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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Have you ever come across a song or piece of writing that leaves you feeling like you connected with something inside yourself? After the experience, did you feel fortified, more grounded, loving, free and capable? Or perhaps you felt less fearful, less anxious, or less distracted? Did you notice being more present and aware?
The reason is abundantly simple and amazingly incredible, and it is truly life-saving and life-affirming.
Becoming aware or conscious of your Truth, is about “discovering, uncovering, and discarding.” It’s about discovering all the things you have built up in your mind and, either consciously or unconsciously, defined as your source of fulfillment and security. It is discovering the core of what this life experience is all about and identifying the difference between your life and life situation. Your life situation will always evolve, build, crumble, turn, and appear differently depending on your perception. Your life situation is your bank account, relationships, where you live, who you call your friends, your job, and the other varying details of your life. The first step in becoming empowered is to be aware that these things are (1) not permanent and (2) lack power (we have just perceived them to have it).
Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that your job, where you live, what you do, is not important. Of course it is, without question. But your Truth is found in not attaching to them. Your Truth is not equating them with good or bad. Your Truth is recognizing that you do not need them to experience joy and peace. Your Truth is believing that these things (or lack thereof) do not determine your worth or value. If you choose to place your security in these possessions and roles, then you have immediately placed yourself and your life-view in a vulnerable position. Should these things change or leave you, your self-imposed definition will be one of deficiency or scarcity. By assigning the power of self-definition and self-worth to the variables in your life, you have placed your freedom and peace in things outside of yourself; and you are playing a game that has no end and that you cannot win. You will continue to go through your life, fiercely (and I mean fiercely) attached to things that at their very nature are impermanent and will not last. You have set yourself up to fail. You have set yourself up for defeat again and again and again. There is another way . . . a better way, a more glorious way.
Your Truth is, unlike your life situation, found in your Life. Your truth is internal and nothing on the outside can touch or harm it in anyway. It is infallible, pure love, absolute power. Your Truth remains the same regardless of your Life Situation.
And here it is:
You are perfectly made and perfectly, magnificently whole right this minute. You have always been as perfectly and magnificently made and whole as you were when you were born, and nothing that happens in this life can add or take away from that. You are safe and protected. There is nothing to fear. All that you run from and obsess about and worry and agonize over are simply scripts generated from your mind that you have identified and given power.
Everything is going to be ok because everything has always been ok, and everything will continue to be ok.
Your entire life is right Now. Every moment of your life has been a Now, and every moment after will be a Now. Not one thing can touch you right Now. Not one thing can harm you right Now, except by the power you give it in your mind. The Now in which you stand is spacious, expansive, full of possibilities and wonder. The Now in which you are is the experience of whatever is going on for you at this moment. Whether it is with a friend, reading a book, spending time with your kids, or sitting in silence, it is an opportunity to be in awe, childlike, innocent, excited, because you have never experienced this Now before. This experience is fundamentally unique and is literally begging you to notice. This Now is waving itself deep inside your soul and when you connect with it, you feel a surge of joy, your natural birthright, and you Know.
When you read that page in the book that caught your eye or see the photograph that brings up a sensation of peace or find yourself watching the kids at the park who embrace the Now and have not yet identified with the prison of a man-made mind, you know it. For an instance, maybe a minute, maybe even longer, you wake up and recognize the Truth. You relax, You breathe. You smile. You exist. Right Now.
The Truth, Your Truth has always been there and always will be. Your Spirit is there, connected, empowered, fierce, and all you need to do, all you need to BE, is right here, right Now.
A friend of mine recently shared with me that her fears were just skinny little things looking for a good meal.
Wow! Words of truth!
Yet despite the reality of fear’s deprived and ravenous nature, what do we do? We invite these fears inside, sit them down at the table, take their order, and spend most of the day feeding them until they loom before us larger than life. And we do this at the expense of the betterment, health, and joy of our own spirits.
With the exception of instances of immediate physical danger, fear will never (and you can hold me to this) have to do with the present moment. Fear can surface as silent as an invisible undercurrent to a deafening cacophony in our heads. We get stressed and worried about the something “out there,” “up head,” or about what is “going to happen” or “not going to happen,” and on and on. If you look closely at these fears, you can recognize an assumption about what will or will not happen if that something becomes reality. These assumptions are limiting, constrictive, and suffocating; they are our own self-imposed prisons.
My fears are stifling. They all have to do with presumed labels of something being “good or bad”, “winning or losing,” “elation or depression,” and all my fears really do is shut me down. We could choose to exchange one fear for another. Our fears are not brilliant. They are not worldly or glamorous. They seem threatening. They tighten around us as though they are dire, treacherous, and specific, but they are not. They are trivial and generic. When faced head-on, fears (like the bully I endured when I started a new school in fifth grade) will generally shrink back, unfed into the shadows.
The hidden truth is that you are, in essence, magnificent, perfectly whole, and radiantly fine in this moment. You are incredibly capable and purposeful in this moment (and will be in the one that comes after, and the one that comes after that), and the one thing to be aware and cautious of is your own thinking.
Now, when I feel fear creeping up, I make a concerted effort to observe what is present within me at that particular moment. What is it exactly that is feeling threatened? What part of me is rushing to fix and to solve and to manipulate and to change what is going on? Is there something in me that feels I need to take or avoid action?
