Last night, I dreamed about a skunk. Now that might not seem so unusual to people who know that we have a cute skunk that frequents our backyard and (thankfully) doesn't stink up the joint because we leave it alone and watch from a respectful distance as it does its thing. However, in dream interpretation, when a skunk appears in a dream, it's often a sign of repressed anger. It's a reminder that you can't stuff your anger and must release it in order to sustain physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Point taken, skunk.
And it's true. Recently, I've been feeling massive amounts of anger in response to all that's happening in the world. And I suspect many others have, as well. But it has felt like so much, so frequent, and, at times, so overpowering that I feel like if I give into it, it might just consume me. And if I am consumed by anger, how can I go about my work as a spiritual practitioner?
I am a woman of a certain age. I carry a lot of conditioning surrounding the topic of being a woman and having/feeling/expressing anger. Mostly that I shouldn't, that it's unattractive, that it's not spiritual, and that it's unlikeable. I also carry the spiritual DNA from past lives as women and other people who were far more oppressed than women today (we all do), and so I have many unconscious scripts that tell me my anger is inappropriate and dangerous.
Many women have received these messages and this conditioning throughout their lives. Suppress your own negative emotions for the greater good. Be a perfect example of womanhood (whatever the bleep THAT is). Use a calm, kind, and measured tone. If you feel anger, take a breath and wait for it to go away.
While I can't know for sure (I can only truly understand my own embodied experience in this lifetime), I imagine it's exponentially more difficult and overpowering for BIPOC women, who battle stereotypes entrenched in both racism and sexism, as well as all BIPOC people and other oppressed, marginalized, or othered individuals.
I've certainly had a lot of reason to be angry throughout this lifetime. I've been on the receiving end of bullying, physical and emotional abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, narcissism, chronic pain and illness, infidelity, misogyny, and all of the other things that often happen to women on the human journey. Those are the types of things that can really piss somebody off, and with good reason. But because of cultural messages surrounding women and anger, we're also left with emotions we don't know what to do with since we've been conditioned all our lives (and across many lifetimes) that it's unseemly for women to be angry.
And so what do we do? We suppress the rage. We develop defense mechanisms to help us cope with that repressed anger simmering just below the surface. For instance, one of my defense mechanisms has historically been humor. For a while there, the funnier I got, the more pissed off I probably was.
I remember the first time somebody told me it was okay to be angry. I was in the midst of a contentious divorce, and I was talking to someone on the phone. I can't remember my exact words, but the essence was, "I am so angry about this, but I know I shouldn't be. I'm a spiritual person. I should be better than that." The person I was talking to interrupted and said quite forcefully, "Karen - where did you get the idea it isn't okay to be angry? Of course you can be angry." I was stunned. It had never even occurred to me that maybe my anger was okay.
That was several years ago, and I've had a lot of time to understand what led me to that place, what I was doing, and why I was doing it. I was using what I've come to realize is my other defense mechanism, spiritual bypassing.
Spiritual bypassing is an unhealthy coping mechanism in which we use spiritual practices or beliefs to suppress negative emotions instead of allowing their healthy expression. When we fail to allow ourself to experience negative emotions like anger, we don't move through them and release them. Instead, we repress the anger, turn it back on ourselves, and bury it deep inside where it develops dense, sticky, low-vibrational energy that can negatively affect our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Spiritual bypassing is common in people of various spiritual practices, and especially women. And it can block our growth, keep us from our true paths, and make us mentally, physically, or emotionally sick.
The term spiritual bypassing was actually coined by transpersonal psychologist John Welwood, who wrote the book Toward a Psychology of Awakening. Welwood's definition of spiritual bypassing is, spiritual ideas/ practices used to sidestep emotional "unfinished business."
I see spiritual bypassing a lot, and I even engage in some myself when I feel like I just can't cope. And I do it even though I know it is unhealthy, energetically damaging, and keeps me from stepping into my true purpose to raise the vibration of the planet. It's something I continuously try to be cognizant of in my own life so I can catch myself as close as I can to the moment when I begin spiritual bypassing.
