and all out anger. It should have been labelled as what it was – violence, rage and chaos. From my cold and judgemental mother, I was exposed to the more passive aggressive forms of anger. As a young child these conflicting messages pushed me towards the innate introverted aspects of my personality; being very shy and insecure. Later during my adolescence, almost from out of nowhere, I turned into an angry rebel, trying to gain some control and at the same time making choices that subconsciously kept me on the edge of my childhood terror. I can now see it as a misguided attempt to push myself beyond the fear of my younger years.
As a child of the 60s entering therapy, like so many others, I would beat cushions for hours and write numerous unsent letters to the perpetrators of my childhood. I was hoping to find some release by attempting to symbolically fight back and hand back the toxic emotions of my childhood, breaking with the old taboos of staying loyal to my caregivers at any cost. The cathartic work did indeed open me up to create more space inside with a sense of freedom and my own power. Nevertheless, the work I did in those days failed to integrate into my everyday life. I was still struggling with weak boundaries, low self-esteem, being a caretaker and a pleaser. My general focus was always on the other person rather than myself.
The breakthrough and deep understanding of the beautiful power of clean anger came to me during some body work training much later in my life. We learnt to open our energy consciously through dance, movement, breathwork and vocal release, focusing on the lower part of our bodies. Nobody mentioned the word anger during these sessions and yet suddenly I felt the surge of powerful energy rising, like the old rage and toxic anger from all those years ago. Surprisingly my system did not feel the need for a specific target. It was just old energy releasing itself through my system. I will never forget the feeling of aliveness as well as the inner peace once it had run its course.
On hindsight I can see that this was a turning point for me, reframing the so called negative and unwanted emotion, starting to listen and discover its innate intelligence. Processing these stuck emotions has opened me up to re-educate myself to what it really means to have healthy self-esteem and a grounded sense of self-worth. It helped me to let go of blame, resentment and self-punishment. I finally felt that I was robust enough to vocalise healthy, clear boundaries, saying No when I mean it and Yes to life too. What a relief!
During our anger work discussion on The Bridge, people often talk about the common belief that anger must be directed at someone or something in order to feel and release it. That might bring up some reluctance because of irrational old fears of retribution and punishment. We need to be assured that the anger release work is not about damaging others or getting back at our loved ones. When we find healthy ways to honour our anger, realising how dangerous it is to suppress it, we begin to learn new emotional skills, for example raised self-awareness, mood management, impulse control and most of all deeper levels of forgiveness, empathy and compassion. Imagine what the world would be like if we had learned how to tolerate and process these painful emotional energies and use them for emotional, social and spiritual transformation.
Releasing blocked anger in a safe and effective way helps to open us to take charge of our lives more fully and peacefully. The way I have learned to understand anger is that it can be a powerful ally, since it is filled with energy that we can harness and use to create change in the world. It is after all one of the most cathartic emotions and it can be a very effective cleanser of our emotional system.
If we allow them, all our emotions can be our trusted guides, as they have the power to help us find our passion and lead us to our purpose. Identifying the role that anger plays in our life and to restore it to its proper function can bring new energy and expansiveness to our overall experience of life. That is why I call it our Superpower!”
Gabi Krüger, Co-Founder & The Bridge Facilitator