Sunday, April 19, 2009

Anger Management

I've gotten some interesting comments on the Anger Magitude post, and I'm thankful to everyone for their comments. They are constructive and helpful.

I'm going to continue to Work with Mars on eliminating my anger issues. I've had similar issues in the past, and Martial work eliminated the symptoms, and I was fine for a while. When the triggers manifest again though, the path of least resistance is rage.

The point for me is to Work with Mars until everything that is anger-related is so pure that there is no room for unrighteous wrath.

The thing is though, "unrighteous" implies that there is a "righteous" wrath. In the Bible, Paul writes, "in your anger, sin not," saying that anger itself isn't a sin, it's the things you do when you're angry that can be sinful.

In the modern Western world, the same general approach is taken. Scientists and Psychologists are quick to point out that Anger is a Survival Mechanism(tm), and that the released hormones help us in the fight or flight response. Her's a sample definition of Anger from angermgmt.com:
Anger is a natural human emotion and is nature's way of empowering us to "ward off" our perception of an attack or threat to our well being.
Check the people they show on the web site. Five people, black woman, white guy, black guy, oriental guy, and a white woman, all smiling, relaxed, and dressed business professional. Obviously EVERY successful person, regardless of race or gender, knows the secrets on this page, right?

Because we accept Anger as a natural force, a natural reaction in our modern culture, the types of techniques for managing anger treat the symptoms. From a Christian Counseling page:
  • Consciously determine to be calm. Don't react, think! Remember your goals and respond appropriately. Choose to remain calm!
  • Communicate. When someone upsets you, tell them. Calmly talk to them about how you feel about their words or actions. Learn to express yourself better -- clear and composed. Choose to!
  • Remove yourself from the scene until you can respond without anger.Your success will not happen overnight. Take it one step at a time, one day at a time. Remember to relax. Relaxation exercises or music can be helpful. Keep in mind you can reach out to someone you trust for help. Choose to!
  • Frequently take time for yourself. Do something you enjoy like walking in the park, swimming, reading the Bible, or seeing a feel-good movie. Do something nice for someone you admire. It's okay to feel good about yourself. Choose to!
  • Look for the positives. Don't dwell on the negatives. "Don't sweat the small stuff." Learn to be forgiving. This is difficult, but we need to start by learning to forgive ourselves!
Similar stuff can be found in different words below:
My favorite is the "Using Humor" part of the last site above. "Picture yourself a God or Goddess; the idea that you could be such a thing is so FUNNY you won't be angry..." Yeah right, he don't know magicians very well, do he?

But anyway, the basic point of each is summed up in this statement:
The goal of anger management is to reduce both your emotional feelings and the physiological arousal that anger causes. You can't get rid of, or avoid, the things or the people that enrage you, nor can you change them, but you can learn to control your reactions.

Meanwhile in the Buddhist Orient, there's another interpretation. The very definition of Anger in Buddhist is completely different and presupposes a universal view that is so radically different from the modern West's view of the Mind that there is no easy reconciliation:
Anger is a deluded mind that focuses on an animate or inanimate object, feels it to be unattractive, exaggerates its bad qualities, and wishes to harm it.
That's from the "Anger Management Techniques.org" web site. As you can see, the fundamental approach is different. A deluded mind. Here they teach that the source of anger is something else too:
Anger is a response to feelings of unhappiness, which in turn arise whenever we meet with unpleasant circumstances. Whenever we are prevented from fulfilling our wishes, or forced into a situation we dislike – in short, whenever we have to put up with something we would rather avoid – our uncontrolled mind reacts by immediately feeling unhappy.
Ok, honestly, the West has understood that part pretty well too. They're like, it's pride, dude, self-centered, narcissistic pride that leads to anger. How could something like THIS happen to ME!!!?

Anyway, still, neat stuff.
The other main reason we become unhappy and angry is because we are faced with a situation we do not want or like. Every day we encounter hundreds of situations we do not like, from stubbing our toe or having a disagreement with our partner, to discovering that our house has burnt down or that we have cancer; and our normal reaction to all of these occurrences is to become unhappy and angry. However, try as we might, we cannot prevent unpleasant things happening to us. We cannot promise that for the rest of the day nothing bad will happen to us; we cannot even promise that we shall be alive to see the end of the day. In samsara we are not in control of what happens to us. (Emphasis added by RO.)
So how does the Buddhist deal with anger? What are their anger management techniques? Let me tell you, they are a lot different than the ones listed above from Western sources. Lots of my free-will believing readers are going to puke at the thought of what's about to come, but to this neo-Calvinist, it was pure honey:
Since it is impossible to fulfil all our desires or to stop unwanted things happening to us, we need to find a different way of relating to frustrated desires and unwanted occurrences. We need to learn patient acceptance.(From here.)
WHOAH! How many people read that and were like, "Fuck that!"? PAtient Acceptance of shit that pisses ME off?

It gets worse:
In reality most of our emotional problems are nothing more than a failure to accept things as they are – in which case it is patient acceptance, rather than attempting to change externals, that is the solution.
Yep. You see, they aren't justifying anger as a natural response, instead they are placing the entire responsibility for your reaction to events you don't like squarely on YOU. Because you're a big baby who can't take reality without throwing a temper tantrum.

They understand what we're trying to grasp in the Great Work, that it's MIND that forms reality, and everything else is symbolic. Cool stuff. I highly recommend reading every page on that Buddhist site. It's much more in alignment with the teaching of the Corpus Hermeticum, and the teachings of Christ (not Paul). It doesn't advcocate doing nothing or not taking pragmatic steps to get out of bad situations either, it's not stupid.

So making it a bit more personal, the reason I'm hooked on anger is because I made room for it. I use it as a way to filter out things that I would need to Work on, that is, I use it so I don't have to patiently accept what I have to deal with in samsara, the manifest world.The Buddhist perspective offers a way out of the cycle. The Western methods offer bandaid solutions, treatments of symptoms. The Buddhist solution is much more in keeping with Hermetic values. The modern Western methods are not.To me, it seems like a simple choice.