Things I Wish I'd Known: #7: Anger is a Drug
At age 22, I started stripping. For the next fifteen years I worked off and on as a dominatrix, porn actress, and escort.
Now I’m 49.
Here are 23 things I know now that I wished I’d known then:
#7: Rage is a drug. Anger can act as a shield or an engine, and can be tremendously motivating. It also can be incredibly self-destructive.
When I was working, I was pickled in anger. Spitting, fuming, bursting mad about everything all the time. It made me hostile and paranoid, quick to find insult everywhere.
It wasn’t only me-- online I see sex workers not just venting their day-to-day frustrations, but adopting a full-on rage persona. Of course, there’s a lot to be pissed about in the sex industry: hypocrisies, threats, injustices, bigotry, and bad behavior.
However, here’s the thing... Sure, my blood was perpetually boiling, but I also kinda liked it. Anger is a hit of adrenaline you can get anytime you like -- it can be downright addictive.* It feels so powerful and purposeful, you don’t ever want to let it go.
The problem is, while outrage feels like it has the power to change the world, it’s actually a highly ineffective stance. Don’t believe me? When was last time someone changed your mind by yelling or snarking? Communicating with anger very rarely gets us any closer to anything we want -- with the very important exception of when we’re in immediate danger. But in regular conversation, fury is the quickest, most effective way to get people to tune us out.
Anger serves a specific emotional purpose: shielding ourselves from fear and pain. If we only revel in the rage, we never address the underlying softer emotions that fuel it.
It takes practice to learn to sit with anger, to listen to what it has to tell us about how we’ve been hurt, how we've been scared. It’s uncomfortable to sit with those softer, more vulnerable emotions. The payoff is, once we get to other side, we’re free to act from a place of purposeful, quiet righteousness.
I have lived life perpetually pissed, and I’ve lived with anger as an occasional guest, and I can tell you unequivocally — life without it is way better. Sexy Reader, please learn from my mistakes. Read more about how to sit with anger in order to let it go here. For more practical advice on working through anger, read here.
Anger is a huge topic, and I talk all about it in my new book, Thriving in Sex Work: Heartfelt Advice for Staying Sane in the Sex Industry, now available in ebook format and paperback.
Until next time, be sweet to yourself--
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*Anyone who objects to me using “addiction” that way because it medicalizes an emotion, well then, let me just observe that you can loop into anger in a way that without it you can feel naked and exposed, like you can’t live without it. A ferociously bad habit you find hard to break from, even when it’s causing you damage, may not meet the clinical definition of a physiological addiction, but it can constitute an emotional one.