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1.1 What to do with rage?

Inquiry by Vera on Rage:

We want the anger we (rightfully?) feel about injustice, powerlessness, etc. to be a creative force. Not a destructive one. Therefore we need to transform the anger into wisdom, awareness and use the force and energy that the anger makes available for us in a conscious way.

You probably have felt rage due to an internal or external power struggle – whether it was now during the completion of this module or in your real life in a conflict with an authority, with yourself, with collective rage about social injustice.

When you apply all the learnings from this story – how could you heal your pain and transform the anger into a creative, constructive force?

I want to share a copy of Reddit post written by one of my favorite Redditors by the username, /u/TheHeartOfTuxes:

Anger is the emotion of justice; it arises when there is a boundary to be set.

This is the appropriate function of anger. But it is easily overrun by self-centeredness, becoming justification instead of justice. You can feel deliciously superior in your anger.

There are several possible reasons behind your anger: You may be angry that your generosity wasn't accepted. You may be angry that the man imposed upon you. You may be angry that you didn't stand up for yourself and immediately hold a boundary that you felt was right. You may be angry for both his need and yours. Or you may be angry for what you see of yourself in him.

Anger is also a defense of the vulnerable; so often anger rushes in when we don't want to feel our tenderness, fear, or weakness. If some fear was triggered in your interaction, anger may be your attempt to cover it up by feeling powerful.

You don't immediately get rid of anger just by making yourself calm. There is something to be acknowledged and felt here, some message in the anger. Compassion doesn't immediately seek to get rid of negative or uncomfortable states; it first perceives everything deeply.

You can sit with the anger and feel it; you can write about it or do an art piece about it; you can dance it or act it out. Once you bring it to full consciousness and embodiment — once you own that you are angry — then it will be ready to move on.

If there is a loop of thinking that keeps regenerating the anger, that means there is a self-centered agenda being perpetuated. You are holding some idea of yourself that is being defended or aggrandized. So you can ask yourself what self-image you are trying to defend or uphold. If you were to be totally without anger right now, what self-centered agenda would be threatened; what part would feel like it's dying?

In Buddhism, anger is reflected in one of the Three Poisons, as aversion or aggression — the desire to avoid or destroy that which you don't like. The motivation to give up anger comes in part from your understanding that only suffering can come of the Three Poisons. Aversion and aggression only perpetuate the sense of self that makes problems for you and your world.

Further liberating understanding is to know that the offending person is at the mercy of his ignorance, just as we all are. When we know better, we do better. The homeless man doesn't know that his happiness doesn't come from the money in your pocket; just as you aren't fully aware that happiness doesn't come from the things you cling to. The man is not the real offender; ignorance is.

Moreover, you can know that if you were subject to the same conditions as the homeless man, your actions would be the same. If you had gone through the same upbringing, the same twists of fate, the same obstacles as him, your behavior would have been the same.

You can see that we are all in the same boat as far as blind clinging goes. Unless we are enlightened, we still share perverse attachments and their painful results. In view of this it is more appropriate to grieve for all of us than to be angry at one of us.

There is the concept of 'parent beings' in Buddhism, the awareness that through countless lifetimes we have been in contact with each other countless times. Sometimes we have been each other's parents, caring and protecting with all the love in our hearts; but then based on our karma we fall into various dull, deficient, shameful lives and situations. At one time, the homeless man was your loving parent. Today you were on this side of the interaction. In a future life, unless you gain enlightenment and end the cycles, you will be on his side of the interaction, grasping desperately at what someone else has.

Ultimately, knowledge of anatta, the teaching of non-selfhood, liberates you from anger. Understanding that your angry experience depends both on the illusion of your selfhood and the illusion of the offender's selfhood, you can know your anger itself as illusion. There is no self, there is only interdependent condition: causes gather to create a situation, and these causes arise from karma. Blaming the man is like blaming the driver of an empty car for running into your car; there is no person behind the wheel, nothing to blame but a convergence of circumstances. Furthermore, whatever comes to you is a result of your own intentions and actions; it can't be blamed on anything else.

The traditional cure for anger is the Brahmavihara practice of upekkha/equanimity. As a practice, this equanimity is not cold detachment, but includes the quality of love. Here is a guided upekkha practice.

From the Dhammapada:

"He abused me, mistreated me, defeated me, robbed me."

Harboring such thoughts keeps hatred alive.

"He abused me, mistreated me, defeated me, robbed me."

Releasing such thoughts banishes hatred for all time.

For me, I struggle to prolong grudges and I find that the immense suffering associated with it is too much to bear. Sure, it's not so comfortable for me to engage with the person who hurt me, and I do get angry but not throw a fit of rage. What I often do is to distance myself, write about the experience, allow my anger to be the muse of creative expression and ask myself a pivotal question: "That hurts, but do I want to shoot myself with the second arrow?" (Sallatha Sutta: The Arrow)

Such is often a cathartic experience for me: To let go of what I let my anger latch on to. And to channel the passionate energy of the emotion for acceptance rather than retribution -- helping to shift from what-should-be-to to what-it-is. It's not so much of being woefully helpless about it, it's a vulnerable declaration which I equip myself with and it's a matter of how to handle now or later.

Also sharing an insightful post on anger by Dara: Your Anger is Welcome Here.