Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Root Of Anger


ANGER IS AN ICEBERG PHENOMENON. It is the apex of a larger structure, all of which is invisible except the very top. Anger is the snow on the summit of an otherwise bare mountain. It is the view of the mountain that you would have if your eyes allowed you to see only snow, but no summit can exist without foothills, slopes, ravines, and ridges. There can be no summit without a mountain. In the same way, there is no such thing as anger without an immense emotional substructure. Anger is the peak protruding above the clouds. Beneath every experience of anger is a huge body of emotional experience. Without a clear view of that huge substructure, anger cannot be appreciated any more than a mountain can be appreciated by looking at a picture of the summit from the summit. From that per- spective, the summit of the greatest mountain appears to be a small pile of rocks. Anger lashes out at a target. That target is G-d, yourself, another person, group of people, or the universe. Anger is righteous and self-important. Anger does not listen to, respect, or care about others. It makes others wrong, to blame, inferior, or inadequate. It cares only about itself. Anger wants what it wants, when it wants it, on the terms that it wants it. It assumes the roles of judge, jury, and executioner. There is no appeal.

Discovering anger in yourself, or experiencing it in yourself again, is like finding ancient pottery in the desert, or the tops of temples that were built millennia ago and are now buried beneath the surface of the sand. This is an archaeologist’s greatest aspiration. It causes boundless excitement because where there is evi- dence of intelligence on the surface, there is sure to be much more below the surface. That is when an archaeological excavation begins. It continues, layer after layer, downward, uncovering new discoveries large and small as it progresses. Every shovel of earth is screened and examined with great care. Every object or fragment is noted, cataloged, and put into a special place. The deeper the excavation, the more is unearthed. Sometimes villages lie beneath cities, and sometimes cities lie beneath cities. The dig continues until the very bottom of the richness is brought into the light of the sun. Only then is a larger and fuller picture visible—far more than could have been guessed from the initial discovery of pottery on the desert floor, or the tops of ruined temples exposed by blowing sand or eroding soil. Anger is the pottery on the desert floor. It is the trace of a buried building. It points to much greater discoveries waiting to be revealed. Anger is a minor dis- covery compared with the larger treasures that lie beneath it, waiting to be 
unearthed. Most individuals who become angry frequently think that they are familiar with their emotions because of their outbursts. They are not. They do not know what they are feeling, beyond the rage that roars through them like a storm, devastating all in its path until it exhausts itself and only damage remains. Angry outbursts are painful experiences, but they are not emotional explorations. Each outburst of anger is a barrier to the exploration of emotions. It is a fortress from which an indi- vidual who has no power does his or her best to face a frightening world. Some animals snarl, hiss, or growl when threatened by a larger animal. They cannot defend themselves, so they puff up, raise fur on their backs, and show teeth. Anger serves the same purpose in humans. An individual who is angry is frightened. Only a frightened individual attacks. All hostility originates in fear. Fear is the birthplace of every impulse that is not loving. A loving individual is fearless. An angry, jealous, vengeful, depressed, or avaricious person is filled with fear. The difference between being fearless and being fearful is the difference between a life of fulfillment and a life of dissatisfaction. It is the chasm between meaning and purpose on one hand, and despair and emptiness on the other.

Love is fearless. It does not threaten any form of Life. Love is a friend to all. It naturally nourishes, supports, and cares for others. It does not fight fear any more than the sun fights darkness. It does not know fear. Where one is, the other cannot be. Anger prevents love and isolates the one who is angry. It is an attempt, often successful, to push away what is most longed for—companionship and under- standing. It is a denial of the humanness of others, as well as a denial of your own humanness. Anger is the agony of believing that you are not capable of being understood, and that you are not worthy of being understood. It is a wall that separates you from others as effectively as if it were concrete, thick, and very high. There is no way through it, under it, or over it. The connection between their anger and their fear is not one that most people make. Anger seems to generate courage beyond what is normally available. That happens when anger becomes so compulsive that it results in violence. An angry individual appears not to be frightened at all. Actually, he or she is terrified. It is not courage that launches the attack, but uncontrollable terror, as when a small animal, cornered and defenseless, hisses, snarls, and then attacks. Between terror and anger lies another experience—pain. In other words, beneath anger lies pain, and beneath that pain lies fear. It is not possible to experience the fear without first experiencing the pain. That pain may appear to be caused by the loss of a job, the death of a child, or a diagnosis of a terminal illness. The pain of these things is intense, and the experience of it is very much like feeling a white-hot piece of metal. That is why it is easier to become angry than to touch the pain. This is what most people do, but the pain does not go away when you become angry. It gets buried. 


Think of the last time you can remember getting angry. Remember the circumstances—who and what you were angry at. Take a moment to go back to this time. Remember how you were feeling. What physical sensations were you having? What thoughts were you having or expressing? Open yourself to digging deeper, to feeling what was under your anger. Give yourself permission to feel the pain hidden underneath the anger. This is a practice you can do again and again. When you feel anger, gently allow yourself to go deeper—to dig beneath the anger. 

The more the pain is denied, the greater and more frequent is the anger that covers it. An individual who is continually angry is in continual pain. Anger is doubly painful. The experience of anger is painful, and the pain beneath the anger is yet more intense. It erupts unexpectedly, takes control of any circumstance, and produces consequences that are also painful. Until you have the courage to face and experience the pain that lies beneath your anger, you will continue to become angry. Your anger is away of resisting the experience of your pain. Anger is not resistance to a particular circumstance. It is resistance to the world not being the way you want it to be. Anger is pure frus- tration at not being able to arrange your life and others as you would like. Rage is never against an individual, an organization, a community, or any other target, no matter how much it seems to be.


Say this sentence a few times to yourself: “I open myself to the possibility that my anger is my resistance to experiencing my pain, and my resistance to the world not being the way I want it to be.” 

If it feels appropriate, practice saying this sentence every time you become angry. Rage is an excruciating experience of powerlessness. Striking out in rage is an act of powerlessness. Obtaining revenge and proving guilt are expressions of despair and helplessness. Like the small animal that attacks the larger animal, you have given up hope. There is nothing else left to do—except experience what you are feeling. Acting on anger, rage, and vengefulness are your last resorts. They never work. The world continues to be other than you want it to be, and the pain of that does not diminish. Instead, your anger increases. You think you are consumed by an emotion, by uncontrollable anger. On the contrary, you are diverting all of your energy into avoiding your emotions and that diversion, or resistance, is the experience of anger. Your anger is a clear, unmistakable signal that you are in pain. G-d is directing your attention to an inner dynamic that needs to be examined. The inner dynamic is not your anger; it is the cause of your anger. That is your pain. Challenging your anger begins the process of healing what causes it. When you set the intention, for example, not to speak or act in anger no matter how angry you become, when you look for new ways to speak and act when you feel angry, you invoke the assistance of the G-d and assistance comes to you. That assistance will take you where you need go in order to release your anger: That is to your pain—the fundamental pain of the world not being the way that you want your world to be; the pain of insisting that the wants of your personality are more important than the needs of your soul. The circumstances of your life always reflect the needs of your soul. If your dig is deep enough you will discover the SOURCE of your pain: The world not being the way you want it to be. Making the wants of your personality more important than the needs of your soul. There is no exception to this rule, no maybe or if.  When you resist that, you resist the purpose of your life. 

[Based on "The Heart Of The Soul" - slightly edited]