In correspondence, the topic of anger came up. Unresolved anger is a common issue for many, even if you’ve had a long practice. While the focus of this article is anger, the same principles are true for many of our emotions.
I can recall back in the 80s, a friend gave me a copy of “The Angry Book.” I’d been meditating awhile and considered myself free of such things. It surprised me to realize I had just repressed it, not resolved it.
Anger is also tied to delusion as both lead to negativity, as I noted in the Moha article.
First, there are healthy and unhealthy ways to express anger. Anger can transform, but it can also burn.
Second, anger can arise from several sources:
1 – current events trigger the emotion
2 – repressed anger leaking out that may have little to do with current events
3 – anger arising from purification
2 & 3 are similar but one is repressed, the other is arising to complete. The difference is in how we are with it.
In the first type, Eckhart Tolle gives the example of seeing someone kick a dog. It is normal to feel angry and that may motivate you to take appropriate action. But the motivation to be angry should then fade as it completes. If we’re continuing to fuss about it hours later, it’s not completed. Something is resisting.
Suitable actions are a healthy way to express. Action that doesn’t create harm.
Note that a healthy expression isn’t personal. It’s about the action, event, or circumstance, not the person. If we’re attacking the person, we’re making it personal and inviting further conflict. This is an unhealthy expression and does not resolve the upset.
You see this a lot online when people attack the person they disagree with rather than offer an alternative perspective or solution. This is known as an “ad hominem” attack.
If we are identifying with the experience or emotion in some way, the anger may not complete. We’ve made it personal and will resist completion. For example, mind may feel justified to be angry and thus invest in it.
Culturally, we’re often taught that anger is inappropriate, encouraging resistance, even if it’s arising. Many are in denial of their anger.
It roils around inside, seeking a way to express. This leaks out in unhealthy ways. Reactivity, excess, acting out, and so forth. Yet this is anger we should not act on as that will lead to poor results and unintended karma.
Rather than acting out, don’t resist, redirect. Use it as motivation to change the circumstances that led to the anger. Or go for a walk. Or do something cathartic to help purge.
Others may have found anger a useful tool for getting their way, especially with people who repress theirs and thus fear anger.
And finally, we have old baggage rising to the surface to be purified. This may include a quality of anger. Here also, acting on it is inappropriate. Rather, we want to allow it to complete. Be with the sensations and feelings. Then we don’t have it roiling around as above.
In our daily life, if we notice anger arising without apparent reason or we over-respond to an external event, you know you have something to heal. Mind wants to feel in control so makes up a “reason” to feel this. This is just a story you can ignore. Don’t repress it but don’t take it seriously. Instead, turn your attention from the story to the emotion.
The emotion may be unclear or muddled with others or layered. The key here is just light attention, not trying to control anything.
If the emotion is strong, bring the attention to the body. It will be drawn to some area where there’s a sensation. This is the contraction being released. Allow the sensation to be experienced. The body may twitch or vibrate. As the contraction lets go, the emotional flavours will pass. We may find the need to rest afterwards to complete the healing and integration. You’ve released a big one.
In any case, repression is not the solution. For emotions like anger, redirection into healthy expressions or to healthy outlets like physical activity can be valuable.
It can take time to relearn how to be with your emotions. But the long-term benefits for our quality of life are immense. Peace and happiness live under our unresolved past.