We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves. The Dalai Lama
I saw an explosive interaction between a customer and a cashier recently that got me thinking about anger. It quickly escalated as they shouted about the other being disrespectful. Neither one of them were able to self-regulate. As I watched helplessly, as other employees intervened and separated them, I knew that their reactions were pointing to something else, something much deeper. Having no way to express their tender vulnerability, they discharged their pain onto each other, and it was a wrecking ball of destructive speech.
We have seen an uptick in incivility recently and the behaviors of others can impact our wellbeing. Anger used to be a fuel source for me, and I know it well. This tiny primer on anger may help all of us act with more wisdom and kindness to our fellow humans.
Anger is a valid and informative stress response. What makes it tricky is that it is a response to something else. It can stem from a sense of powerlessness or feel protective or protecting. It can mask feelings that are harder to feel such as insecurity, fear, or rejection because anger helps avoid vulnerability. It shifts the focus from self to other. This masking effect of anger limits our ability to stay calm and act wisely. Anger can point to something else, deeper in us that we care about. If we look and follow it to its source, it can shed light on what inside of us is being harmed. David Whyte has said, “Anger is the purest form of care. “
We can all meet anger with more skill- explore in your mind what might be burning underneath. Look inside yourself first because an activated person cannot regulate an activated person. Know that when we are angry, we feel threatened (real or perceived). Meeting anger with anger is never helpful. The beginning of wisdom is finding the right name for things. Name your own reactivity and name your own anger. Anger illuminates something within us that we really care about.
Lady Gaga with The Dalai Lama on Relentless Kindness
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Stay Well, Eileen