Peter Ralston in The Book of Not Knowing
Recall some time when you were clearly angry. Concentrate on this feeling. What is necessary for the anger to be there, what is it doing, what is it accomplishing? Dissect this emotion for yourself and see if you can come up with the components of anger.
Following the same investigative techniques used for fear, we discover that in contrast to fear’s relationship with the future, anger exists in relation to the past. It is historically based. Just as fear can be relating to the next millisecond or days from now, anger can relate to something that occurred a fraction of a second ago, or many years ago. But it is always about the past. Someone keyed your new car, leaving a scratch. It has already happened, and now you’re angry. Your boss admonished you in front of coworkers, and you’re seething inside. It happened already. You’re not afraid, because it’s not something that might happen. You’re angry, because it did happen. And it hurt.
Anger is always based on hurt. Some form of hurt or pain is a component of anger. As with fear, in anger there is always something resisted, not accepted. Given that this experience has already taken place, its rejection shows up as hurt. Conventionally this is rarely noticed. People go right to anger and never get that it is based on the fact that they are feeling hurt. Perhaps one of the main functions of an anger-reaction involves ignoring or avoiding the hurt. Try an experiment: find something to be angry about. Now stop being angry and feel the hurt that the activity of anger wants to correct or eliminate. See if you can feel the hurt and yet still be angry. Why would you be angry? You are already feeling the hurt; what good would anger do? It seems that one of the functions of the anger is to avoid acknowledging the feeling of hurt. What is the hurt about?
Once again, recall a time when you were angry. Try to feel the anger presently. Now, what thoughts preceded and accompanied this anger? What is the thought or statement that the anger is expressing? What underlies that? See if you can use your skills at contemplation to unearth the bottom line of this anger. What is it?
Beneath the hurt, you will find some sense of feeling incapable or unworthy in a very fundamental way. This component is not always easy to grasp, but a sense of something I’m calling incapacity is taking place. Imagine that you are completely capable in relation to what’s happened. Someone dents your car and you can magically remove the dent and restore it to its former beauty. Angry? Probably not. If you could correct what went wrong, without pain, why be angry? Of course, sometimes things go wrong, or bad things happen, and we aren’t angry. We might be depressed, or sad, or flippant, or embarrassed, but not angry. So why are we angry when we are angry?
Anger, like all emotions, serves self- survival. How does it serve our survival in this case? Obviously something has occurred that you don’t want to be the case, and you feel incapable of having it simply or easily be the way you want. Something or someone has impeded your will, your plans, your self. And somewhere in there you feeling capable of having reality be the way that you want—whatever is seen as serving your self. A personal deficiency has been demonstrated to you by some action or event that has brought to the fore a sense of incapacity that’s normally buried deep within your psyche.
Deep down you are unsure of your capacity to live life. How could it be any other way? You don’t know what life is, how you came to be, or that your survival is guaranteed. This deep sense of incapacity is drawn to the surface to some degree by a given circumstance. You want this circumstance to be another way, and you feel incapable of having it be that way—especially since it has already happened. This event can be about what someone has said or done, what you have said or done, or a circumstance that has occurred—it simply needs to bring up a sense of incapacity, which is resisted and so is painful. You’d like to set things right. You want to get rid of this sense of incapacity and the resultant hurt produced by the event that has occurred.
So how does anger help? Where are the feelings of anger directed? What would they like to bring about? With anger we feel we are now taking some sort of action, at least internally. What is the purpose of this action? Anger is an attempt to feel capable, to restore a sense of capacity to one’s self. At least the sense of being fundamentally incapable of life can be returned to its buried place in one’s psyche.
Usually we harbor some thoughts and feelings about proving ourselves to be capable—like beating up a bully, doing damage to the boss, or hurting ourselves. The component needed is simply action that demonstrates capability, and what is the easiest way to demonstrate capability? Destroy something. Creating something would work, of course, but creating is much too hard and usually takes too long, and also holds the possibility of failure (revealing our incapacity once again) way too much. Destruction can be immediate, and is the easiest thing to do. It’s negatively based, like the feeling of hurt, but produces a result that feels positive: the sense of capacity. Obviously these destructive thoughts, feelings, or actions are often directed at a particular reality that you don’t want, but are also frequently directed elsewhere. The drive is to restore a sense of capacity.
Everyone knows how to destroy and feels capable of doing it. Crush a flower, kick over a chair, toss the chess game from the table, throw mud at a clean dress, create pain in your or someone else’s body, take something of value from someone, say something hurtful, and so forth. There are many ways to express anger, some extremely devious and subtle, but they all have in common trying to salvage the self’s sense of capacity, and the most common avenue by far is a destructive course. It could simply be giving someone an angry look, or having destructive thoughts or fantasies, yet the immediate effect is feeling capable of something, feeling or imagining oneself as having some power. Of course if these attempts fail, one is likely to be sent into frustration and despair. But destroying is easy, so failure isn’t likely—especially if it is only acted out in your imagination.
As with fear, four components seem to compose anger. Remember, these elements need to be seen as occurring in the anger itself, not as causing or contributing to the anger.
• About something that has passed
• Based on a feeling of hurt
• Revealing a core sense of incapacity
• Regenerating a sense of capacity through a destructive intent or feeling-reaction
Once again, eliminating any component of anger will eliminate the anger. If there is no concept of the past, there is no anger. If your experience is totally in the present, anger cannot exist. But remember, this means being present moment to moment, and the possibility of conceptualizing the past can include mind activity not easily recognized, so anger can be fuming in some form beneath the surface.
In such a case, the “bottom-line” work we did earlier is necessary to uncover and let go of the uncognized aspect of mind that remains locked in repeating past pain. Completely let go of whatever has passed, and you can’t generate anger.
Likewise, if you do not create hurt or pain about something, you cannot be angry. Hurt can be difficult to avoid, but it doesn’t have to lead to anger. Turn your attention fully onto the presence of the pain rather than trying to avoid it or do something about it, and you will interrupt the activity of anger. When the pain is fully experienced without resistance, there is no need to create anger. Further, if you can become conscious of the core feeling of incapacity that founds the anger and transcend this self-mind disposition, you won’t need action (internal or external) to restore a sense of capacity, and so there will be no anger. However you go about it, if you interrupt or eliminate any of the components that make up the activity of anger, you will free yourself from anger.
You can do this kind of investigation on all emotions, but I’ll leave that to your personal contemplation. What’s most important, however, isn’t just learning how to interrupt an emotion, but to understand experientially what emotions are and how they are created, thus changing your relationship to this dominating feature of self. By increasing the depth of your consciousness and sensitivity to what your self-mind is doing in this area—automatically but subliminally—you develop a clearer and more responsible experience of the activity of your own self.
Now let’s look at two very deep core impulses that are the foundation for most of our emotional reactions and survival perceptions. These are desire and pain. Certainly the opposite of desire is repulsion, or perhaps indifference, and the opposite of pain is pleasure. But these opposites are tacitly included in the activity itself and share the same nature. So by uncovering the composition of these two important impulses we uncover so much more. I want to focus on the most primary feeling states that drive us, and we are clearly driven by desire and pain.
The impulse or drive to pursue pleasure, comfort, or good experiences is called desire, while pain is what provides the impulse to move away from anything deemed a bad experience. These are fundamental elements for self-survival. Attraction and repulsion, positive and negative, are key to determining value and threat, and so are essential for determining how to “be” in relation to what’s perceived.
We know that as a circumstance is being interpreted, the self requires from the interpretation some type of directed motivation regarding which actions will be appropriate to take. This direction arises in the form of feeling impulses that steer our mental, emotional, and physical activities along the proper paths for self-survival. They exist to serve that purpose. Understanding their nature should bring us closer to understanding the nature of the self principle.
There is another form of anger though. It is very positive and EXTREMELY powerful. It's called "righteous anger." It's always expressed for someone's benefit. If you're expressing anger in an unproductive, self serving way, it's exactly what this article is talking about. But that "righteous anger" is a beautiful, amazing thing to see, especially when it is a selfless defense of another.
Further, if you can become conscious of the core feeling of incapacity that founds the anger and transcend this self-mind disposition, you won’t need action (internal or external) to restore a sense of capacity, and so there will be no anger. However you go about it, if you interrupt or eliminate any of the components that make up the activity of anger, you will free yourself from anger.
Yeah, this is obviously not "in the moment anger." As men, I think that we all have a lot of buried anger. Its such a useless and destructive emotion. It covers up the reality of the situation at hand. But as kids we were taught to be "a man" and not to cry, not to feel sad, no to feel this, not to do this, men dont say that, men dont do that...etc....so that fucking pissed us off as kids and alot of the situations where we get angry now are only reflections of our pasts...but freeing ourselves from this anger definitely means just understanding that underneath we feel hurt and to open ourselves up to that is to go against basically everything that we have been taught. Just look at your father and you will see what I mean, lol.
Yeah FOR SURE! There's a huge dif between anger that is a response to a feeling of "inadequacy" and "incompetency" VS anger that is right. What I'm trying to get across is, anger isn't bad by itself. Sometimes it is appropriate. It can smash through barriers and destroy bad habits, and WAKE PEOPLE THE FUCK UP. Especially with you guys who follow Tolle, you mistake what he's saying, believing you have to be "serene" at all times... That's stupid.
I've had times where I've had people threaten the wellbeing of my other customers... basically saying, "Well, you're a business and you HAVE to serve me, no matter what." ...HOLY GAWD, get ready for THE FURY. It's like, "Your stupid ass sense of entitlement and being used to having other businesses kiss your ass for money makes you think you can act like that."
I for sure don't show them my "serene side." There's an integrity issue here.