If you are someone who writes, you understand transformation can be found when you put pen to paper. Writing is much more than a creative process, if you so choose – it’s a spiritual practice.
In October, I facilitated a writing circle where four writers came together to write about anger. The evening began with each writer sharing what brought them to the circle. We then moved into a conversation about anger and the price we pay when we choose to silence it, rather than to healthfully and authentically express and explore the emotion.
Anger is referred to as a secondary emotion, meaning that under the anger can be shame, grief, fear, or another shadowy state of being. Anger generally has us feeling powerful and adrenalin-filled. Grief or shame may make us want to pull the covers over our heads each morning, rather than face another day of feeling lifeless or loveless. But if we instead turn to our anger, it can be easier to get out of bed in the morning and move throughout the day. Anger has its uses.
The problem is, if we don’t explore and process the anger, we may suffer physical, mental, and emotional side effects. Our risk of heart disease and stroke increase, our immune systems weaken, our focus is minimized, our thinking becomes exaggerated, and our symptoms of anxiety and depression worsen. When we don’t acknowledge our anger, we might mismanage the emotion, and become sarcastic, critical, or explosive, among other behaviors.
What we may not realize is that anger arrives as a messenger. It is here to tell us we are somehow out of integrity, that a fundamental need isn't being met, or that we need new boundaries. Anger may show up to help us remember and take back our passions.
It can be scary and uncomfortable to sit down with pen and journal to bleed our feelings and thoughts on the page. The intellectual mind, or ego, likes to judge our anger and tell us its wrong. But if we can move past all that chatter in our heads and express our rage and resentments using our words and ink, we can find peace, clarity, and maybe even salvation.
During our writing practice, we used three prompts — a quote, an object, and a song inspired the flow of words. Writers were invited to express themselves in whatever genre felt most honoring to their emotions. What emerged from the timed writing exercises was poetry, dialogue, journal entries, parts of essays, and prayer. We took turns sharing our work and offering gentle and positive feedback. At the end, we explored the possibility inside our anger, and we all found there was wisdom waiting for us.
There was so much beauty, vulnerability, and courage in the writing - and in each of the writers. Every word written and shared was a gift. And, just as profound as the writing practice was the support and encouragement among the writers – all strangers when they gathered at the beginning of the evening. I noticed as I was collecting my things at the end of the program, some of the women were in the hall exchanging contact information.
As a facilitator, space-holder, and fellow writer, the writing practice and the bits of transformation that took place during the program affected me deeply. But it is the connection among the seekers who cross the threshold of Dominican Center that takes my already brimming heart to one that overflows.
*This post first was first published on the Dominican Center Marywood at Aquinas College's blog.*