We don’t know our anger
You might have noticed that anger gets a pretty bad rap both in and out of spiritual circles. It’s seen as a “negative” emotion, keeping company with such undesirable states as jealousy, shame and guilt. We’re quick to condemn it wherever it appears, afraid when it bursts forth, and regard it as a problem to be tamed. We see our own anger as a personal failure that should be overcome, and strive to change it for the better. And only when it is “justified” do we feel OK about having it.
But the real problem is not that we’re angry, but that we don’t really KNOW our anger. Our judgments, fears and beliefs make us so quick to push it away that we just don’t let ourselves sit with it, examine it, be curious about it, and see where it might lead us. We don’t understand that it is actually a signpost, directing us on a journey of discovery to vital qualities of Spirit.
So I’d like to propose that we suspend judgment for a few minutes, and let ourselves take a discovery tour through the land of anger. Let’s just be as curious and open as we can, and see what we can understand about this very human emotion. Maybe it’s not as negative as we fear.
What is anger – really
Just looking at anger objectively, the first thing we notice is that it’s a very instinctive response to the perceived possibility of some kind of injury. When we feel threatened, physically or emotionally, we usually feel some kind of rage. There may be other responses, such as fear, and we may not feel our anger right in the moment, but almost always, if we dig deep enough, it’s there.
At the surface level, anger can certainly be very harsh, destructive and hurtful, especially when it is acted out and used as the fuel to attack those who seem to be harming us. It can be difficult to discern the fact that feeling this emotion, and acting on it, are two very different things. Often we do not quite understand that it is absolutely possible to feel a murderous rage, but not actually kill anyone or even get up from our zafu. But if we can just let ourselves be with our feelings of anger, and not act on them or push them away, what is it we actually experience?
First, we might notice that there is a whole lot of energy in rageful feelings. They make us feel large, hot, red and strong. We feel alive, energized, even passionate. We get clear on the perceived threat to our wellbeing, and how to push back. We feel quite separate from whatever’s threatening us, ready to set boundaries and defend ourselves from attack. We might also experience a kind of ongoing strength to take a stand, or to push through the opposition that seems to be barring our way.
So we see that just under the surface of anger, no matter how unpleasantly it wants to express itself, lies a great deal of strength, energy, expansion, autonomy and clarity.
In their pure, essential form, these are also qualities of our Spirit, or Essence.
This may come as a surprise. Many of us have the notion that our spiritual selves are quite monastic – calm, peaceful, contained and merged with the Oneness. If they have a color, it’s some kind of attractive pastel, and certainly not red!
But what’s true is that our Essence, like the Oneness, contains ALL qualities, even those that seem to be the opposites of each other. Essence is certainly calm and peaceful, but it’s also alive and dynamic. It’s inseparable from the oneness of Being, and also a unique arising. It’s every soft pastel colour, and all the primary ones too. It’s an infinite, endless vastness, and also a personal intimacy.
Anger leads us to strength and vitality
So we see that the vigorous aspects of anger can be a reflection of Essence just as much as our quieter qualities are, and in fact anger is a certain reflection of the Strength capacity of Essence.
However, anger is a distorted reflection of this true quality of Essence. For all its expansive energy, it is hard, inflexible, threatening, blaming and attacking. Its strength and expansion are limited by fear, and its hidden counterpart is actually a feeling of weakness and impotence.
The great value of rage lies in the fact that, despite its negative aspects, it IS a reflection of Essence, and is also the pathway back to the true qualities that it distorts.
If we are willing to just be with our anger with presence, curiosity and the desire to truly understand it, it will eventually deepen into the true strength and aliveness that is our birthright. On the other hand, if we suppress it out of fear or judgment, we can never start on that particular path of unfolding, and may find it very difficult, if not impossible, to uncover and embrace the infinite strength and aliveness that can fuel our lives and our spiritual quest.
True strength replaces anger
When we’re plugged in to the Strength of our Essence, there’s no longer a need for anger. We no longer feel threatened, knowing that nothing can ultimately injure us, and that we are naturally whole and autonomous. We see that we can take care of ourselves easily, flexibly, openly and clearly. We feel a spacious expansion, a dynamic energy, an incredible aliveness, an invincible courage and an indestructible strength.
Thus we find that the true remedy for anger is not to push it away. Paradoxically, it’s to enter deeply into it, so deeply that we find the glowing, faceted ruby that is hidden at its depth, the Strength and Aliveness of who we really are.
This being human is a guest
house. Every morning
a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness.
Welcome and attend them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture, still
treat each guest honourably,
he may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
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