Almost everyone I speak to about their life describes their anger to some extent:
- Anger at a spouse
- Anger at children
- Anger at a boss or co-worker
- Anger at the many injustices of everyday life: traffic, illness, neighbors, and more.
I tend to ask them certain questions with some regularity, although not uniformly:
- Do you feel closer to the people you feel angry at?
- Do you feel happier yourself when you’re angry?
- What was your exposure to anger as a child?
- Did you like it when people were angry at you as a child?
- Do you like people to be angry at you now?
Usually it’s not long before people conclude that anger is not benefitting their lives, and then we begin the process of introducing them to what it’s like to feel loved and loving, and how they can make choices in the moment away from anger and toward loving.
The other day a woman called me, and with considerable excitement in her voice said, “I’m free!! No kidding, you wouldn’t believe it!”
“Free from what?” I asked, aware that she had not been finishing a prison sentence.
“I just feel stronger. Like I can do anything. It used to be that something was always ‘making me’ angry, so I was unhappy all the time. But now I can choose to be loving. Can you believe I’m saying that word? I can CHOOSE to see people and accept them, despite having all the usual perfectly ‘good’ reasons for being angry at them. Anger was a way of living for me, and now that I’ve lost it, I feel like I’ve been let out of prison. It’s a pretty great feeling.”
“Everything you say about anger and prison and freedom is true, so I’m very happy for you. It really is like a new world when anger doesn’t control you all the time.”
No matter how beautifully you paint a canvas with a vibrant multiplicity of colors, it’s all wiped out with a single layer of black paint. Black overwhelms everything else, in a way similar to the effect of fear and anger on all the beautiful feelings possible in life. Once we have become seduced by anger, and it fills our soul, there is no room for peace, love, or happiness. Anger is black and creates a black prison where no other colors or feelings are possible.
The obvious next question is, Who would knowingly choose prison if freedom were available? No one, and yet we unwittingly make that terrible choice palatable by simply changing the words and perceptions in subtle ways. Time and tradition have provided us with a great many justifications for our anger, to the point that it’s almost universally accepted. So, when we get angry, we don’t think of its debilitating and imprisoning effects. No, instead we focus on our justifications, and in a blink the villainy of anger is gone. Despite our brilliant justifications, however, and our substitution of “nicer” words for anger—like irritation, annoyance, and frustration, among many others—the prison remains.
One reason we unconsciously choose anger is that it is so common that when it is “small,” it is unnoticeable in the almost universal background noise of anger everywhere we go, much as the fire of a single match is easily missed, while the forest fire that can follow within five minutes of the lighting of that match is impossible to ignore. We have talked about this before, that we must become more sensitive to the presence of anger and speak about it clearer and sooner. See the more about that here.
As we become more aware of our anger in its many guises, and as we speak of it sooner and clearer, we can make different choices, eliminating anger while it has the strength of wrapping paper, rather than the immobility of prison bars. Recognition and prompt action have great power in the elimination of so many potential dangers: poison ivy, leaking pipes, and unusual mechanical noises in our cars. It is the same with anger.
Only as we eliminate the prison of anger can we experience the freedom that follows, which is exhilarating and empowering beyond the capacity of words to describe. Regrettably, most of us have enjoyed the advantages of anger for so long—power, defense, manipulation, control, excitement—that we cannot imagine what it would be like to make a different choice. We are surrounded by its manifestations in the words and actions of others to such an extent that many of us see anger as simply an automatic and utterly unavoidable response to difficulties.
I promise you that as you immerse yourself in the principles of truth, and in finding and sharing love with others, you will grow in your ability to recognize anger and avoid its snares. Once you know this freedom, as the happy woman described earlier, you quickly lose your automatic angry reaction to nearly everything. Anger becomes distasteful and ugly, while freedom becomes a way of living.
Make a decision right now to ignore the roar of the crowd as they complain, criticize, and attack everything they don’t like. Simply experiment with understanding and accepting people, and you will never go back. The price of accepting the standards of the world about anger is far too deadly to tolerate.
No longer settle for reacting. Instead learn to choose and enjoy the freedom that accompanies it.
Replace your anger and confusion with peace and happiness.
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