Monday, March 18, 2013

Anger

As we awaken to our authentic, spiritual self, we are like newborn babes coming into the world. There’s a lot to learn! As we accept our divinity, we still have to contend with our humanity, and that means there will be times when we must deal with the ugly side of ourselves. We’ve all had to deal with anger from time to time, that uncomfortable yet powerfully seductive emotion that fills us with feelings of fury, rage, vengeance, hostility, and so on, tempting us with that edgy energy that makes us want to react. Anger can be so self-indulgent. Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun in the Tibetan tradition, says that “there’s something delicious about finding fault with something.” This is true, especially when our ego is involved because the ego likes to protect our anger, causing us to justify it and feed it. When we react to anger, we express our displeasure and dissatisfaction. When anger stops by for a visit, what should we do?  It becomes our “spiritunity” to host it, learn from it, and then see it out the door. The question posed to us is, are we going to let anger make us bitter or better?

The seed of anger exists within us. It is part of our emotional mapping. Changing our perspective on anger will go a long way in helping us to deal with it in healthy ways. Anger is one of the ego’s first cousins. It creates an unhealthy separateness when we use it for self-righteousness or self-justification. And it’s power is addictive, if we are not aware of what it can make us do.  In facing anger, there are some questions we must ask ourselves.  Does someone “make” us angry, or are we choosing to be angry? What is really at the root of the anger we are feeling?  When we examine its root, we find that anger is a reaction to fear. So, we must ask ourselves, what is it that I fear in this situation?

Anger can have a positive side.  It can motivate us to action that creates positive change. When we see injustices being done, ones that harm others, we find ourselves wanting to correct those wrongs. In the Christian bible, Jesus’s anger flared quite frequently because of others’ self-righteousness and injustices. In this case, we must ask ourselves if this kind of anger will bring us closer to God and community, or will it cause division through destructive means? Will it serve the highest good of all, or will it only serve ourselves?

How do we deal with it on our spiritual path?  Anger likes to affect our lives. It upsets us. It shatters our peace of mind. It causes us to feel pressure. It throws us into its hellish crucible.  What can we possibly learn from it? What purpose does it serve? The first thing we can do is to admit our anger. When it visits, remember that it’s stay is only temporary. It may be uncomfortable, but it will leave in time. Patience is key. Don’t suppress it or run away from it. And don’t deny it. Instead, take responsibility for your anger. Turn it into something constructive rather than destructive. I’m not saying it’s easy, but with discipline and practice, we exercise the fruit of self-control. Acknowledge it and observe it. You may have to sit down and take a few deep breaths to calm yourself and then listen. Understand why it is there. Tell it to take its time. Let the emotion of it settle. In the process of this acceptance, we actually begin to set ourselves free; its grip begins to loosen. As we give quiet attention to it, we begin to take control. In having patience, we wait to speak and act until we can do so without causing harm to ourselves and others.

Anger is one of those teachers that challenges us for our own good. We don’t like it when it visits. It seduces us into doing and saying things we usually regret later, or it can motivate us into positive action. Like love, it is one of the strongest emotions we can feel, often overwhelming us with its energy. Rather than repress it, recognize it for what it is. Choose not to use it to hurt others or ourselves. As we deal with it in healthy ways, we empower ourselves keep the highest good of all in mind, we remain safe, and we stay connected -- all important features of spiritual health.

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