Have you ever noticed how much being angry and resentful at a person or situation really dominates you? I actually was so drawn to that word that I looked it up:
Dominate: to rule over, govern, control.
Once you feel these emotions welling up, you begin to identify with the situation and start to literally re-live or re-create the conditions in your mind, truly experiencing the painful feelings time after time. No wonder anger is so vicious.
So. What to do? Well, I’m not sure what works best for you but I will share what works for me AND I suggest you find something that works, because the domination of these thoughts is an experience you no longer have to endure. The freedom I came to realize from this was one of the most life altering and profound changes I ever experienced.
The first thing I do….Look at the facts. What really happened? Often, my interpretation is a bit skewed or off. I find another person can usually help me with this much more than my skewed interpretation looking at it can do on its own. Usually my skewed interpretation will continue to re-act (act again like I did in the past) and re-feel and the anger (and/or fear) becomes more intense.
Second thing. I’m taking it personally. Not once has someone woken up in the morning and said, “You know what? I’m going to take a program of action to harm Carrie. Yep, better get out of bed and get started.” Nope. Sorry folks. It doesn’t work like that. One of the most insightful things I ever heard was, “They’re not doing it to you; they’re just doing it.” And that is almost 100% true in every case. People are walking around, thinking about themselves, trying to take care of what seems necessary for them, avoid their own fears, succeed where they are trying to succeed, and we collide. We just collide with each other. The lethal part of this, instead of getting up and realizing that, although perhaps unfortunate, it was not intended, we take the view that things were indeed malicious and planned, and take this corroding energy home with us, to linger and pollute our consciousness as we spend time with family, make dinner, and go to bed. And often, the anger is still there when we awake, and the re-feeling of it has only served to intensify things, and we have constructed our own self-imposed prison. Once the cycle has begun, it becomes increasingly difficult to extricate ourselves.
Third thing. Did I do anything? Did I have anything to do with what happened? Much like the need for help in looking at “the facts,” I often need an alternate view point here as well. It can be incredibly challenging to objectively “see” how I might have caused some of the harm myself, how I might have participated in the situation, how I might have been partly to blame. It is incredibly unusual for an event to be completely 100% not my fault, although there are of course exceptions.
Final thing: compassion, compassion, compassion…I have found in my experience, that rarely does anything happen to me (or around me, to someone I care about, etc.) that I have not done myself, or certainly that I am not capable of doing. The intriguing thing about judgment is that for the knowledge to judge to be present, you have experienced it yourself (i.e., the behavior you are at that moment judging and feeling resentful). It is literally impossible to experience negative emotion toward the behavior of another person if you are not aware of the own behavior that you have committed. Sometimes you judge harshly because you fear that energy in yourself. Or, likewise, you recall how harmful you have been in the past when you acted from similar energy.
Basically, if the people around you could do better, they would do better. Just like you and I. Everyone is doing the best they can with what they have, and for us to judge someone and get angry taking it personally, is the height of self-centeredness. “It’s not all about you,” was one of the best lessons I ever learned. It took my extreme sensitive-ness and brought it down to a realistic level, where I didn’t feel battered and bruised at the end of the day.
The final thing I want to touch upon is the awareness that ultimately comes from “being” in the first four things discussed. What we intuitively and (easily) come to see, is how much being resentful actually harms us. When we are resentful we are, at the very core, in ourselves, focused on ourselves, cut off from others around us. This is actually the definition of self-centered: centered in oneself. When you are angry, you are simply centered in yourself. And this feels lousy. No growth or joy can come from this. Joy comes from connection and openness to others and the world around us. Peace stems from the experience of being a part of humanity and realizing how interwoven our lives truly are. Nothing grows from a place of constriction; attention to your own thoughts spurred by anger is a slow death of happiness.
Is it possible to be enlightened after “knowing” these things? Possible but doubtful. Awareness is a road one can choose to take in the creation of a different kind of life. Awareness of the reckless nature of anger and its malicious effects is a good start. The “knowing” slowly becomes a spiritual awareness that seeps into all of your thoughts and activities.
In this space, the miraculous can happen.