Let the fury fly
For the first time, one after the other, I see people rage, scream, rant, rave, stomp, kick, cry, make sounds and move in ways I haven’t seen before. This is the individual process work we each enter into, as the Shalom Retreat weekend progresses. We all do this in community, with the group there to witness us, each person held lovingly as they move through the layers of their own process, witnessed by a group of people that would also bravely go up and take the risk to feel long held emotions.
It is mind boggling to me that anyone can let go to that extent and still be safe. Here is a room full of men and women, and we are “allowed” to let loose, to let the fury fly? And no one is running from the room?
This was, after all, what we ultimately feared all of our lives: dare we show our true feelings? And yet, no one is meeting our anger with anger, or trying to suppress it, or trying to shush away our grief. Instead we are encouraged to get loud, to go there, to dig deeper.
There was a very distinct progression to these extraordinary pieces of work. The start might be slow or quiet or loud, people feeling into their bodies and emotions. There was a moving through of deeply held blocks, painful emotions suppressed sometimes for years. This looked different for everyone but almost always in the end was a softening. You could see each person breathe more fully, walk more embodied and their faces almost always looked blissful as if they had been waiting for that moment all of their lives, as if finally they had come home to themselves.
It was liberating to be in a room where you could see and feel transformation occurring.
My process was soft that first time around. It was the love that got to me on that first retreat. It was the safety to love and be loved, that I needed most. I remember saying, “I do not understand how people can be so loving?” in a childlike voice. And I didn’t understand, but I knew it was true. I felt it in my body that the love and safety were real. It was what allowed me to return again and again.
In subsequent retreats, I heard my scream for the first time in years. I was able to slowly own my anger, to hit the large foam cube with more and more force. I had not heard my own screams for so long, not since I stopped screaming as a young girl. It was powerful to hear my own volume, this time with no one there to force me to stop or beat me into submission. My screams seemed endless to me. Like my out-breath extended into the unknown, reaching for something far away.
Those screams, the hitting, stomping, kicking, allowed my life force to flow through me. My body often shook and vibrated, replaced then by feelings of spaciousness inside. I felt alive and seen in my aliveness in that room over and over again, until it stopped being so foreign to me.
For the first time, I could safely experience someone else’s anger without being engulfed and express my own anger at the violence and abuse I experienced as a child.
I had never seen anger held with such compassion and love. I had never been in the presence of anger without feeling fear. I felt safe to be all of me without fear of repercussions. I could sit next to someone and allow them to hold my hand. I could let down my guard, my 30-something-year-old wall, and lay down the mask and be me. I could scream and not be shunned. I could cry and be held.
This work allowed to me to let my daughter’s love in more, to allow her affection to heal my traumatized body. It softened me. I wrote my memoir, writing out all the memories and the psychological damage it did it to me. I needed to write it for me, to revisit and reclaim the pieces of me that were buried. It was as if I was thawing, and awakening to the truth of who I was.
And so “My Voice of Truth,” my first survivor website was born. There I shared pieces of my story, resources for survivors and started a newsletter in which I shared my healing journey. It was the beginning of me finding my voice of truth. I was awakening.
Eventually I was not willing to tolerate the unhappiness I felt in my marriage. In a couple of years, I finally left my 13-year marriage.
This was what I had been waiting for all my life and something inside of me settled in the knowing that I was safe. This was what I so desperately needed to heal my trauma. A safe space to share my horrible childhood, be seen and heard, be loved and encouraged to reclaim my power and feel the feelings I had to suppress then.
Fuel for truth
Expressing my anger was life giving. It gave me access to myself. It created space for my life force to flow more freely.
In the years since that first retreat, I created a new story around my anger.
Anger is no longer something that paralyzes me or causes me to collapse. Not the same way it used to. I still find it hard to get up and express my anger in a group but I am very clear that if I suppress it, it is like poison. Having access to and expressing my anger continues to free up my power. I see my anger as a gift, a way for me to reclaim parts of myself lost in childhood. My anger is often the fuel I need to speak my truth, to share my story, to help other women heal.
For the last ten years I’ve spent several years attending retreats and trainings at the Shalom Retreat Center as well as participating in 3 years of Core Energetics groups in my area. I just finished my third year of attending the Nyack Living Core program a few weeks ago.
This work has allowed me to feel more embodied, to feel more flow, to not be so afraid of my anger or the anger in others. I am often delighted to see someone go up and do a piece of work that involves moving through their rage because I know on the other end of that piece is release, openness and space to experience themselves more fully from their core self. I know the softness that will come, the healing that is there for them on the other side.
There is something about the sound of fury, when expressed and held in love: when what was once suppressed has room to be seen, the painful grip lessens and there is room for more joy.
It is life changing.
Today when I hear my own blood-curdling screams in my core group, the screams I could not utter when my mother was lashing my little body, I am aware that I am reclaiming my right to be here, my right to my own body and all that it contains.
I can hear that sound without fear. I know that it is mine, and each time I hear it, I am healing another layer of trauma. Today I know it is my right to heal, and be witnessed and loved even in the darkest of places.
That previously silent scream now has a voice, a sound, a volume, and ears to hear.
It will never be silenced again.
This is part 2 of a two-part series by Stephanie Gagos. Read Part 1 here.
Images by Stephanie Gagos