We have been told many things about anger and what to do about it, but do we know what it is, not by definition and explanation, but through seeing it as it comes into being? We can’t deal effectively with anger, because anger is just a word. Anger is an advertising billboard, a broad concept that obscures the fact behind the concept.
What is it that we are referring to? Have you ever seen directly the forces that arise within you before you label them anger? Have you ever faced your anger as it materializes, or do you become immediately victimized by anger, certain of its reality because your conceptual thinking has legitimized it as something, like a rock or a flower or a chair?
We can see the ravages of anger in ourselves and by the effect it produces around us. But what is it?
Anger refers to a constellation of energetic responses to life, to our own thoughts, to our own actions, and to the thoughts and actions of others. What is the motive behind the energetic response? If we take away the word “anger” from our experience, if we do not react to that label, full of associations and recriminations, what are we left with?
We become angry when someone or something threatens us. We become angry when what we believe we are Ð our ideas and loyalties, our hopes and wishes Ð is threatened. We become angry when our security and well-being is threatened. But is this anger, or is it fear? When we are threatened, does fear arise first, and does that fear mobilize a self-protection response that we call anger? We can see that often our anger is really fear. If this is true, we must understand our own fear.
We become angry when we don’t get what we want, when our will is thwarted. If this is true, then we must understand the nature of desire and will.
When we say anger, do we mean boredom or disappointment? Is anger really frustration? If this is true, then we must understand our own emotions.
Is anger really internal conflict between what is true for us and what is expected of us? When we suppress our inner truth, for whatever reason, we will eventually erupt, because we can’t live forever in falsehood and self-betrayal. If this is true, then we must see the cause within ourselves of self-suppression.
Do we use anger as a means to control others who do not have the strength to stand up to us? If this is true, then we must understand our urge to dominate.
Do we use anger against others who try to coerce and manipulate us? If this is true, then we must see the roots of our own insufficiency and powerlessness.
Do we confuse anger with words and actions committed with a clarity and intensity that, while appropriate, violate some idea we have of ourselves? If this is true, then we must examine our own self-image.
We can’t grapple with the phantom of anger until we first see what is moving within us before we label it, before we become victimized by our thoughts and feelings about the billboard called anger. This takes discipline and patience. We will have to encompass the arising energy with awareness in order to see it. As we encompass this arising energy with the spaciousness of our awareness, we can more effectively express what we need to express, we can act without conflict and bitterness. When we don’t know for ourselves what is happening within us, the “anger” will control us. We won’t know what to do even as we are torn apart. We’ll continue to project this confused state on to others. We’ll become more angry, then hostile, and then violent. If we are to end the ravages of anger, we must know what it is.
Will you take the time to investigate this on your own? Will you face these arising states with steady breathing and an open mind? Will you see behind the word, will you become intimate with the energy itself? Any technique or strategy for dealing effectively with anger will not free you from anger. Anger will survive and continue to torment you and others. Let yourself settle into silent observation of the tremors of extreme energy as it arises. Don’t obscure what is happening by taking refuge in labels and concepts.