Sunday, March 11, 2012

Facing Your Anger as a Spiritual Practice

One big misconception on the spiritual path is that you should always feel "positive" emotions--love, joy, peace, generosity, etc. It's an incredibly juvenile view, which creates a dark shadow side filled with emotions such as fear, shame, sadness, jealousy, greed, and of course, anger. It's completely unrealistic because we are all of our emotions. Cutting ourselves off from an emotion is like cutting off a limb. It's absolutely crazy, and it perpetuates the inner division and duality that perpetuates pain. So, I'm writing today to talk about anger and how to be with it in your spiritual practice.

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Nothing Wrong With Anger: It's Just Trapped Energy


My current favorite way to describe anger is as trapped energy. It's not always this, but for quite a few of you it is. Consider that if you block a lot of flowing water, pressure builds. It builds, and it builds. It gets really uncomfortable until something has to break. When we stop ourselves from following our hearts and living our truth, we can get restless, discontent, angry. The more we need to follow a certain path and the more we avoid it, the greater the pressure becomes. We get to the point that we want to scream and lash out, but we don't know what to lash out against. This often leads to a lot of poor choices and bad coping mechanisms like alcohol, sex, getting into verbal and physical fights, doing drugs, working long hours, and even excessive shopping among other things to make ourselves feel better.

Meanwhile, the pressure is building, and you don't know how you're going to deal with it without going out of your mind.

Your Spiritual Practice Takes You to the Blockage

I talk a lot about blockages on this blog and in my sessions. A blockage is any place within you where things are stuck. Oftentimes, the blockages are caused by ideas. Here's a simple one:

"I can't follow my heart to play music because I can't make a living that way."

False. That's a total lie. You can't know if you can or not until you do it. The fear around money (which is a survival issue at its core) is a very common blockage. Part of addressing this issue will very likely involve taking action to turn music into your career if that is what you are choosing. That's active spirituality. You can't just meditate a career into an existence, generally speaking. You have to do your part. That's part of living in this world and being engaged.

The good news is that all that built up angry energy is just waiting to pour out into a direction. You may be surprised how quickly the anger starts to subside as the energy is given room to move. You may also be surprised how quickly things may take place in your life once you go in the direction that you really want to go, although there are no guarantees on this path.

Anger Hides Other Issues

One of the interesting things about anger is that it often hides other issues. In society, we're taught to project our feelings and ideas onto the world. In turn, we go to the world to try and actualize the stories that we're making up about it. So you send out your ideas of perfect ole prince charming, and you try to make him make you feel the way you want to feel. It's crazy. You know it as you read these words. This works for men too. You try to make the beauty queen your girlfriend and have her make you feel how you want to feel. It's all very crazy, and you'll probably get very angry in these situations because more often than not those other people don't act out the story you want. So you don't get the feelings you want to feel. But you already have those feelings inside, and this little game is an abdication of your personal responsibility.

In the instances of trying to make another person act out your romantic fantasy, it's very easy to become angry with your romantic partner. At least that's what it seems like. But really, you're just pissed off at yourself. You're angry that you're not getting what you want. And while you think it's a behavior from your significant other, it's really not. There's something else that you want; it's a feeling inside.

Following the Anger Trail Back to the Core Issue

Instead you have a whole bunch of other feelings that you don't want, and in this example, it's anger. So anger in this spiritual practice is following the trail back to yourself. You'll see how angry you are at yourself for giving away your power to external situations. You'll have to own all of your feelings and your obligation to bring forth your own love. Because ultimately, how can anyone truly love you if you don't even truly love you? And that feeling of love is the feeling you want, is it not?

So perhaps hiding under this specific issue is a self-worth issue. It can be very sneaky sometimes. We've been taught to bury our issues extremely well. That's why this spiritual path can get so messy. Initially, you're pulling yourself apart on the spiritual path, especially if you're in awakening. It's the only way to create a real foundation built on truth and love--two things that are real and can last.

To go deeper on digging out core issues, I suggest this post after you finish reading here:

Uncovering Core Issues

Digging Deeper and Continuing to Acknowledge Anger

Before I go much deeper, I've occasionally suggested that people give themselves outlets to vent anger from time to time. I don't want you to turn yourself into total pressure cookers, so I occasionally suggest the idea of taking up a kickboxing class, beating the crap out of a pillow, or finding a sledgehammer to smash rocks. But I only offer these things as temporary solutions. If you don't follow the trail down to the core issue to address the block damming up the flow of your life, then you're simply training yourself to be destructive. As I said, those are temporary things to let the steam out, and then you have to do your work to make the changes necessary in your life. Otherwise, the anger comes right back.

Furthermore, you're probably going to find multiple dams within you. People are so trapped these days. People are absolutely livid at themselves for not living the lives that they want to live. People get bought into a whole load of social crap, ideologies, and lies, and pretty soon they're having a mid-life or end of life crisis where they realize that they've never truly done one thing that they wanted to do. They feel like they've wasted their whole lives.

So, I'm writing with all my heart to say, "Don't wait to start living your true life."

Facing the Uncomfortable Emotions With Compassion

The common way people talk about dealing with difficult emotions is to learn how to watch them arise within you and to pass away. This is also a temporary measure because you don't want to get caught up too much in the duality of your emotions vs your true self. It is all you. So compassion can help to blend the two, allowing you to watch them as part of you but to not get lost in them. That's really some of the best advice I can offer to you about anger. For more temporary angers such as you dropped a hammer on your foot, it can work very well. You feel the anger come up, and then you can let it pass. There's no reason to do anymore damage to yourself than has been done. When it comes up with family, you may find in some instances that the anger is about learning to speak your truth in a highly-charged familial environment. Sometimes, you need to allow the anger to arise and pass before speaking, and sometimes you simply need to observe it because there's nothing that needs to be said and anything that would be said would just fuel a bad situation (especially if you have a physically abusive family member). In those instances, your anger may be guiding you to take action and leave the situation.

In short, you are learning to allow your anger to arise and pass away. This is what I mean when I say that we learn to dissolve issues with awareness. We stay present and engaged with the feelings, but we don't buy into any story around them. If we do, we start to recycle the issue, and around and around we go. For more on this, check out this spiritual blog post:

Dissolving Issues With Awareness

Anger Is as Sacred as All the Rest
The last thoughts for this blog is to appreciate that anger is as sacred as all your other emotions. It is not a bad or negative emotion. Holding on and attaching to the anger and the stories builds grudges, hatreds, and generations long feuds that lead to wars and atrocities. This is why people are afraid of anger, and in being afraid of anger, it gets bottled up and worse things go on at the unconscious level within you. There is so much pain, and the best way truly is to just let it all go. If you remember nothing else, then remember to let go of your anger when it comes and then take the actions you need to to live the life of your joy.
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