midwestbuddha: (meditation)
The best way out is through. Ever hear that? Well, I’m living proof that it’s true.

For years, I suppressed my anger and was possessed by a powerful feeling that the world was fundamentally unfair. Here’s what I learned:

This cycle, suppressing and expressing anger, is so prevalent today that it is often labeled by others as psychotic. No wonder so many people are being diagnosed as manic depressive. What’s even more frightening, society seems to respond to this with the idea that the person in question should simply take a pill. Have you seen the Prozac commercials? They actually suggest that life returns when you’re taking this drug. Basically, that you’re dead until you take it! Now, don’t get me wrong—there are people who should be on medication. But even for these individuals, a mood altering drug is often only a temporary fix.

So what is the answer?

Why…it’s faith.

When I first began meditation, I realized my best time was spent simply being present with the emotion of the moment. Emotions are never negative (or positive, for that matter). It’s only our reactions to emotions that are skillful or unskillful. It’s amazing how simply giving myself permission to feel has relaxed me, at times. Many of us, in fact, believe that this emotion in particular is somehow “bad”.

We must stop beating ourselves up for experiencing emotions.

Anger arises when injustice is perceived. But—how does one prevent the unskillful acts which may result from anger?

Simple. Pay attention.

I try to pause and thank myself for feeling this response to injustice. Then, I try to get away to a quiet place, even for a few moments, in order to have time to fully experience the anger. Without this time, I’ve noticed I become distracted or even feel physically ill. After all, anger can be a powerful emotion to try to control…

A technique I read about and tried is to remind yourself that this anger is improperly being viewed as your anger. You are taking possession of it. That’s what Buddhists refer to as “wrong view.”

Right view is instead to see strong emotions of any kind as one views the weather. After all, you don’t say, “I’m so snowy about that!”, do you? Of course not. The conditions for snow occur outside of your control or choice, and simply must be dealt with until they pass—or until you pass through their vicinity.

One day I read a suggestion in a Buddhist book to “observe” the anger and particularly notice what happened before I was angry.

I thought. What’s usually happening before I get angry is someone has been rude, cruel or neglectful of me. Someone is thoughtless or malicious.

But soon, I realized that I was concentrating on the incidents that made me angry instead of the process of getting angry.

And when I looked deeper, I realized I was afraid.

Each and every time, I was afraid first. It wasn’t the incidents themselves that made me angry. It was what I was afraid of when someone else was rude, thoughtless, malicious, neglectful or cruel—that my feelings, perhaps even my worth as another human being, were being discounted.

Further, I realized that these fears really pointed to some issues within me that needed to be resolved.

How often was I expecting habitually malicious people to treat me otherwise? How often was I not taking the responsibility to simply remove myself from their presence? How often was I blaming others’ rudeness and neglect on them, when in fact I was the one who wasn’t politely insisting on being treated well or stating the things I felt to be hurtful?

And…why was I covering fear with anger? Simple—it made me feel powerful, righteous, and stronger and more in control.

So…do I still get angry? Of course. And sometimes I still behave unskillfully as a result. But I don’t beat myself up any more. I make reparations, make note of what I’ve learned, soothe my underlying fears and move on.

And so can you.

The best way out is…through—through the anger. All the way through. What’s on the other side?

Why…it’s faith.

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midwestbuddha

June 2012

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