Go Ahead and Rage It Out

Let me tell you about my rage journal. It’s one of my favorite ongoing writing projects, but you’ll never read any of the pages. No one will. In fact, I’ll never even get to reread what I wrote. And that’s the beauty of this project.

It started when I was on my 18-month sabbatical, dealing, for the first time in my life, with bonafide depression and anxiety and several health issues. One of the healers I work with recommended the book, Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection, by Dr. John E. Sarno, in which Sarno posits that much of the pain we experience along the spinal column is actually suppressed anger or anxiety. One night, while reading the book, I grabbed a piece of paper and started writing down everything that was making me angry. I decided not to hold back a single thought. I literally raged onto the page.

Some of what I wrote was logical, given my circumstances. I was furious about all the doctors’ appointments, and the money I was spending, and all the supplements and medications I was taking. Some of it, though, was less logical, like my anger with myself because I couldn’t “make myself better,” or my annoyance with well-meaning friends whose advice was solid, but unwanted. Every last angry thought came pouring out.

In the end, I tore the pages out of the notebook, crumpled them up, and threw them away. I did this because I didn’t want anyone to come across my brutally honest but “unhinged” and “unkind” thoughts. But I quickly realized it was partly in crumpling up those pages and throwing them away that I felt release. In fact, I think I may have cried in that moment. It wasn’t just getting that anger out of me onto the page that helped, it was also destroying the physical representation of it and putting it someplace it could no longer hurt me (the trash can, and later the shredder, and one time, the flame).

Having spent my entire life as a people-pleaser and someone who never wants to intentionally hurt anyone, there are times when I shock myself by the truly hateful things I write into that journal. While I would never act on any of those thoughts – at least I hope I wouldn’t – it’s still alarming to confront those demons. But if you don’t confront them, you can’t cast them out.

I love my rage journal. I also love my morning gratitude blessings, and my meditation time, and all the practices I rely on to bring me to places of love, peace, acceptance, and surrender. But sometimes it just feels good to have a temper tantrum on the page, and then to shake it off.

You may be wondering if starting my rage journal did release some of my back and psoas pain. It did! And when it starts to come back, I pull out my journal, and it goes away again. You may doubt that — and that’s your prerogative — but I can’t help wondering if we Americans are so extraordinarily ill because we live in a society in which we’re constantly told anger isn’t healthy for us. Because it turns out, it is if you’re honest with yourself, if it motivates you to make changes, if it gives you the energy to fight for what’s right, if it helps you to acknowledge, accept, and love your shadow self.

I’d still recommend, though, burning those pages when you’re done.

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