Let’s talk about anger. Resentment. Indignation. The flash-fire slap in the face. The whip-lash fed-up anger. You know it; not the garden variety but the I’m so sick of this shit anger. The I will not be treated this way anger. The I don’t want to hear any more excuses anger. Beyond pissed off. The anger that shuts down negotiations. Anger that blows up the middle ground and leaves a trench big enough to swallow last November’s forgiveness practice. I’ve been down in that trench lately. I’ve felt wounded. I’ve felt wronged. I’ve been guilty of doing nothing about it. (Or at least, not doing enough about it.) So when that shit festers who’s really to blame for my anger?
Fun fact: 75% of my first name is 80% anger.
I wish I wasn’t so fascinated by the way that super-heated rush of emotion clarifies everything that gets so muddy while we are not doing anything about it. But I am fascinated by it. As much as anger sucks it burns away all the bullshit and we see things as they really are. According to Anais Nin, we see ourselves as we really are.
Nonetheless, the selfies I take when I’m angry never appeal to me very much. Sometimes it helps that Instagram images look so small when my negative emotions are so large/wide/deep/hot. But anger is part of the human experience. Processing anger directly affects our wellness, which means the tools and methods we use to process anger are part of our practice. An angry selfie honors my anger. If all anger is rooted in fear then it also honors my fear. Negative emotions teach us as much as positive emotions (if not more), so there is little point in pretending they aren’t part of our reality.
So let’s talk about forgiveness. Again. I read a blog this week by an author who says he wakes up every day and forgives his ex. She broke his heart. Not the garden variety heartbreak; the hardcore core-hardening kind. The hurt everything in my path until the world hurts as badly as I hurt kind. He forgave her. Every time he thinks of her he forgives her again. Every mention of her name. Every memory that sneaks up on him. Every photo he finds in a box. Every friend they had in common greeted unexpectedly. He forgives her again. And again. Because it’s a practice. We have to forgive over and over. If we don’t it isn’t really forgiveness.
Every person who lashes out at us is afraid of something. Angry reactions to them reveal our fears as well. For instance, control freaks are motivated by fear of losing control. We can get angry or we can forgive them for being afraid. Over and over.
Who among us isn’t afraid of something? Who isn’t afraid of losing something? Safety. Power. Choices. Opportunities. Freedom. Money. Love. Stability. Respect. Even bullies are afraid of losing their status. So are tattletales. Crybabies. Spoiled brats. Bitches. Egomaniacs. Think of all the names we call them in our anger. All the labels we slap upon those that infuriate us; those labels distract us from the truth–the truth that we are all just people afraid of losing something.
See the fear, not the insult. See the fear, not the incompetence, not the neglect, not the mistake. See the fear, not the asshole. It re frames a lack of judgment. It takes the sting out of threats leveled at us while white-knuckling that illusion of control. Whomever it is that is pissing us off by acting out or lashing out is actually exposing a fear. The only reasonable and productive response to fear is compassion. Trust me, it’s not anger. Can I tell you how many times I’ve tried? It has never worked. Ever.
As for me being afraid, I have to forgive me for that too. Over and over. Every time, as many times as it takes. I too have to see past my anger to the fear that motivates the anger. And then tell myself as I would tell a child, it’s okay to be afraid. Whatever it is that I feel afraid of losing won’t become any more secure via my anger. But my anger will expose my fears the same as it exposes the fears of others to me. That doesn’t make me appear more empowered to others. It makes me appear more fearful. My anger doesn’t make me look anything other than weak and childish and scared. That’s not how I want to be received. That’s not how I want to feel. That’s not how I want to operate in the world.
And so the practice begins again.