Many times in our culture, we are ashamed of our anger. We run away from our anger and suppress it. But that only leads to energy building up inside, and whatever you suppress will get expressed later in toxic ways. Listen to this episode to learn 4 keys to dealing with your anger, letting go of the past and reclaiming your power.
Some Questions I Ask:
- What comes up for you when you hear the word anger? What do you imagine?
- What is your relationship with anger in your life?
- How often do you allow yourself to feel your anger?
- Is there some part of you that doesn’t want to let go of the anger?
- How do you process your anger?
In This Episode You Will Learn:
- The key reasons we learn to disconnect from our anger.
- The dangers of suppressing your feelings.
- How anger can be a coping mechanism and the way to overcome it.
- How to get closure, regardless of your past.
- The surprising reasons you may have trouble getting over your anger and how to address them.
Have you ever seen rage in yourself? Generally, we don't want to see certain states within us because we've been conditioned to think of them as being morally "wrong" for us. We don't understand that these dark states are part of an interior world that can be changed when the light of awareness is shined upon them.
What happens when we see things about ourselves that we don't want to see?
In order to avoid looking at itself, the mind will seize on the rage it has seen, and it will try to explain it. It will take the initial darkness, the negative energy, and because it seems to be basically out of control, the mind will try to make of it something that it can deal with. When we live from a nature that does not want to see its "self," then there's no chance that this level of self, this nature, can ever change. When we hide from ourselves the way we feel, the only thing that we're accomplishing is the assurance that these feelings will return again... only more of them! It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: we condemn and doom ourselves by being afraid of the darkness in us. We have one thing to do with our own states, and that is to see them as they are, to catch the part of us that's afraid of being what we've just seen, and to stop trying to hide anything anymore... because we're on this earth to learn.
It's painful and natural as human beings to want to get revenge to pay them back, to show them, to prove to them, to crush them.
But realize, when someone does something negative to you, when someone trespasses against you, to simply return the same energy is to simply bring yourself down to that level and nothing ever gets truly resolved by going down to that level.
Not only do you pull yourself down to that level, you keep yourself stuck.
Much of our suffering comes from reacting to stressful situations with fear or aggression, rather than responding with wisdom and care. This talk explores the pathway of shifting from reacting to responding: this includes learning to pause, awakening the wings of mindfulness and kindness, and reconnecting with our deepest intention.
From Buddhist teachings…
The thought manifests the word;
The word manifests the deed;
The deed develops into habit;
habit hardens into character;
and character into destiny.
So watch your thoughts with care,
And let them spring forth from love
Born out of compassion for all beings.
Have you been wronged?
Anger is tricky.
On the one hand, anger – feeling annoyed, irritated, resentful, fed up, mad, outraged, or enraged – alerts us to real threats, real injuries, and real wrongs that need correcting, and it energizes and fuels us to do something about them. In my family growing up, my parents had a monopoly on anger. So, I suppressed my own, along with a lot of other feelings, and it’s been a long journey to reclaim my interior, including anger, and be able to feel it fully and (hopefully) express it skillfully.
Whether in personal relationships or in the halls of power, people in positions of authority or privilege often tell others that they don’t deserve to be angry, they shouldn’t get so worked up, it’s their own fault, etc. when in fact they have every reason and right in the world to be angry. It is certainly important to know in your heart what is actually happening, how bad it is, what the causes are, and what to do – and decide for yourself how much you want to get or stay angry.
When I start to get angry, I see my predicament and how I’m getting caught in expectations and righteousness. Learning to give up anger has been a continuous process.
When Maharaj-ji told me to love everyone and tell the truth, he also said, “Give up anger, and I’ll help you with it.” Maharaj-ji offered me a bargain: “You must polish the mirror free of anger to see God. If you give up a little anger each day, I will help you.” This seemed to be a deal that was more than fair. I readily accepted. And he’s been true to his end of the bargain. I found that his love helped to free me from my righteousness. Ultimately I would rather be free and in love than be right.
If you feel a sense of social responsibility, first of all keep working on yourself. Being peaceful yourself is the first step if you want to live in a peaceful universe.
Just the word itself can sometimes feel scary.
In our culture we tend to shy away from it. Often from a young age we are taught to suppress our authentic anger. We are told that it is not OK, it’s not appropriate, it’s not spiritual.
So we learn to disconnect and suppress our anger in order to be loved, and accepted by those around us.
The problem is, what you don’t feel and express in conscious healthy ways will inevitably end up coming out and expressing in unhealthy ways.
Anger is naturally triggered when we feel an obstacle to meeting our needs. How do we honor the intelligence within anger, but not get hijacked into emotional reactivity that creates suffering in our individual and collective lives? This talk explores the U-turn that enables us to offer a healing attention to the feelings and unmet needs under anger. Once present with our inner life, we are able to respond to those around us with wisdom, empathy and true strength. (a favorite from the archives)
“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” Mark Twain
When you feel as though you have given so much to those around you, and you feel that it hasn’t been reciprocated in return, it can feel unfair.
