The Silent Struggle: Anger and Personal Power

By Abigail Maryam

We are stars wrapped in skin;

The light you are seeking has always been within.

Jalaluddin Rumi

Out of all the emotions we experience, perhaps none has more deleterious outcomes than anger. Every religious and spiritual tradition has taught this and enjoined self-control to the faithful. Given anger’s bad press, it has become a taboo subject that we rapidly stifle out of fear, guilt, and shame. Yet, by suppressing a very human aspect of ourselves, we incur additional problems and become more of a victim than a conqueror. As a community, we need to see our anger in a new light to evolve our collective emotional consciousness.

We all wish our negative emotions could quietly disappear. You may feel like they get in your way and burst your inner peace bubble out of seemingly nowhere. Despite our best efforts on the spiritual path, we may still find ourselves caught up in knee-jerk reactions to our trials and tribulations. We lash out, apologize, then become livid all over again. In response, we neurotically try to compensate for our anger and berate ourselves. With each vicious cycle, we are left feeling even more disempowered, and wonder if a change is possible for us.

Part of the reason why we struggle is that we have taken the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him (henceforth abbreviated as “PBUH”) to mean that all anger is Satanic. This is fortunately not the case, as the word “ghadab” in Arabic refers to its unhealthy and extreme aspect. Scholars agree that the Prophet (PBUH) did not categorically prohibit anger. We have evidence that he and previous prophets were, in some instances, angry. According to the Bible, our Prophet Jesus (PBUH) was furious when a place of worship was turned into a marketplace. If the best of people had the right to be angry, then why not we?

No amount of defusing, denying, or avoiding will make our uncomfortable feelings really leave. I like to think of anger as an unpaid bill. Whether we chuck or ignore it, it will keep coming to us and worsen if we do not come to terms with it. Our emotions are factually creations of God, so we need to be able to accept and sit with them. As psychotherapist, life coach, and author Michelle Bersell points out, negative emotions are gifts that need to be viewed through the lens of love rather than fear. They may feel to us like an incoming army, but they are truthfully messengers. And the louder their voice, the more they are imploring us to hear their message.

Anger calls us to reclaim the power we have given away. It arises out of threats to our primal needs, dignity, and whatever matters to us. Our amazing God placed it in us not only as a notification that our boundaries have been trespassed on, but to make us protect them, fend away danger, and become a source for positive change. After all, anger is what drives activists, reformers, and iconoclasts. It motivated the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to destroy the idols at the Ka’bah and the Prophet Jesus (PBUH) to turn the tables. Without this vital emotion, society would be chaotic indeed. Let us both honour ourselves more, and the blessing of anger in its place.

The downside is that we use our anger to protect our vulnerability, thus ensuring that we do not get to the bottom of the issue. What often appears as an anger management issue is really something else that troubles us. (I highly recommend the article “The Anger Iceberg” by Kyle Benson). We need to talk to God and make a safe space in our homes to be vulnerable. While society may not look at anger in a friendly way, that does not make it invalid. If you feel angry or victimized, you must have good reasons why. And I honour your feelings. But think of what is at stake when we entertain them for too long: our health, freedom, and happiness. Let us use the power of choice, reflect on the origin of our anger, and reclaim the power we lost.

Essentially, we become powerless when we allow what we do not want into our lives, and keep at bay what we do want. Most commonly, we give away our personal power by living for others. By worrying about how we are perceived, seeking their approval, pleasing them at our expense, and letting them influence our thoughts and feelings. We even tolerate less than what we deserve. Many of us permit people and situations to define who we are and our life’s purpose, so we entrust others to make our decisions. We also lose our power by blaming, complaining, and holding grudges. Finally, another way is by conspiracy thinking and feeling targeted, as though we do not believe in a good and omnipotent God.

The above are all signs of poor boundaries. Deep inside, we know what ours are, but we do not acknowledge or clearly set them out of fear of rejection. Many of us carry responsibility for other’s happiness rather than our own. We build lofty fortresses around our hearts instead, but that too signals insecurity and low self-confidence. With self-compassion, we need to delineate where we begin and end, what is our responsibility, and what is not. Part of our identity as human beings is the ability to say a graceful, “No.”

Ironically, we fear our own light as much as our darkness, and accessing our power feels uncomfortable initially. But trust me, we do ourselves and the world an immense disservice by keeping ourselves small out of a false sense of modesty or humility. We are meant to shine and live in alignment with our truth, or Higher Self. Our happiness, power, and freedom are dependent on authentic living. Let us quietly enter our hearts and hear the Voice of God within each one of us: our intuition.

Gazing at the stars makes me reflect on humanity at large. Some shine more brightly than others, and that is alright. The more stars there are, and the vaster the diversity, the more beautiful the night sky. If anyone of them were to diminish in brightness or disappear, the loss would be felt. So, shine brightly, dear star, in God’s universe of Souls.

In conclusion, let us all reflect on and answer the following questions by bestselling author and therapist Katherine Woodward Thomas in her transformative book, Conscious Uncoupling:

“What’s waking up in me as a result of my rage? How can I use the intensity of this energy to fuel positive change in my life? What rights am I now willing to stand up for?”

About the author:

Abigail Maryam is an American of Polish origin, and a revert since 2014. She holds an M.D. from Jagiellonian University Medical College. She resides in the UK with her lovely daughter.

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