It’s okay to be angry about this.
This was my first thought as I read some particularly reprehensible words in a recent news report.
I had to give space to my angry feelings, because they stirred up something real. “This is real. This is a problem. This is shocking and disturbing.”
It is a totally normal response to feel anger when we are confronted with injustice, cruelty, or intolerance.
Even though anger is uncomfortable, and you don’t want it to be a constantly held emotion (because it will burn you up and burn you out), anger itself is not bad. It is just an emotion. It is part of our fight or flight response and can be triggered when we encounter a threat to our, or our loved ones, wellbeing.
Anger’s purpose is to cause us to take action. And to spur us to take action even in scary circumstances. So if we begin to look at anger as a signal to take action, then we have a really huge opportunity to create positive change.
I won’t tell you what the news report was, though you are free to guess. It really could have been any of the news headlines that are out there. I mean, just take a scroll through any of it and you won’t have to go far to find something that triggers a response. Not that I recommend that! I usually try to avoid news media because I find it sensational and not a good way of staying informed. But every so often there is something going on in the world that pops up on the social media feed that triggers strong feelings.
There is always something. The world is a complex place. Equally beautiful and horrible at the same moment. If you go looking for it, you can easily find enough material to fill your pockets with rage for a lifetime. Don’t go looking for it!
What do you do when this disturbing news finds you? How do you take the experience of strong anger and turn it into something positive, something filled with love, bringing solutions and possibilities into the world?
Anger inspires action. It is totally possible to take an experience that fills you with anger and turn it into one that fills you (and others) with love. Here is how I approach it.
1. Allow Yourself to Feel.
It is okay feel this way! Honestly, that is the fastest way through any strong emotion. Just give yourself some space to breathe through whatever you are feeling. Know that You and your feelings are two different things. Your feelings will ease if you acknowledge them. Especially with anger, it is much easier to move through the emotion if you honestly acknowledge it.
The best way to acknowledge your feelings is to name them. Allow yourself to feel them. This feeling is strong, but temporary. Our physiology is hard wired to decrease the stress hormones when we are no longer faced with the threat. Anger is like this too. Anger will dissipate if you give yourself some trigger-free time. Feel the anger, but don’t feed it.
2. Take a break.
I give myself a real break from whatever I’ve been reading. I take a walk, a nap, a shower, a meditation break, a few journaling moments – I give myself time.
If I keep on reading and looking for more news reports and articles on the topic when I’m in the middle of anger, it is like throwing gasoline on the fire.
Stop feeding the anger.
As soon as you have the information you need, turn off the tv, click off the phone, put down the paper.
I know that compulsive need to stay informed in a crisis. For me, that constant checking originated after 9/11. In those crazy few moments, which stretched into days, months, and years, it seemed like the whole world was holding its breath. Waiting for the other shoe. Being tied to the news was a way to cope with the fear that an emergency situation could develop at any time.
The constant checking, though, that behaviour continued long after. Even though I don’t consume news anymore, whenever there is a crisis that grabs my attention, I get stuck in reading all the information and all the reports. Often, though this constant checking causes more confusion, fear, and anger. And it rarely provides solutions.
Take a break. Step away. Turn it off.
Give yourself some time to let the feeling ease.
3. Think about Possibilities and Solutions
As soon as you can, start thinking about ways the problem might get better. Start thinking about all the people who have dedicated their lives to helping this problem get better. Think of all the philanthropists around the world donating money to solve this problem.
Begin to see the problem as healed. See the people involved as happy and healthy. See the opportunity for growth this experience provides. See the changes happening all around that the problem is getting better.
Begin dreaming outrageous dreams of peace and hope and love. Martin Luther King Jr. type dreams. Visualize a future of harmony and kindness. Hold tight to that dream. Dream it in the dark times and in the day. Dream the future into the now.
The world is beautiful. It has hope imprinted on it soul. Look for hope. Look for other wild dreamers. You are not the only one. Know that there are others out there, in this moment, who are also envisioning a beautiful solution.
4. Make a plan.
Now that you have acknowledged your feelings, given yourself a break, and begun dreaming about a better way — now is the time to begin thinking about action.
Taking action from the place of possibility and hope is very different from taking action from despair and rage. The choices you make will be different, but more than that, the results you get will carry the same energy signature as your emotions.
If you take action from a place of rage, it is very unlikely that the result will be more peace.
Make a plan for action when you are feeling the vision of what it would be like if this problem was solved. If you are focused on love and kindness, anything you create from that space will also create, spread, and generate more love and kindness.
Make a plan from the place of connection and the results will become tangible and long-lasting. Think about ways you can help. Think about ways that you can vote for what you want — with your time, your dollars, your clicks and shares, your actual votes. Spend those ‘votes’ wisely. Each click is tied to money these days. Make sure you are clicking more on what you want in the world and less (or not at all!) on what you don’t want. Focus entirely on what you want.
Think about ways that you can begin taking your power back. Think about ways that you could make things better.
Look around your life, what are you really good at? Think about ways that you can use that natural talent to help making the problem better.
As an example, I heard about a lady who crocheted little dolls for peacekeeping soldiers to give to children in war-torn areas. She organized others to also make these dolls and bring light and hope to a child’s life a whole world away. To send a message that there is someone out there who cares.
Take what you are really good at and brainstorm creative ways to apply that skill to the solution.
5. Take action.
Take one tiny action towards hope.
Do one tiny thing.
Just a tiny movement toward change.
That is all you need to do. Just start where you are, with what you have, with the skills and resources you have available. Start.
Don’t wait for someone else. Don’t wait for more money or time. Take the tiny amount that you can comfortably part with and use it to create some good in the world. Start small and keep going. Keep dreaming your dream of hope, peace, love, and kindness. Let everything you do be guided by that.
Imagine. Dream. Peace.