Perhaps you feel disappointed, hurt or betrayed.
You can let it close your heart, shut you down and make you bitter.
But remember this:
You cannot cheat the universe.
Everything you give and every action of loving you have taken is seen by the universe. It is seen even if no one sees it.
When you give, it may not come back to you from the people that you gave to but rest assured it will come back to you, even if from a most unexpected source.
Writing to heal is scientifically proven. I knew I always felt better after I had written in my journal, especially the painful yucky stuff, but I didn’t know there was “real” science that backed up what I felt. Not until I read an article about James W. Pennebaker, a psychology professor. He became deeply interested in the physical and mental benefits of what he called self-disclosure and created an experiment to test out his theory. He gathered a group of students who were asked to write about their own traumatic experiences for 20 minutes, on three consecutive days. Serving as a control group were an equal number of students asked to write about unimportant matters.
The results showed that there was a marked difference between the two groups in terms of the impact of the writing exercise. In those who had written of trivial matters, there was no change either in their physical or mental health. In contrast, those who had written about traumatic experiences and painful memories showed a marked strengthening of their immune system, decreased visits to the doctor and significant increases in psychological well-being. These findings were measured using physiological markers, behavioral markers and self-reporting. In another study in the 1990s of people with AIDS, those who wrote about their diagnosis and how it had affected their lives experienced a beneficial increase in white blood counts and a drop in their viral loads.
I found that fascinating … and it made sense as to why I always feel better after a writing and burning session. Writing and burning is not meant to take the place of regular daily journaling, gratitude lists or dreams and desires. It really is just for the YUCK stuff. I often refer to it as hate mail … that never gets sent … which is a VERY good thing. Writing and burning is for the pain and anger and resentment and jealousy. It’s for all those feelings of insecurity that hold you back in ways that you may just be discovering. It’s a safe time and place to write all your pain, your problems, your challenges and yes, even your hates. Once a day or once a week … whenever you have emotions that you want to release from your mind and body in a healthy way. It is so much better to write it out than yelling and screaming, stuffing the body with food and alcohol, letting the critical voice take over or simply ignoring and denying the feelings. Writing and Burning allow you a place to get honest with yourself and your pain. A place for you to allow yourself complete freedom to write whatever you want. No one else but you will ever see it, so you can swear and curse if you feel the need and write down everything that you feel about the person or the situation that is affecting you.
Wanna try it yourself? Take some time right now. Give it a shot … What do you have to lose?
Steps to Writing & Burning
1. Get yourself a journal (check out my latest creation) or just a plain notebook you feel comfortable tearing the pages out of. Find a quiet spot where you are free from distractions. Turn your cell phone off. Get away from your computer. This is your time to RELEASE AND HEAL.
2. You may want to begin with a statement, intention or prayer asking to help you in clearing any negative emotions you have within your mind, body or spirit. Is there someone in your life (alive or deceased) that you have negative feelings toward? It could be an ex-lover, parent, spouse or colleague – anybody that conjures up negative feelings. Perhaps it is an experience that you need to let go of to move forward in your life. Whatever it is, bring it to mind as you make this statement of release.
People ask me regularly about how spiritual practice can guide us in responding to the state of our society. They tell me that while the teachings of compassion are alive and helpful in other parts of their lives, they seem out of reach when they read the headlines each day. In a recent e-mail from one of our DC community Spiritual Friends groups, members asked:
- How do we stay compassionate when it feels like so much harm is being caused to vulnerable people?
- Isn’t acceptance a kind of complacency? Isn’t “letting go” like condoning?
- How do we call on meditation practice when we’ve become fearful, angry and disheartened at the hatefulness and viciousness that is so evident in our society?
I’ve had many waves of anger, fear and aversion in reaction to the harm being perpetrated in our society. In my own practice, it helps to keep starting right where I am, not judging my own reactions, thinking “I shouldn’t feel this.” Rather than trying to let go of these feelings, I often reflect that “this belongs,” it’s the inner weather of the moment. Then I can feel the fear or aversion with acceptance and kindness.
Anger is natural, intelligent and necessary for surviving and flourishing. Yet when we are hooked by anger, it causes great personal and collective suffering. This talk explores how to transform patterns of reactivity by bringing a mindful and compassionate attention to the unmet needs that underlie angry reactivity. When we learn how to pause and connect honestly with our inner experience, we are then able to respond to others from our full intelligence and heart.
“Getting angry with another person is like throwing hot coals with bare hands: both people get burned.” Buddha
For some years in California, a young man came to my lectures in a bed, brought in a bed. He was a quadriplegic. He could not speak. He was about twenty-eight years old. He was like this (laying back on a slant). His attendant could hold his hand over an alphabet board and there was just enough capacity to point at letters. That was the way he spoke. Each time he came, I went over to him and hugged him, and then I would wait while he spelled out some words. I felt in myself how reactive I was to the immensity of his deprivation state.