Q.Most of my life I have been a sensitive, softer, and more compliant person. Now in my late forties, as I deal with some very difficult blocks in my marriage, I find that I get angry and even fierce on occasion. This is surprising, scary, and liberating. Although I hate getting angry, it seems to cut through all the ambivalence and murkiness that I so often find myself stuck in. However, I am afraid of becoming mean or insensitive. As a woman, the idea of being powerful in this way also seems unacceptable in society. I don’t know quite how to negotiate these feelings.
A.As we move further into midlife we start to access qualities and aspects of us that seem like the opposite of how we were in our twenties or thirties. This is part of psychological maturation. It seems that your marital challenges are forcing a response of strength and clarity from you. Remaining ambivalent, weak or overly flexible has not worked. Intimate relationships are not only about closeness and harmony. They are also about seeing ourselves more truly, speaking our minds, and working things out with our partners. It is one of the few relationships where there we can truly be ourselves.
Have you heard the term “fierce compassion?” I think it arises out of Buddhism, where compassion includes clarity, saying no, being very strong, and cutting through falseness. There are feminine deities called Dakinis in Tibetan Buddhism. They embody qualities of compassion, fierceness and wisdom. This force has an intuitive aspect to it, cutting through intellectual jargon and memorization of principles. Many of us get mired in ways of thinking that keep us stuck in repetitive actions and ways of relating. This is when we need a sword that cuts through the dross and gets right to the heart of the matter.
This energy has a higher purpose and is not just about an individual self or personal needs. It’s making way for a deeper truth, principle or value. Although it comes through a person, it is also not only about the person, but the larger situation.
Forming a relationship with this part of you is very helpful in integrating this newer energy that you are describing. How do you feel when you are strong and clear? Take the posture of this woman, feel the energy, presence and what it is doing in your life. The more you can know about this part of you, the less afraid you’ll be and it will support you and others in important moments.
Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist of Indian descent in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. Visit www.wholenesstherapy.com