Once I recognize I'm doing it (and sometimes it takes a while), I go someplace safe so I can sit with my rage or whatever negative emotion I'm trying to spiritually bypass, and I jump in headfirst. It's often painful and scary, and it frequently involves an ugly cry (I did one today before I started writing this post). But after a a while, it's also incredibly beautiful. Why? Because in the moments where I allow myself to move into my deepest pain and rage, it begins to move through me and flow out of me until I am cleansed. And after the darkness, even the faintest glimmer of Light is breathtaking.
Often, it takes a lot more than a few minutes and an ugly cry. Sometimes, it comes in waves, occurring across days, weeks, or even longer. But as it flows from me, it leaves space that I can fill up with something that isn't dark, painful, or scary. I experience the rage so I can release it and step into Love. And once I have stepped into Love, I can begin to come up with meaningful ideas and solutions that come from a place of empowerment and compassion instead of anger-fueled actions that may cause significant damage to others (and myself) and create a downward energetic spiral fueled by anger, pain, fear, and retribution. Spiritual bypassing is disempowering and lowers vibration. Moving through the emotions instead of suppressing them empowers and raises vibration.
Which brings me to now. I don't know about you, but it feels like we've been in a period where we've had the opportunity to experience rage and practice sitting with it and releasing it over and over again. Usually daily, sometimes hourly. I find myself getting angry a lot these days. But each time we experience a new rage-inducing incident, it presents us with the opportunity to experience it, sit with it, greet it with curiosity, and ultimately move through it as it moves through us.
Getting through this process isn't instantaneous, it isn't easy, and we frequently handle it imperfectly. But ultimately for our own wellbeing, the wellbeing of others, and for the vibrational wellbeing of our lives as embodied humans on this planet, we must greet the rage, experience it, and come out the other side embracing the opportunity to create a better, higher vibrational world for all of humanity. Even the assholes.
All that is to say this. Ladies, I know you're angry. So am I. And I know each day brings new, outrageous, painful things that fuel that rage, pain, and indignation. And it feels awful. It feels terrifying and dark. And it often seems that what would feel better than almost anything in the world is to strike out at whatever has caused the rage and make the person or people behind it hurt as much as we do. Take an eye for an eye. Get our pound of flesh.
I get it. I understand. I walk beside you in your rage, and I share your pain. Feel it. Experience it. Dive into it. Don't spiritually bypass it. Go someplace safe and be in the rage fully and completely. Do it for as long as you need as often as you need. And in the spaces between the waves of rage when you can start to find the glimmers of Love from Source energy that surround and support us, allow yourself to be fully enveloped in that.
Allow the waves of rage their full expression. And use the moments of Light in between to take loving, compassionate, and meaningful action. Share your voice with the world. Be an example of how to bring about change. Speak from Love fueled by purpose. Support those who are struggling in the darkness and hold space for them until they find a glimmer of Light, knowing that when your wave of rage comes crashing back, they will support and hold space for you. Now more than ever we need to recognize that we are a Sisterhood* and hold space for one another--especially those who are in a different place emotionally, mentally, and spiritually than we are.
Don't wallow. Don't suppress. But do allow, because I promise it will pass if you don't try to stop yourself from experiencing it. Get help if you need. Seek support. And in the moments it passes, even if it's only temporary, you can use the leftover energy from the release of rage as the impetus to become a Loving force for change and support for all who continue to struggle in the darkness of lower vibrational energy. Even the assholes.
*Since there is no gender in Source (only in duality), all of us have experienced lives as every gender when we have embodied in duality. Therefore, while this post seems to talk only to those souls embodied as women today, in truth the Sisterhood includes all of us, and the loving support of the Sisterhood surrounds all of us regardless of the gender with which we currently identify.