the innocence of anger

For this blog I’ll write about anger. It’s a greatly misunderstood emotion in our culture. It’s both decried and cultivated at the same time. There are enormous mixed messages we get on a daily basis, and because of this, many people have walled away any possibility of this emotion being shown. To an extreme, there might even be a message that it’s best to always step back and “see the perfection of the other” – which involves walling away anything critical – rather than show any anger.

Now, let’s look at anger directly. I hope you can pause here to look at it with me; we all have it inside ourselves. Think of someone or something that simply pisses you off. Please sit with it a while; listen to it. This isn’t about a venting process, which is what happens when the easiest words are found. Listening is a deep, meditative process that doesn’t wish anything to go away or be fixed. Pay attention to what it really wants to say. Listen to it equally if it’s to someone else or to yourself.

(I hope you take a few moments to breathe deeply and listen to yourself here)

When I hear anger, it’s a voice with power that says “Something isn’t working here. Please listen!”. That’s all. No violence at all. What isn’t healthy about that – speaking out when something doesn’t work?

What most people confuse with anger is projection. Projection naturally happens when there’s a total non-acceptance of a real process going on within. It says “this is not mine! It must be yours.” And thus a violence caused by the rupture that begins totally with Self. Thus, if something isn’t working internally and there’s denial that it IS within, there is a constant push externally that is the anger turned into projection. Of course, in this case, there is nothing the outside world can do to change the internal world of the person, so “help” turns two ways: either to encourage listening and care of Self, or to encourage numbness so the inner turmoil isn’t felt. Many “safe” atmospheres encourage the numbness by creating a whitewashed atmosphere where all possible triggers are removed.

To look at healthy anger, a good example is Gandhi. Gandhi made it very clear the behavior of the British in India wasn’t working; it caused tremendous suffering, he did everything in his power to encourage people to listen and see it clearly. He focused solely on the behavior of the British, not the British themselves, who were generally wonderful people. He did not make them wrong (i.e., use projection), but focused on behavior that was changeable – and so documented the systematic methods of poverty and oppression that occurred in those colonial times. People wouldn’t think it was anger, because there was no rage or violence at all. He moved from a place of power that no one could take away, and part of that was his non-violence. But the root energy was anger – simply in a very evolved form. It was again, “This isn’t working – Please listen!”. This goes back to earlier posts expressing there are no “bad” emotions. Any emotion can be transformed to a place where it services mankind. Without exception.

An example closer to home might be a mother watching over a child. If the child places itself in danger, the natural response tends to be anger. In a mother with no shame of their anger, this comes out as a clear “get back! I care about you!” I’ve been lucky enough to see people without any shame of their anger, and the response children have to this is lovely. They will tend to smile, because the anger clearly comes out of Love. However, if there’s significant guilt and pain surrounding anger, all of this inner division comes out in the communication. The result is that it feels awful, because with the disharmony expressed in that shout, the love in the communication doesn’t shine through. The crux is that the problem is with the disunity, not the anger.

One of the false images people have of anger is that it’s a way to attack the other person. However, if you’ve ever seen someone “let it all out”, without defenses, it is an incredibly vulnerable state. We tend to go through life guarding against others knowing what we care about. Showing anger without guile or protection puts it all out on the table. You are making what you passionately care in plain view all to see and touch. People subconsciously protect against this because of the possibility the other person will use that vulnerability to attack. This is of course, very valid; it happens fairly regularly. Those who wish to use this vulnerability to attack may bait others, waiting for others to let loose so they can then give a “sucker punch” of a sort. This doesn’t take anything away from those who reach this kind of vulnerability; it takes great courage to be fully open this way. Most people get angry half-heartedly. They let the other person know they are angry, but they don’t get to vulnerability. Others tend to feel this lack of vulnerability and react defensively. Many activists are in this state.

When it comes down to it, anger deserves a deep and profound listening, like everything else. It is often a healthy desire for boundaries. Sometimes it is the simple message that something isn’t working, and thus can be a “cover up emotion”, pointing to a geyser of other emotions that are crying out to be released. But the anger itself is not a problem. It is something that needs to be given a loving space of listening, not “fixed”. There is nothing that needs to be done with it, other than listening. Allowing it transforms it, and lets everyone involved see what truly wasn’t working. This is a gift to the world.

Now, the events of the last few weeks as described in the last blog for me brought up a lot of anger. Quite frankly, I love my anger. And because of that, no one would ever describe me as an “angry person”. I love that I speak up when something doesn’t work. I love that I do my best to do it from a vulnerable space. Sometimes I fall flat on my face, but that’s what learning’s about. Look what happened in the previous blog – there are great benefits to getting to a place where support is needed!

Be whole.

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