Dancing your anger

December 2021

What dance has taught me about anger

Is anger taboo for you? We don't want to see it - We'd rather it didn't exist - If only we could get rid of it?
But it's not. Like all emotions, anger is a source of learning and development. Containing anger takes a lot of energy, it's tiring and it's a waste. What's more, by keeping it inside, I run the risk of it turning against me. Expressing anger feeds my ability to take my place with integrity. Finally, as you can imagine, Movement Medicine can help you express your anger and work with it to make it an ally. So what are we waiting for to express our anger in dance?

Forbidden anger

So often in our upbringing, anger is forbidden. Instead of telling us, "Yes, you're angry, you're right. There's no need to smash things, shout and insult. There are plenty of other ways to express your anger." We're often told: "You're mean, that's not right" or "You're not beautiful when you're like that". So we believe that feeling angry is a problem. And we hide it, we hold it back, we keep it warm, inside. We try to pretend anger doesn't exist.

For my part, I thought it was inherently bad. Anger was evil. So I forbade myself to be angry, keeping intact the image of the wise granddaughter, the polite young girl, the gentle young woman and the perfect wife.


Retain coute-que-coute

The last thing I wanted was to be a raving lunatic or a weakling. Ignored, denied, my anger boiled over. Occasionally in screams, more often in tears. When I couldn't hold it in or express it, I'd burst into impotent tears. It also came out unconsciously in attitudes of passive aggression. The forced smile to the face and the grimace behind it, the insults when hanging up the phone, the swearing protected by the car's interior...

I denied it so much, that it got to the point where I couldn't recognize it, couldn't feel it inside me. When my therapist asked me how I felt after explaining a situation that should have generated it, I felt empty inside. I felt empty inside. I'd say "I don't feel anything".


Tears of impotence

I think the pinnacle was with an osteopath. From our conversation, I knew she was waiting for me to answer that I felt anger. But inside me I still felt this void of feeling. I wasn't going to give her the right answer like at school when I didn't feel that inside me... Denial, denial of myself.

Yet anger signals that what's happening is not in line with our values. It's important to feel it, and even to listen to it. When the wound was too open or the cup too full. I'd break down and burst into tears of helplessness. Which triggered anger at myself. Instead of learning to set limits, I blamed myself for my own limits. Because unexpressed anger kept inside eventually turns against you.


Angry at me

It was one of the first things I discovered about anger through dance. To dance my anger away, I'd always play Asa's Dead Again. "So it was YOU. It was really YOU. YOU picked up the knife. And YOU cut me in two. You stab me in the back. And then you twisted it in. You left me for dead again". I translate "so it was YOU. It was really YOU. YOU took the knife. And YOU cut me in two. Stabbed me in the back. And YOU turned inward. You left me for dead again". For the melodramatic, this has nothing to do with my personal experience.

For an angry debut, it was perfect. A little violence. The possibility of turning one's anger against another. I danced. I shouted my anger at everyone who'd pissed me off every week or so. Just to let off steam. Finger pointed at an invisible but very present other. Until the day the dance won out. The body took over from the mind and in a moment of letting go, the finger turned around and pointed at me. Then I discovered that the one I was so angry at was myself. I blamed myself and that made me my first enemy. I was constantly judging myself as inadequate.


Lose-lose, the anger that feeds self-criticism

I'm sharing here because I recently discovered that I'm not the only one who does this. My mind tends to create patterns in which I always lose. I call them "Lose-lose". Whatever decision I make, I'm always self-critical. A small example from everyday life: in a group, if I have to speak up. In general, it's not easy, so I wait a while and listen to the others. And then, when I'm the only one left, I have to go, and the little voice inside me whispers "you're bound to be a star, you're waiting to be the last", and the day I pushed myself to jump in and speak first, it told me "you're bound to be interesting". So, according to my self-criticism, I was always wrong. Hey, "leave me alone!" as a famous meditation teacher would say.


Break the vicious circle with Movement Medicine

As I said at the beginning, most of the time I don't feel my anger, so I've learned to recognize it differently. In particular, Movement Medicine has given me two ways: the mirror effect and the development of body awareness.

The mirror effect says that what I perceive from the outside world is a reflection of my inner state. In other words, when I see anger all around me, it's not necessarily directed at me. For example, on the same day, a guy getting angry with a cashier, my children getting into a fight, a woman insulting me at the wheel. When I get the impression that everyone is angry today. Now I'm wondering if this apparent outward anger could also be on the inside.

