I am writing this article because so many of my clients have mentioned recently that they are seeking tools to deal with anger in healthy and constructive ways. With each client, I shared the concept of a ‘rant letter’ I came up with many years ago that has worked miraculously for so many women I’ve worked with. And after sharing it so much lately, I realized I have never officially put it into writing and shared it with you, my dear readers. So I am sharing this with you in the hopes that you will find it a useful and life-changing tool to work with anger when it arises and enjoy some really positive outcomes as a result.
One thing that is very clear to me is that we, as women, are often deeply conflicted about how to acknowledge, recognize and express our anger. I have made previous attempts at trying to help women do this with regards to the following topics:
Before I share the “rant letter” technique with you, I just want to say that anger is a normal, healthy emotion and that if we listen to it’s message, it will always have something important to teach us. A hot topic at the moment of course is the Donald Trump presidency, and in case you haven’t noticed, a lot of people are REALLY ANGRY about what that means to democracy in the USA. I was struck deeply by the collective outrage of women who spoke at the women’s march on Washington. Their anger struck a deep chord within me and so many of us I’m sure because it was a reaction to what happens to us when someone threatens to take away the rights and freedoms we (and our predecessors) have worked so hard to obtain over decades and to throw an entire country back into a very dark place where sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, racism, and hatred dominate the political rhetoric of an entire nation.
In my view, the collective anger of over 500,000 people (some sources say up to 1.15 million people worldwide) was used as FUEL to unite people from across the globe into a collective form of active protest which definitely sent a loud and clear message to the new US administration about how they felt about proposed sweeping changes to be made by government in the near future. My personal favourite was a sign one protestor held which said: “So bad even the introverts are here.” I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that when the introverts are out on the streets protesting what their government is doing, it’s truly a grave situation…
Maybe you weren’t out on the streets protesting with all the other women on January 21, 2017, but you feel like running out to your nearest street corner and screaming out loud about what’s really pissing you off. And I wouldn’t blame you sister- there’s a lot to scream about right now. But there is no need to risk your reputation in your neighbourhood. With the following method, you can achieve the same satisfaction you’d get by screaming outside, but from the comfort and privacy of your own home. All you need is either a computer (if you prefer to be sophisticated about your rant letters) or a plain old piece of paper and your favourite writing utensil.
Esther’s Trick for Expressing Rage without Being Put in Jail (otherwise known as ‘the rant letter’)
Tips before you start writing:
Make sure to do this exercise when you’re really burning up inside with anger and you feel like you might explode if you don’t get it out
You may choose to engage in what I like to call ‘emotional foreplay’ by listening to your favourite angry woman song (Personally, I vacillate between a variety of Sinead O’Connor, Alanis Morrisette, and Melissa Etheridge tunes with great success in getting me ‘in the mood’ to write a rant letter)
Make sure you do this in complete privacy so that you can be totally free to express yourself and go with the creative flow (read Virginia Woolf’s classic: A Room of One’s Own if you want a primer on the importance of women and writing alone)
Go to great lengths to carve out at least one hour of complete solitude (i.e., put up the proverbial “do not disturb” sign on your door/phone/computer, etc.) and don’t come out until you’re completely done and feeling satisfied and at peace with what you got ou
Using some ‘white noise’ such as a white noise machine or app or even a loud fan can be helpful if you need to drown out outside noises and is particularly helpful if you want to avoid others being able to hear you cursing loudly
Writing Your Rant Letter:
This “rant letter” falls into the category of the unsent letter and I strongly advise you not to put a stamp on it and mail it to its intended audience. I’m not suggesting that you not take direct action on an important issue if you feel strongly about it and want to be an activist in this area. It’s just that what I’m offering here is a warm-up exercise to getting to that point and should be used as such- sort of an ‘emotional brainstorming’ session for your eyes only.
Pick a topic/situation that is burning you up inside and making you boil with rage. For example, you could pick “Donald Trump’s stance on women’s rights and freedoms”. In this case you’d write your letter directly to Mr. Trump and let him know what’s triggered in you when you hear about his latest plans on ______________(fill-in-the-blank as there may be a number of these). You might start off with something like,
Dear Donald Trump,
I am absolutely furious at what I heard you say today in your latest press conference about women…
And then, the rest is up to you! Just let it all out…and I mean let it ALL out. That means writing and ranting until you can write and rant no more. Until you have felt the outrage, told the person/situation in question what you think and feel and what you want to do as a result, and finally feel lighter- maybe a bit spent because of all the energy you used- but drastically less angry than when you began writing.
This is the stage of the process where you may touch other emotions such as sadness and grief. Make sure not to ignore these but instead, to sit quietly with them and let them come up and out. You can continue writing with the new emotion that has emerged, or else just acknowledge it, sit with it like a welcome friend, and let it be.
Completing the Process and Coming Back to Center:
Lastly, I have found over the years in working with women that it is often very healing for us to end the process of letting our anger out to complete the exercise with connecting to our spiritual side and our connection with the larger world outside of ourselves. Some people term this God, the Universe, or even a Higher Power. If none of these feels comfortable to you, find something that does. Maybe it’s simply the natural world outside your door…
I find the Loving Kindness Meditation incredibly helpful in tying up such exercises. The other method that works is stating out loud or in writing a list of five things you’re thankful for in your life.