Is Anger Hindering Our Recovery?
One of the murkiest realms of the human psyche is found in the emotional spectrum of volatile feelings like anger and resentment. These feelings often fuel acts of violence that fracture the harmony of families, communities, and society at large. Much like the element of fire, there is obviously a potential for danger within their make-up. But are the feelings themselves to blame, or is it rather a lack of conscious direction that causes the trouble?
In the Big Book of AA, it’s written: “If we were to live, we had to be free of anger. The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may be the dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcoholics these things are poison.” Here, AA is advocating a type of emotional lobotomy—a kind of surgical removal of an emotion in the hopes of preventing destructive consequences. Once again, the “alcoholic” is portrayed as intrinsically defective and therefore in need of re-programming. While the intention to pacify an angry alcoholic may be noble, the results are not easily achievable or even wholesome. In the same way that red is a distinct part of the rainbow, anger is part of the human palette of emotional color. Its intensity will wax and wane depending on individual personalities, but to remove the hue of anger completely is not realistic. However, what is realistic is to direct the anger that arises to our chosen ideal:
For example, let's suppose we are stuck in a traffic jam, and are late for an appointment. The longer we are stuck, the more our emotions may tend to rise about our increasing lateness. The knee-jerk reaction in this case may be to lean on the horn and curse out the window at someone who has cut us off to gain a car-length or two in the huge mass of traffic creeping along the highway slower than a walk. On the other hand, if we have a chosen ideal for our spiritual evolution that is becoming strong in us, we will be able to take the emotional energy rising in us due to the traffic and lateness and transform it to cry for our spiritual evolution. Instead of honking and yelling at the driver who has cut us off, we complain to the divine about our slow progress toward enlightenment. "Oh Lord, my journey to realization of Thee is going so slowly!" Yes, complaining with heart-felt emotion to God (however we may conceive Him/Her/It) can be very productive, as long as we are willing to act to resolve what it is we are complaining about. Our frustration about being stuck and late in traffic can be easily redirected to be frustration for being stuck and late on our spiritual path.
Yogani has also summarized anger in simpler terms, and that is—anger is merely the result of unfulfilled desire. We want something, and we’re not getting it. Because desire is a prime ingredient for spiritual development, we can’t simply stop the impulse of wanting. However, we can change the object of our wanting. Therein lies the challenge. If we have become so habitually ingrained in desiring substances for our satisfaction (and getting angry when we don’t get them!), it will take a little work (and some visionary dreaming) to find a new object of pursuit. Fortunately, there are plenty of options to choose from.
Much of what we have been saying before now may seem to assume that everyone will be enthusiastic about their spiritual prospects, have a clear chosen ideal, and be moving along in converting all their emotional energy at a good pace. Of course this is not going to be the case for everyone all the time. But we know that everyone has an emotional life, even if that is being expressed as an inclination to not be enthusiastic or excited about anything. Those who are conspicuously disinterested or running away from life will have their emotional energy invested in that disinterest and running away, and that energy can be transformed to serve an ideal, whatever that ideal may be. The ideal does not have to be flashy, or even obvious. It may be as modest as making the time to meditate twice daily, which is not a small thing at all. It surely will lead to openings, and the bhakti will expand along with it. The main thing is to understand that every feeling we have can be applied in a direction that we choose. The energy we may be expending to run away in fear or guilt is of equal value in bhakti as the energy we may be expending for seeking the divine. Whether our negative or positive emotions are invisible or very intense and expressed outwardly, we can use them all for a chosen higher purpose our enlightenment. Consider the possibility of your infinite nature, and embrace it with feeling. You will not regret it.
We can crave and be angry for a permanent condition of vibrant serenity, not just for ourselves, but for everyone. We can use the intensity of our rage and transmute its rawness into a more refined vibration. We can honor every color in our rainbow spectrum, and let the colors elevate us to become divine expressions of radiance, luminescence, and stillness in action.