The other is body awareness. As I dance regularly, and my dancing is above all about feeling my body, I can sense when there's a change. And for me, the tension in my jaw, especially when I wake up. It's a sign of rising anger. If I don't pay attention, it goes down the back of my neck and causes contraction pain in the shoulder (often on the left). It can even go all the way down my back, causing lower back pain.


Aiming to eradicate anger?

Uh, the only time a human being doesn't feel emotion is when he's dead, right? Anger is an emotion from the Latin e-motion, energy in motion. Anger is the source of tremendous energy, a force that enables us to surpass ourselves and gain independence. As we see with teenagers. So it's not a question of eradicating anger, but of expressing it differently.

At times, it's much healthier and safer to keep her inside for a while. It's only possible if I feel it coming up. It's much easier if I know it's there and I'm okay with it. And of course, if I have a time and a place to unload it.


Listening to your anger

My anger is particularly active right now. To be honest, it certainly was before, but I didn't know it. I didn't feel it. Now I feel it rising and I accept it. I'm learning to say to myself, "Yes, you're angry and you're right. This anger is legitimate. Because of your history, you can't accept this. It's gone too far. It's not fair to you.

The simple fact of recognizing for oneself "I'm angry and it's okay" creates a space, a breathing space between myself and the object of my anger.

If I also have the opportunity to say: "What you've just done (or said) really makes me angry". I feel upright and in tune with myself.

And then, if on top of that, I feel heard by the person in front of me. They can hear me without agreeing. Simply a sign that what I'm expressing is being received. Then the tension evaporates.


Dancing your anger

In dance, I can give form to my anger. Some days, she throws my hands and feet around to say give me some space. Others, she stamps her foot, "You didn't hear me. I can let my body express all my frustrations, my powerlessness, my limits flouted by others or myself. Sometimes a scream escapes me. I don't always know what makes me angry and what drives me. But getting it all out in the open feels really good. Knowing that it's not going to hurt anyone is reassuring. Call up all the tensions and frustrations, feel them, give them a form, whether static or repetitive. Concentrate them until they dissolve, so I can feel freer and lighter.


Transforming your anger

Finally, I can transform the energy of anger: from a force acting against others (and myself) to an impulse for what really matters to me, whatever the judgments of others. We only realize how much energy it took to contain it when we've gone through and released our anger. In anger, I can feel my determination and personal strength.

A few years ago, I felt drawn to meditation, but I didn't dare go. I didn't know anyone, I didn't know where to go. I really wanted to find out more, but I didn't know how to get started. A man came into my life and offered to initiate me. The relationship didn't last: he dumped me. In my anger, I kept hearing this thing: "You were supposed to teach me meditation, how am I going to do it now?


Using your anger

I don't really know how or why, but one day it turned into "since you won't do it with me, I'll do it on my own". The anger was still there, but instead of bemoaning my fate. It was there to support me.

Finally, I'd realized that I didn't need him to discover meditation. My anger gave me the determination to overcome my fear of the unknown. Finding myself in a group I didn't know, doing an activity I didn't know. Not waiting to be accompanied and introduced was the beginning of many discoveries that led me to conscious dance.

Following my intuition and my curiosity, no longer really against anyone but really for myself. Today, I can thank him for teaching me that (totally unknowingly ;-)).



My anger was contained to the point where I could no longer feel it. In doing so, all my energy was neutralized to keep it in. Dance provided a space where I dared to start expressing it. This expression was the beginning of its acceptance. Making room for my anger, so that it becomes an energy that builds and not destroys. So that it allows me to set clear, acceptable limits that reassure me. So that I can feel my strength without fearing it.


What does your tense, frozen or explosive anger look like? Have you ever danced it? What has it done for you?


? Dancing your anger: Video

 Dancing with angles


It was suggested by my teacher Susannah Darling Khan, co-creator of the School of Movement Medicine.

When I pronounce it in English, angles /'æŋgəlz/, I feel that the dance of angles brings me closer to my anger /'æŋgə/ , my anger.

My anger was contained to the point where I could no longer feel it. In doing so, all my energy was neutralized to keep it in. To express it in dance is to begin to accept it and make room for it.

So it becomes an energy that builds, not destroys. It allows me to set clear, acceptable and reassuring limits.

I can finally feel my strength without fearing it.

What does your anger look like?

Improvisation Live music and dance (in my living room).

On the piano: Stef Vink

Follow Stef Stef's live online events at https://www.facebook.com/stefvinkmusic

For the dance: Solange Brelot (C'est moi)

Filmed on July 16, 2021

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