We will never succeed at changing ourselves by trying to change ourselves directly. We must do it indirectly. By indirectly means merely watching our anger instead of trying to rid ourselves of it, because attempts to aggressively change ourselves into something we wish ourselves to be results in faking ourselves out.
It works like this; we say that we will no longer be controlled by our anger. “There, that’s settled, I don’t have to worry about my anger any longer. " Until, of course, someone disrespects us in some way. We had conveniently “solved" our problem by trying to kill it rather than understand it, and this doesn’t work; it doesn’t work with relationships, and it certainly doesn’t work with personal problems.
Maybe you have been trying to control your anger for some time, realizing how anger can have long-term consequences; not only for yourself but also for everyone you love. And perhaps you have become quite familiar with your anger and how it works, aware of the physical sensations — the rising blood pressure, the flurry of thoughts, the extreme desire to react — but have you been quick enough to see how anger cannot arise without the process of thought; without thinking?
It seems as though the anger arises spontaneously, but it doesn’t. Fear arises spontaneously. Then fear, accompanied by thought, changes into anger. For anger to arise, we must think about the situating, even if only for a moment. Then the anger, now fed with thoughts, moves into action. Anger is what you are in that moment; you are not angry, anger is all of you. This is a fact, and cannot be denied. Do not deceive yourself by thinking that it is otherwise, that you are better than that, or that becoming angry was only a slip-up.
Anger is the crux of it, and by an objective observation of the raw fear that precedes anger, you leave yourself no choice but to surrender to what you are about to become. No excuses. An angry person is a very fearful person, and that’s okay. We are all fearful at times; we just react differently.
When we begin to understand our anger, when we embrace our anger, we begin to embrace ourselves. Until we accept anger for what it is, we will never love ourselves; and until we can love ourselves, we will never truly love another. Humility is the result of seeing anger not as a part of you, but as you. Only then can you surrender to the undeniable fact of what you are. There is no “you" standing apart from the anger. There is no “you’ standing apart from anything.
We are now talking about changing deep-seated tendencies. This is not the same as changing yourself from a student to a skilled physician by studying in school. You will be studying your “self, " and will be able to see clearly the difference between ambition, on one hand, and doing only what needs to be done, on the other. Ambition and aggressiveness must eventually surrender to peace if anger is to be overcome, and all acceptance is the doorway to peace. You must realize and accept what you are before you can change what you are, otherwise, you will be in a constant state of denial, and no progress will ever be made.
The root cause of anger, and all of our problems, is fear. Until fear is understood, anger will be difficult to control. We are fearful about our image of ourselves. We have built up our image and when someone disrespects it, we become very fearful, insecure, and afraid that our supposed power is diminished. This is all illusion; this is a psychological construction of the mind. We trick ourselves.
If you are serious about these things, if you want to understand the tricks, you must work on your mind to strengthen its powers of observation. To see into yourself, into your very soul, to know all the things that cause so many problems, you must train your mind to observe without yourself in the way. This takes a real combatant to pull off – the cool awareness of seasoned warrior. A calm mind is never fearful.
Anger Mismanagement Copyright © E. Raymond Rock 2006.
E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is cofounder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center. His twenty-eight years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents, including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk. His book, A Year to Enlightenment (Career Press/New Page Books) is now available at major bookstores and online retailers.