Ask Parvati 16: Anger As An Ally, Part 1: Knowing What You Feel Gives You Power

BY Parvati

Dear friends,
Thank you for reading this blog. This week, I’m going to try something different. Rather than posting one long blog entry to answer the week’s question, I am going to post shorter entries daily throughout the week. Each entry will explore one facet of the question, and build on what has already been posted. By the end of the week, I hope you will have a more comprehensive view of the question. I will provide specific tips you can implement in your life, as well as a broader understanding of the topic.
This week’s blog entries will explore the yoga of dealing with anger.
Let’s see how this goes. Enjoy!
Dear Parvati,
I used to think I was pretty easy going until I started to notice that I can get really irritated with people, even get angry and blow up. I have tried to get a handle on why I get angry, but can’t seem to get to the bottom of my negative emotions. I know I am not supposed to feel so angry, but I do. Do you have any words on what to do with anger?
It sounds like a healthy first step to know that you are feeling angry and that you want to do something more creative with that energy than blow up. Too often we take out unresolved emotions on those around us, usually on those we love the most, instead of having the courage to go deeper and understand the root of what we really feel. The first thing I would do is to pat yourself on the back for understanding that you have a problem and that you want change. Yes!
I don’t know if I agree with the use of the term “negative” emotion. I know it is commonly used, but the word does not resonate for me. I prefer saying “painful” emotions. Is that not more accurate? We call an emotion negative because it hurts.
Because of the pain certain emotions create, we to try to push them away and judge them as bad. The problem with that is when we judge, we feel separate from the thing we are judging. To feel separate creates a push/pull dynamic within us that perpetuates suffering. So to judge the emotion as negative weakens our ability to learn from it and be present in the moment.
All emotions offer us intelligent information and a greater opportunity to act with discernment. For example, we may feel irritated by a noise in our environment. Perhaps our roommate is watching TV and we are trying to sleep. We may not care at first about the noise, but as it continues, we begin to feel annoyed.
Feeling irritated by the noisy TV tells us that we value our rest and that we prefer doing so in silence. It may also signal that we don’t yet have good communication with our roommate and that we need to spend more time working towards greater understanding. Or it may be letting us know that this roommate may not be appropriate for us and we may need to change our living arrangement.
When we reactively direct anger towards something we don’t like, we cause harm to ourselves and to others. As the Buddha says, “You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.” Anger does not feel good for anyone. But when we look more deeply into the anger, behind the heat, beyond the knee-jerk reaction to attack, we find a gem there: a guardian of our truth that can keep us honest and on our path. The wisdom found there within can motivate change, help us hold healthy boundaries and provide a safe space for us to grow and evolve.
By noticing what we are truly feeling, we understand ourselves better. In understanding ourselves better, we can act with greater clarity so that we may take better care of our needs and feel happier, more fulfilled. When we take better care of ourselves, we can participate with greater balanced joy in the world. When we respect ourselves, we are more likely to be kind and respectful of others.