Kristie Dahlia Home
A basket full of vibrant nettles in the foreground; a pair of books open behind them.
We Are Beloved

A Fresh Lens on Anger

Apr 3, 2024

Beloved friend,

I am feeling so nourished right now. Physically I am fed by the delights of spring: more sunlight, fresh air, and eating these nettles from the forest, which actually feel like a Popeye cartoon: ZING! I am also nourished in heart and mind by the explorations I've been sharing with you. You'll find threads here woven from various endeavors under way, and next week I'll be sharing some new places you might step in to join me.

I want to share a thought that has arisen for me while leading the first Lovingkindness course, where we've recently been discussing anger. I've long known that anger is a response to wounding, an energy that arises in response to hurt. I think this is something that a lot of people know. The thing somehow struck me anew seems like it must be commonly known and yet it feels so surprising to me right now: the goal of anger is safety.

Anger arises when we experience or witness hurt. Anger may also arise when life does not align with our expectations, which can be experienced as a kind of wounding. What lies at heart in all of this is a wish for safety: anger's energy is intended for protection. Considering with this lens is helping me to understand anger in myself and others with more grace and clarity.

When someone shares with me that they are angry, I can find the roots by aiming my curiosity with care: How have they been wounded? Why does this feel unsafe? What are they seeking to protect? This can help find understanding, which offers comfort and a chance to align action effectively with what is truly needed.

Recently my beloved husband and I had a rare, heated conflict. In this I was able to tread with more gentleness than when feeling such heat in the past because of my awareness that both of us were wounded. I'm not saying I never felt the heat; what was interesting was finding myself able, again and again, to drop into the core that trusts our love, that was awed and curious about what was happening, even though waves of heat were arising. I was able to keep coming back to seeking understanding rather than wanting to explain why I was right. I was able to persevere through the difficult conversation in earnest good faith, knowing that we needed to find understanding and make repair. Looking toward the root of the anger within each of us, toward the hurt, rather than just riding the fiery leading tide of emotion; oh, what a gift. We struggled that afternoon, but followed the path back to peace and understanding – and did less damage along the way than when we were younger. Every time we greet conflict with curiosity and compassion, we deepen our trust.

I hope this might be useful for you and look forward to hearing your thoughts if you wish to reach out with them.


Spring Greens
If you feel inspired by my adventures in nettle foraging, here is some wonderful information on that front. My own experience is: I do not handle them in the wild or in my home without leather gloves. I wash them and spin them in a salad spinner, then steam them. The steamed nettles can be eaten as-is or blended into pesto with nuts, hard cheese, salt, and pepper. Both steamed nettles and pesto freeze nicely. The steam water is a wonderful nettle tea which can be cooled and saved to drink. "Stinging nettle contains calcium, iron, protein, phosphorus, and vitamins A and C. Diabetics, heart sufferers, and people with high blood pressure can all benefit from it." Nettle is a powerful herb and it is wise to consider it medicinally in relation to your overall health. Thanks to Abi, who pointed nettle out to me in the mud we were hiking through and set me on the path.

Beauty for Screens
We run Electric Sheep at home sometimes and I find it a lovely subject for gazing meditation. "Electric Sheep is a collaborative abstract artwork founded by Scott Draves. It's run by thousands of people all over the world, and can be installed on almost anything. When these computers 'sleep', the Electric Sheep comes on and the computers communicate with each other by the internet to share the work of creating morphing abstract animations known as 'sheep'... The Electric Sheep are a free and open source service." Thanks to Scott, who belonged to my dancing circles long ago, for this wonderful art.

The Magic of NO
Last week I shared an opportunity for giving: the fundraiser that Mercury Stardust, the Trans Handy Ma'am, and her friend Jory were-and-are running for the Trans Day of Visibility on Sunday. Sadly, they were attacked by people reporting their accounts as a scam to bring down the livestream. Giving is still underway; perhaps you'll join me. This show of fear-based control leads me to share with you a wonderful clip from Dr. Dolly Jenkins on using no as an intervention. So simple.

To use tools like this, it helps to practice. You can remember a situation in which you felt too shocked or confused to speak up and replay it with your desired action, or imagine a possible situation and replay it in the new way. I say this based on my experience – I wired myself in a particular way with NO via study of self defense with the fine folks at IMPACT Personal Safety before we took to the sea. It was life-changing. I learned how to perform self defense manuevers, grew closer with the friends I took the program with, worked through old trauma in new ways, and learned to intimately recognize when I am having an adrenalized response, which is useful in an astonishing array of situations, from learning new things (sailing! speaking a new language!) and awkward social experiences to true danger. Knowing what's happening makes me more agile in those moments.

In response to imaginary threats in my training, the first thing that we practiced was NO. We stood, shouted, stamped: NO! To move the body, to move air through the body, to speak: we practiced giving voice and moving while experiencing the rush of fear and stress hormones which tends to lead to fight/flight/freeze/fawn. Instead we stood, stamped, shouted. We also threw kicks and blows. I do not love that the world is such that I am offering this as a resources; also, I am offering this as a resource. The slogan for IMPACT Bay Area, where many of you live, is "Someday NO will be enough; until then, there's IMPACT." Warmest of recommendations. IMPACT runs programs in many locations, for different ages of people and for different groups of people.

Reading Circle: Weaving with Trees
The thing that is lingering with me the most from our time with Braiding Sweetgrass this week is a single sentence. It comes from the chapter which explores the symbiotic relationship between Indigenous weavers and the trees with which they work. "Traditional harvesters recognize the individuality of each tree as a person, a nonhuman forest person." YES. Yes. This makes my whole heart sing. This is how I feel, live, and teach. There is a documentary about the Pigeon family who practice and teach the weaving of baskets from black ash called Black Ash Basketry: A Story of Cultural Resilience, and it may enrich your reading or your living. Thanks to Alicia.

The Umwelt of Other Animals
Our conversations during the Reading Circle often lead, as conversations about reading will, to suggestions of more reading. In recent weeks two different suggestions have come for books about how other animals know the world. Jennifer Ackerman's What An Owl Knows: the New Science of the World's Most Enigmatic Birds was an instant NY Times bestseller. Ed Yong's An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us has been on my wishlist for a couple years since reading this fantastic article about its premise in The Atlantic. Thanks to Alicia and Jessie.