Have you ever noticed how much anger or resentment can dominate you?
“Dominate.” I actually was so drawn to that word that I looked it up:
Dominate: to rule over, govern, control.
I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want anger or resentment ruling over, governing, or controlling me! But once you feel these negative 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. And the anger or resentment builds and gains intensity . . . and power to dominate. No wonder anger is so vicious.
Escaping the Bonds of Anger and Resentment
So, how can we counter such a powerful force? Well, I’m not sure what will work best for you, but I can share what works for me. Regardless of what tactic you choose, it is imperative that you find something that works, to free yourself from the domination of these self-destructive thoughts and to ensure that this domination is an experience you no longer have to endure. The freedom I found after learning to deal with these negative, potentially dominating emotions was one of the most life-altering and profound changes I have ever experienced.
When I feel anger or resentment welling up from within me, the first thing I do is look at the facts. What really happened? Often, my interpretation is a bit skewed. I find another person can usually help me with this much more than relying on my biased interpretation alone. Usually my one-sided interpretation will continue to re-act (act again like I did in the past) and re-feel, and the anger (and/or fear) builds and becomes more intense.
The second thing is I ask myself if I’m taking it personally. I do not believe that anyone has ever woken 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 just doesn’t work like that. One of the most insightful things I have ever heard is, “They’re not doing it to you; they’re just doing it.” And that is almost 100% true in every case. People are living their lives, wrapped up in their own concerns and thoughts, trying to take care of what seems necessary for them, avoiding their own fears, trying to do what they need to succeed, and, in the midst of it all, we collide. We just collide with each other. The lethal part of this, instead of opening our eyes and realizing that, although perhaps unfortunate, the collision was not intended. We tend to judge hastily, and we most often assume the stance that things were indeed maliciously planned, and then, we take this corroding energy home with us. This corrosive baggage continues 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 is the feeding of it and only results in intensifying things. We have imposed our own self-inflicted mental torture. Once the cycle has begun, it becomes increasingly difficult to extricate ourselves.
The third step is to examine whether I did anything to contribute to the situation. Did I have anything to do with what happened? Much like the need for an “other” to help sort out “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 contributed to the situation, or how I might have been partly to blame. Although there are exceptions, when I am honest with myself, it is rare that any party, including myself, is completely blame-free.
And the last step is to summon a countering, and more powerful emotion from within: compassion, compassion, compassion. I have found in my experience, that rarely does anything happen to me (or to those around me) that I have not done myself or that I am not capable of doing. Despite this potential hypocrisy, we often fly to judgement regarding others. The intriguing thing about judgment is that we tend to project our past experiences and their emotive responses onto the present situation at hand. And this remains true whether we are on the passing or receiving end of the exchange.
Be that as it may, we must acknowledge that 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 when we judge someone and get angry because we are taking it personally, it is the height of self-centeredness. “It’s not all about you,” is one of the best lessons I have ever learned. It took my extreme sensitivity and toned it down to a realistic level, where I didn’t feel battered and bruised at the end of the day.
Understanding the Cost of Anger
The final thing I want to touch upon is the awareness that ultimately comes from “being” and attentively addressing each step for dealing with anger or resentment. What we intuitively and (easily) come to see is how much resentment actually harms us. When we are resentful, we are, at the very core, focused on ourselves and cut off from others around us. This is what it means to be 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 to 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 on by anger is a slow death of happiness.
Moving Beyond Anger’s Grasp
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. It is a journey rather than a one-stop repair. 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. In this space, we can truly learn how to address our inner urgings towards anger and resentment and quell these hostile and destructive feelings. In this place, we are able to strip away anger and resentment’s power to dominate us, and we are able to build an edifice from which we can soar and discover the greatness of our humanity.