Nicole - PastNobody had a problem drawing the first picture – what their anger looked like in the past. Everyone could remember their version of bottled poisonous rage that eventually exploded all over the place. But I think they were more than a little surprised when I shared with them what I imagined doing with an up-welling of rage I’d experienced earlier in the week following a phone call with our daughter. She’d told us about a situation she was dealing with which stirred up for me a decades old fear and rage about a similar experience! Nothing like the momma bear getting rudely awakened from hibernation!

Yup, anger is an emotion common to all of us. We talked about how anger functions sometimes as an attempt to recover that which is lost or gives us energy to move on. And it gets expressed in a lot of different ways as the women at the Lighthouse, a fifteen-month, faith-based residential treatment program for substance abuse recovery, shared.

Nicole bottled her anger until she exploded; now she’s learning to share her feelings and speak her mind. Another woman shared how her rage emerged out of participating in satanic rituals during her teens, watching animal sacrifices, and then… a person burned at the stake! Another woman told about how she used to “love to hate” and how she’d eventually been jailed for stealing to support her drug habit. Still another told how her life spiraled out of control whenever she got behind the wheel of her car. Overwhelmed by low self esteem and fear of change, it was the key that drove her to a life of drugs, meth, men and sex. 

Christine has only been at the Lighthouse a few days and is still anxious about being here. Her mom was in the program when Lee and I worked over at the Rose Ave facility. She prayed us out to our cars every week. And while it’s painful to see the ramifications of generational addition, it’s great to know there has been a family success story…and there can be another one in the future. Cathy’s past anger was a raging fire. Her present anger is a combination of sunny blue skies, fluffy clouds and flowers and more raging flames. She was intentional about placing the more positive image on the left in contrast with the angry right-hand side. She said, “It’s not like I appeared at the Lighthouse one day full of anger and then everything became sunshine and flowers.” She’s honest about the reality that her emotions fluctuate from day to day, hour to hour, moment to moment. Vivian is nearing graduation and I can’t even imagine the past anger she talks about that was so full of explosive rage. These days I see a vivacious, serene woman who’s getting a handle on “righteous anger” expressed through the addition of royal purple to the bright oranges, reds and golds. 

At a recent gathering of friends for tea I told them about sharing my recent experience of rage and imagined resolution with the ladies at the Lighthouse. One of them, an extremely wise therapist, said, “What a wonderful way to normalize the experience of anger. But I hope I never make you mad!” Yeah, it was a pretty vivid image, but the image was enough. I didn’t need to explode. I didn’t need to confront anyone. I didn’t need to revisit the past other than to acknowledge the ancient event that triggered my anger. I simply needed to tell, confess, if you will, to a few safe folks a dark part of myself. With each telling the anger diminished, the triggering event subsided back into its proper place in history so that within a couple of hours the emotional charge no longer existed. It was owned and worked with; handled and healed. Can’t get angry about that.

If you’ve ever experienced rage, what triggered it? In what ways was it related to fear? If you were to draw pictures of your anger – past, present and future, what would they look like? What titles would you give those pictures?

What words of encouragement might you give the ladies at the Lighthouse as they tackle reshaping the most primary emotion they deal with when they first enter the program?

4 comments to Anger

  • Maureen

    I too know a wise therapist who every week brings tales of inspiration and poetry. Thank you.

  • Deanna Bowling

    Depression sometimes defined as being anger turned inward, I have spent a lot of my life being angry.

    My picture would be of an all encompassing pain, possibly of young woman’s face covered with spiders web made of lines of decitful, hateful words that ensnared me in an attempt to keep me under control.

    Love, hugs and prayers,


  • I’ve never been very good at anger. As a little boy I would just get angry, confused, embarrassed and just cry and run away. As I grew up, when I was really anger I just tried to let it go and then on occasion just explode….so not really sure where to go with anger still.

    But I do find exercise helps me to think clearly so I don’t get angry and then sin all over the place. I also find that having a safe place to express the depth of my emotion helps. By safe, I mean a friend who allows me to say it all, doesn’t try to fix or get offended and then waits until I’m ready to start working towards a solution.

    I really like those kinds of friends.

  • Linda young

    I was never allowed to be angry. No one ever said that, but I certainly knew to never raise my voice or even express myself. All silent messages given to a small child. All I knew was keep quiet and behave. My rage doesn’t look or sound like rage. It leeks out in self destructive ways. Drip,drip, drip.

    So wonderful that these courageous women are learning to understand themselves and how to express and release pressure.

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