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When the Demolition of a Church sparks Anger…

As the dust from the partial demolition of the church in Picton settles, a thick cloud of anger still remains. People have expressed shock, bewilderment, grief and rage, and some seem as stunned by their strong emotional response as they were by the sudden and half-assed nature of the destruction of our streetscape. As a culture, we really don’t know what to do with our anger. Identified largely as a negative emotion, feeling angry comes into direct conflict with the perception of ourselves as “nice” people. So we suppress it.

Anger wants to move. It’s a transformative force. If it sits still, it stagnates, becomes toxic and if turned inward, can become immobilizing depression. Helplessness and apathy are the result. Suppressed anger still has to move, so if it is blocked, it escapes through a tiny little space and sounds a lot like whining. Think of a balloon filled with air, the neck squeezed tight except for a small passageway, and listen for that annoying squeee. Suppressed anger can suddenly erupt. Think of the warning on the side of an aerosol can – Contents Under Pressure – Danger of Explosion. One minute you feel fine and the next thing you know you’ve rammed your car into the guy that cut you off at the last set of lights. Either way, the transformational potential of anger is squandered.

Emotions are a signpost along the path. Anger is usually a sign that you want to be treated better. Someone has violated your boundaries and broken your rules. When something makes you angry, it means you have taken it very personally. The first question to ask yourself when you feel angry is, “what do I want someone to feel guilty about?” Anywhere you hear yourself say “should” is a good place to look for your unspoken rules and to see where they have been broken. Talking with people at the site of the demolition, many were very clear about what “should” have happened, from the particulars of how and when to take down the building, or whether to take down the building at all. Anger is a great way to find out what you don’t want.

But what’s next? The only way anger can be resolved is through action. It holds a lot of energy that you can direct to make changes, either in your own unspoken rules about life or in the circumstances that created the anger. Energetically, anger is associated with vision. If anger helps us be clear about what we don’t want, it can also illuminate what we do want. When the people of Coventry in England found their cathedral bombed out in World War II, they turned the energy of anger toward rebuilding. Their vision of themselves as a resilient and determined community was woven into a magnificent monument of stone and glass.

What are we as a community going to do with the great swirl of natural and reasonable anger that surrounds the destruction of the church? We can suppress it because we’re “nice” people, and let it solidify into sullen apathy or explode into a fury of blame and recrimination. Or we can let our anger remind us of what we do want and use the energy to express this vision creatively. There’s a great opportunity here. The day the church came down can turn into the day we remembered who we are, what we value, and what we are prepared to do about it – all because we harnessed the transformational power of our anger.

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About the Author: Janet Elson is a registered Jin Shin Do™ Acupressurist, Integrative Acupressure Therapist and a Certified Aromatherapy Health Professional (CAHP), with a background in Therapeutic Touch, Yoga, and metaphysical disciplines. She is a member of the Jin Shin Do™ Foundation for BodyMind™ Acupressure and Canadian Federation of Aromatherapists. Janet holds a BA English Honours and has enjoyed 20 years as a library professional.

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