Shards of glass shoot toward my protective eye goggles as I hear my husband grunt “Arrhhhh” as he swings a metal crowbar towards a 1970s beveled vase. I notice the nerves in the left side of my neck and a headache forming above my eye. My body is starting to slow down, and I feel immobilized. It was my idea to book a session at the Orlando Rage Room, and I am beginning to regret it.
My hope was that this could be a cathartic emotional release for both of us. In the days prior, I imagined us side by side, hurling objects against a concrete wall, expressing cries of freedom, and shouting phrases like, “Not on my watch” and “Not my burden to carry anymore!” Now we are two minutes into our thirty minute time slot, and the room seems cold and hard and the crashes piercing and chaotic. My headache is ramping up.
Michael seems to be getting into a flow. His face is filled with wonder over the power in his body and the thrill of having a somatic experience, which represent the work he’s done over the last two decades to claim back places that have been marked and owned by his abuser. There is a certain magic in his eyes. I notice that I feel both an excitement for him and a sense of envy over what he is experiencing. I take one vase and throw it toward the wall, noticing my middle-aged neck and shoulders feel tight. I feel numb. I begin to turn on myself. An old narrative arises, “You will never be able to take up space and feel your body in the presence of a man’s anger.”
I look over at Michael, and he stops to check in with me. He offers to leave the room for a while if it would help me to get more embodied. I tell him to keep going, not wanting to disrupt his process. The next few minutes I stand there bracing my body as I watch my husband destroy an old computer keyboard. It is a well-worn path to ask my body to power through and endure.
Suddenly a different voice emerges, a voice that my body is beckoning me to hear as my mounting migraine increases with every crash.
“Get out of here,” I hear the little girl in me say.
This little girl has logged many hours witnessing and holding a man’s rage and doesn’t want to withstand it any longer.
Shocked by the strength of her voice, I cover my ears and briskly walk out of the room. Still dressed in my rage room attire, Dickies coveralls, I curl up in the waiting room and hold my ears tightly to drown out the echoes of anger. I imagine my little girl and how many times she must have wanted to run to her bedroom and find safety in the fetal position under a heavy blanket.
My turning point is different than I expected.
I imagined that it would be a moment of feeling my physical strength, swinging a baseball bat. Instead, it is the strong voice of a little girl who needed safety and containment and didn’t want to power through anymore. In processing the time afterward, I have allowed myself to celebrate this redemptive moment when my body finally felt the freedom to do what it needed to do rather than having to stay.
As I counselor, I am in awe of the ways our bodies long to move, correct, and release the places where we didn’t have a choice. Sometimes this may look like the power to hold our shoulders upright rather than slumping them in shame. It may be doing a yoga technique called “Lion’s Breath” to release anger held deep in our bellies. In my husband’s case, he felt energized and strong by getting a chance to swing a crowbar. In my case, I felt freedom and soothing by getting to leave a scene that I didn’t want to be in. In any case, may we continue to be curious about what our bodies are beckoning us to do and have the courage to respond.
Rachel Blackston loves all things beautiful…rich conversations over a hot cup of lemon ginger tea, watching her three little girls twirl around in tutus, and Florida sunrises on her morning walks. She resides in Orlando with her lanky, marathon-running husband and her precious daughters, priceless gifts after several years of infertility. Rachel and her husband Michael co-founded Redeemer Counseling. As a therapist, Rachel considers it an honor to walk with women in their stories of harm, beauty, and redemption.