And as small as it may sound, the first thing I do is to remind myself to breathe. In these moments, I often find my shoulders tensed up around my ears and my breathing artificial and shallow. I take stock of my physical body, and address what needs my focused attention and self-care. I assess my spiritual standing. Have I gotten quiet today? Have I connected in prayer and meditation? Have I been outside? Have I spent time with my loved ones or pets? Have I cultivated gratitude and acceptance today? There are many methods in which to get centered in the present moment, but these are just a few that work for me.
After this, I look at the evidence. I look at the facts. I take the emotion out of the equation and look at reality. If there is fear because I am frightened to take action, I am now able to move forward (if I still feel moving forward is appropriate), fear be damned. I am now able to see the fear for what it is – the façade of an inescapable enclosure forever tightening in on me, and although it may now, still feel pressing, I have enough experience to know it is a shadow dancer and nothing more. So many of my blessings have arisen from taking action IN SPITE of the fear. So many miracles have come from ACTION in the MIDST OF my fear (not in the absence).
If I am still uncertain how to proceed, I acknowledge and celebrate that as well. There are times when after considering the facts, the guidance and counsel of others, and my own spiritual compass, not doing something can be just as powerful and, often times, more difficult than taking action. Because, deep down inside, if I have made my decision based on an awake consciousness and spirit, then there has been a miracle within; growth is always borne from awareness.
At the end of the day, I am tired of feeding these fears. I refuse to engage with these phantom bullies that I help to sustain. Life is too precious to waste one more second in a solo-war. I have yet to perfect confronting my fears head-on, but I have seen the value of even the minimal result of waking up to my fears and self-constructed prisons and doing something different than I have in the past, And this incalculable value is the very essence of change.
I read something recently that struck me: ” It’s not that we fear the unknown. You cannot fear something you do not know. Nobody is afraid of the unknown. What you really fear is the loss of the known. That’s what you fear.”-Anthony De Mello.
Are you clinging to anything? Are you clinging to the familiar, the old, the comfortable? We find a certain safety and satisfaction in the similar and predictable. I think it is normal, a human trait even, to cling to that which we can define with our eyes closed. We are all guilty of this passive acceptance. This is the predicament of our human nature. The result is a resistance to change; a resistance which is inherently limiting and stagnant.
Why do we stay stuck? Why do we stay in place? Why do we cling to mediocrity? I don’t refer to mediocrity regarding wealth, prestige, or power, but I mean the mediocrity of denying your very BEING. I mean the mediocrity of denying your inherent worth as someone who is breathing. I mean the mediocrity of stifling your purpose, your ideals, and your visions with the negative inner comments you utter: “could never happen,” “I’m not good enough,” “not smart enough,” “not fill in the blank enough.”
Why does our negativity speak louder than the voice we hear inside commanding us to “Move! Do something. Assert your consciousness!” Don’t you see that the simple vow to do, to move, to assert is enough to suffocate the mediocrity and shine light on what is really there? Don’t you see that it is not the final moment, the final goal that defines the purpose, but it is the transformation that is elicited by the doing and the becoming? Don’t you see the joy and bliss that can be found in the very discovery of your unknown destination? Don’t you see the lure of taking action for the love of the transformation itself?
I do not speak of a desire to be famous, to be known to the outside world, or to leave one’s “mark” here or there. I do not speak of those types of aims, for they have absolutely nothing to do with this conversation. But I speak of the much grander purpose to permit ourselves to seize the opportunity to express our unique authenticity and purpose. When we live our purpose, it is impossible NOT to be great, to be known, to leave our most real mark. As long as we try to go out into the day being the person we want to be, open to the possibilities, and really seeking to “do” the things which allow the inherent joy and wonder within to be seen, then we can start to make decisions and effect changes that are in line with this principle.
What types of things are you avoiding? What types of things seem too far away, too risky, too “never going to happen?” Are you ready to re-evaluate? Or, are you still looking for the things that connect you to your most inner resourcefulness and joy? Are you open to what these things might be? Either way, you are in one place and what calls to you right now seems out of reach. What can you do today to start on this trek? Even the smallest possible notion to action is brilliant, magnificent, and necessary. A beginning is still the most fierce of actions, as everything stems from this energy. Give yourself this gift today.
Do. One. Small. Thing.
You will be astonished at the power that results from the shift in your consciousness.
Eckhart Tolle states “Remember that your perception of the world is a reflection of your state of consciousness. You are not separate from it, and there is no objective world out there. Every moment, your consciousness creates the world that you inhabit. One of the greatest insights that has come out of modern physics is that of the unity between the observer and the observed: the person conducting the experiment –the observing consciousness-cannot be separated from the observed phenomena, and a different way of looking causes the observed phenomena to behave differently.”
What this says to me, is that by doing something small to elicit your purpose, your actual consciousness, how you interpret and view what comes next, will change. Instead of allowing fear by this statement, how about conjuring up excitement or anticipation? After all, what could be more thrilling than to be a conscious witness to your most magnificent life? What greater motivation, what greater gift, could you possibly give yourself than the gift of your life?