How is everyone?
* * *
-=[ Sunday Sermon: Anger ]=-
At the moment you become angry, you tend to believe that your misery has been created by another person. You blame him or her for all your suffering. By looking deeply, you may realize that the seed of anger within you is the main cause of your suffering.
-- Thich Nhat Hanh (2001)
The fact of the matter is that there isn't a human being on the face of this planet who hasn't felt emotional pain and anger.
The fact is humans suffer. You've suffered, I've suffered. We all have suffered. This is part of the human condition. This is part of the human condition. Still, we sense deep within us that pain and anger need not destroy our lives. The other fact is that these emotions can be used to enrich our lives. Maybe those among us who garden know the importance of using waste to enrich the soil. Even shit may have as its core purpose an offering to the key to freedom.
Your life is what matters.
The trick to easy living, to paraphrase the ancient Greeks, is not knowledge, but wisdom. Perhaps the trick is to learn how to live with your hurt and anger without damaging your relationships. Perhaps that's the prize you need to reclaim.
What we call anger is not a solid thing. It's a complex mix of thoughts, feelings, and urges pulled together into a thing called anger: "I'm angry." Some of us may have hurt others when seduced by the story of the anger within us. On the other hand, we may have been on the receiving end of anger and have learned to fear its explosive power. Many of us may have been obsessed by past wrongs and have allowed anger to filter our lenses, losing sight of the opportunities for living that exist here and now.
However, anger is not one thing. It is many things, loosely organized by language into something that appears whole, solid. It's important to remember that it's not the feeling of anger that causes the harm. It's the cold calculation of self-righteousness or the hot energy of attack that leads to negative consequences. Remember that anger is not one thing. It's many things. And there are many things to do with anger's various components.
Why write about anger on what is an attempt at a "sermon"? Because it is within the contemplative tradition that the answer lies. It's there where freedom from anger resides â€“ the inherently human ability to be aware of awareness.
There are five common myths about anger and they serve to fuel and justify our pain:
Myth 1: Venting anger is healthy
Myth 2: Anger and aggression are instinctual to humans.
Myth 3: Frustration inevitably leads to aggression.
Myth 4: Anger is always helpful.
Myth 5: A person's anger is caused by others.
In future posts, I will address these myths and offer a saner alternative. Responsibility for anger behavior begins with you. Perhaps it's time for you to face up to that reality. This is the good news because your behavior is something you can control -- though it may feel hard. Ask yourself the following questions:
What has anger gotten me in the past and what have I gained from it?
How much energy have I been wasting in "managing" my anger feelings?
Do I have the courage to take a stand and respond differently to anger feelings?
Anger has cost you dearly in many areas of your life. The myths implying that anger is biologically inevitable and helpful, and that anger venting is useful are all wrong. Buying into these myths only serves to enslave you. The issue of responsibility suggests a new perspective to your anger and your life.
Hanh, T. N. (2001). Anger: Wisdom for cooling the flames: Riverhead Hardcover.
Tavris, C. (1989). Anger: The misunderstood emotion (Revised ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster.