Our Wood element is getting a run for its money this last year…from the Black Lives Matter movement to the most recent mass shootings, if you aren’t impacted – then we’ve got some work to do together. Me? I’m angry. I’m angry at the systems we have kept in place to perpetuate this kind of violence and ignorance and I’m driven to work hard to change them in my brief stint on Earth.
As a feminine, cis-gendered woman I have felt shy all my life about being angry. And it’s not entirely my fault. Anger is one of those emotions that our culture sets limits on. If you are male-identified, you are welcome to be angry, have big energy, and express it. When we were kids, my brother punched holes in the walls when he was angry and no one batted an eye. But if I so much as raised my voice – everyone was up in arms.
If you are angry as a woman, you were likely taught that it’s best if you process that quietly and on your own time otherwise you risk getting shamed for being a “B” or being crazy-outrageous-hormonal-over-the-top, you name it.
But in other cultures around the world, anger is considered a necessary emotion. It is the energy of forward M-O-V-E-M-E-N-T. And it’s the vital energy we need to make change happen now.
Anger is a boundary for goodness sake. It’s the line in the sand. So when you feel it, you know that it has been crossed.
And I don’t know about you but I’ve been feeling angry lately and instead of feeling paralyzed by it, it is motivating me to keep doing my work in the world. It’s motivating me to poke holes in the narrative I’ve learned and continue to see played out. I’ve been feeling loads of energy and inspiration. My anger is propelling me into action. Though this has not always been the case and I know is not the case for everyone.
In the past, opening up to feeling anger has felt scary to me – daunting. And paying attention to what is happening in the world has felt overwhelming. How do we address all the aspects of harm in our culture in one single lifetime? Some days it does feel like A LOT to witness and feel. It can be hard to continue to say “yes” to allowing these stories and details into our worlds. And while I want everything to change right now – I understand that sustainable change takes time – we have to get to the root of these systems.
How the Wood Element Plays a Role
In Chinese medicine, the healthier our Wood element is, the more bandwidth we have for anger, the more clearly we can see and feel injustice, and the more energy we have to create necessary change (on a scale that is accessible for each of us individually, and with expectations that are reasonable).
Reflecting on the mass shootings in Atlanta and right in my own community of Boulder, it has been an opportunity to vibe out the health of my own Wood element. From this lens, there is a spectrum that seems to dominate most reactions. Where you fall on this spectrum can give you insight to your own health and well-being (as well as your personal bandwidth).
If the Wood in your constitution is balanced and strong, when receiving the news of the mass shootings you might have felt an upwelling of energy and emotion and that led you to feeling called to step into action. As I mention in my book:
Anger is the emotion that allows us to see clearly what we know could be different.
The energy that you feel rising in your body is the magical gift of the Wood element. If, on the other hand, you heard the news and felt paralyzed, collapsed energetically, and have been feeling hopeless and helpless ever since, your Wood element has been taxed. The same is true on the other end of the spectrum: if you immediately felt a rage response, hot-headed, irritable, and yet there has been little energy to move into action, your Wood element has also been taxed.
It’s not difficult to see how when anger is out of control it can suddenly become one of the most destructive forces on our planet. But if we can learn to balance it, channel it, and funnel it, it can become a lifesaving, change-making tool for our lives and in our communities.
How to Balance an Unbalanced Wood Element
If you’ve found yourself experiencing a whirlwind of emotions after a year long pandemic, divide amongst the country, followed by the most recent attacks on innocent lives – you’re not alone. The everyday stressors, pressures, and priorities already take us to our upper operating limits, but add to that grieving and integrating the rapid collective challenges and changes that are unfolding before us – and we have A LOT on our plates. It’s a heavy load to carry, even for the most balanced of constitutions.
There are ways to honor your emotions – from anger, frustration, resentment, and even rage – to supporting and nurturing your Wood element (i.e. liver and gallbladder) to take the pressure off your system and gain clarity.
The best way to start is to do so simply, one step at a time. Here are some ways you can nourish yourself during the times of uncertainty, anger, and frustration:
- Move Your Body – brisk walk, hatha yoga, anyway that feels good to you.
- Grow Something – literally, anything. Could be a garden or could be a house plant.
- Forest Bathing – soaking in all of nature’s beauty is the main goal here.
- Setting a Bedtime – let’s aim for bed by 10pm, yeah? We don’t want to be awake during Wood time (11pm-3am)
- Scheduling Time Off Your Phone – little less screen time, little more self love time. Set your own boundary. For me, it’s tech-free Sunday.
It’s imperative to note that not all of us need to jump into action. Awareness and integration are crucial and also take time to work with what our personal bandwidth will allow. To be of service to our families, communities, careers, and causes that tug on our heart strings, we must first be taking good care of ourselves so that we can be in alignment to think about and step into action in our world.
Please reach out if you’d like some extra support right now. I’d love to step into the fire with you.