I’m feeling cross. Having now been placed on ‘Tier 2’ in London, there’s going to be no more social engagements for me (unless I can brave the London cold of an evening). Yes, of course, I understand the reasoning and I want everyone to be safe (or maybe just for Jacinda to be my PM) so of course I’ll do it. But I’m still cross.
It’s my daughter’s birthday soon. She’s three and so has very little idea of what is ‘supposed’ to happen on birthdays. She knows there’s cake and presents from a book we have about a baby wolf (Petit Loup) but other than that expectations are low (she asked for a carrot). Still, I wanted to have other people there. Share the general party food/games/sugar crash that is standard at toddler parties. Instead we’re going to have a Zoom party and she’ll open her presents with just the three of us. I’m still planning on having cheese and pineapple on sticks, though. So because of that, I’m cross.
I say that, but I’m not very good at being cross. I suspect it’s many years of internalising this idea that girls and women are supposed to be nice. That we’re not supposed to make a fuss. The fact that I have been publicly told to, ‘smile, love,’ by complete strangers affirms the idea that my presence in the street is supposed to be pleasant for other people, whether I want it to or not.
Recently, I’ve been working on being angry. After all, anger can be a source of great creativity, and its existence is a sign for action. The problem is, I’m so used to swallowing it down and coming up with excuses for why I shouldn’t feel it, there’s a sense that it’s a very alien emotion for me.
Here are some of the ways I’ve been successful in channeling and expressing anger:
1. Imagining what isn’t allowed. This was an exercise from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I wrote down something I wasn’t allowed to do (at the time, go and break all the plates). Then, I described it in minute detail. The sound they would make when they smashed, the energy that would run down my arms as I raised each one high above my head. It was incredibly cathartic and allowed me to channel and understand my anger. It also led to a fun piece of flash fiction with lots of breakages.
2. Getting it out in written words. This is something I’ve always done. I take my uncontainable fury and splurge it into a page. Whatever comes out, I write it down. No filter. Not only is it very soothing it helps me to pinpoint exactly what I’m worried about, which I’ve often got muddled because of all the times I’ve swallowed things down. This has been most useful for clearing my head to allow other more creative things to flow in place of the one-sided argument I was having in my head.
3. Getting it out in spoken words. This is something I find much harder. The times I have managed it, the words usually come out after I’ve done one of the two things mentioned above. That way I’ve got my thoughts in order and can really articulate what I’m angry about. The last time I did it was amazing. There was a whole list of things I’d collected and I shared it with my partner. Just to say ‘that’s really shit, isn’t it?’ and to have him say it back to me, felt so good. This has also really helped me get in touch with the core feelings of my characters and how I can use their anger to drive their stories forward.
4. Doing something physical. Often it’s a run, but just getting a good sweat on can do wonders for the angry mind. I’ve shouted at my laptop screen while doing a zumba class and sang out loud to ‘Dancing On My Own’ (when that drumbeat kicks in…) while dancing along the path by the canal. The combination of movement and emotion always makes me feel better afterwards. It’s also another good one for head-clearing. Spending too long staring at my screen often leaves my head fuzzed, so this sorts that one out nicely.
5. Doing something arty. For me, this is for extreme cases. Only in the times when I have been completely overcome did I feel the need to make it visual. I’ve painted a long, dark path surrounded by grey shapes to capture how I was feeling or slashed red paint across a white canvas. Something about being able to see a physical representation of it means that I can get it out and look at it later, so it feels like a more permanent help. These occasions have also been the ones where I end up with an entire idea for a story or piece thanks to whatever art came out of my anger.
I hope you find these useful. What helps you express your anger? I’d love to hear about it @sarahtinsleyuk
Thanks for reading,
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