Burning Desire, Mariko Mori
Anger appears as a faint buzz in the back of my brain, a mild irritation, a barely noticeable ticking noise growing louder. A high pitched detonator inside my brain. Me, me, me. Hate, hate, hate. Instead of becoming aware and calming down, the charge goes off, I lose it and fly off the handle into blind rage.
It comes on unexpectedly, sneaks up on me like a ninja and before I know it I am in the midst of it, burning, blinded by the heat, a destructive tornado of fire. I am pushing it and pushing it and I just can not stop. I catch myself within 10 minutes or so but for me, this is too long to be unaware.
Oh God, I hate it. So many years of practice, reading, journaling, reflecting, meditating, chanting, shadow work, plant medicines even, and I am still the same angry person who flies into fits of rage just like her father used to. I am an angry Buddhist. A phony holy. A fake.
Self-pity and self-victimhood aside, my curiosity takes over. Why is this force so strong? How does it take over me so completely? What powerful drivers are behind it? Why can I not catch myself and become aware? Why can I not stop myself on time, why am I so helpless when this happens? WHY AM I NOT BETTER THAN THIS!!!
Anger stemming from the intergenerational trauma is a plausible theory – both of my parents have serious anger/ rage (“angerage”?) issues stemming from difficult childhoods. It would explain why it is so hard to become conscious of the process. I dealt with intergenerational fears before so I am optimistic. The buck can really stop with me and I can be the one to bring our anger/ rage issues into the light. It would however mean that whatever work I have to do will be several times harder.
Another possible explanation is biochemical – PMS may be getting worse with ageing and hormonal imbalance may be causing anger/ rage. There is even an associated disorder PMDD that I understand a few women suffer from. I may be perimenopausal – yep, apparently menopause starts with a perimenopause spanning a decade of a woman’s life. Are we ever out of hormonal tornadoes?
And I could have low serotonin (it is always serotonin when mental states are involved). Of course serotonin is mostly produced in the gut and my gut has never been 100% which by the way is inherited.
Solutions for a hormonal tornado (I gave up on serotonin) include vitamins, iron supplements, antidepressants in extreme cases or plant medicine microdosing, for example with psilocybin. I do watch my iron and I have acquired vitamins from The Vegan Society, I have a couple of friends who microdose mushrooms but I don’t yet have the balls or resources to try it.
I am called to dig deeper, beyond chemistry and parent blaming. Buddhist perspective always helps and in Buddhism, anger is one of the three poisons causing suffering, the other two are greed and ignorance. “Attachment and anger are two sides of the same coin,” reminds Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche.
“Because of ignorance, and the mind’s split into object-subject duality, we grasp at or push away what we perceive as external to us. When we encounter something we want and can’t get, or someone prevents us from achieving what we’ve told ourselves we must achieve, or something happens that doesn’t accord with the way we want things to be, we experience anger, aversion, or hatred. But these responses serve no benefit. They only cause harm. From anger, along with attachment and ignorance, the three poisons of the mind, we generate endless karma, endless suffering.” — Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, Putting Down the Arrow
Anger as attachment. Anger as aversion. I remember reading in another Buddhist article that anger is also a teacher. It is there to teach me something. Perhaps what I am attached to? Or what I am trying to avoid?
I try to think of what triggers me and it is nothing in particular, someone doing something not the way I expect them to. This is righteousness in action. Or me not being happy with myself or my life. Getting triggered is not about others, it is about me. The trigger/s hide something more profound, an underlying issue of some sort but the first step to getting to it is becoming aware of becoming angry when I become angry.
I tend to get anger/ rage outbursts in the week before my period. So perhaps in that week I will make sure I meditate and do yoga daily, go to bed on time, eat clean and hydrate well. When I feel the first pangs of anger, I am going to focus on catching it. I will self-isolate and do a meditation, a chanting practice, yoga or write Ram (God’s name) until I calm down. I will reflect on what I am trying to hold onto or what I am trying to avoid and use my anger as practice, as a way to look deeper and find out where it grows from, where its roots are. Digging deep, with curiosity.
“Then when anger arises, instead of responding immediately, we can look back on it and ask: “What is this? What is making me turn red and shake? Where is it?” What we discover is that there is no substance to anger, no thing to find.
Once we realize we can’t find anger, we can let the mind be. We don’t suppress the anger, push it away, or engage it. We simply let the mind rest in the midst of it. We can stay with the energy itself—simply, naturally, remaining aware of it, without attachment, without aversion. Then we find that anger, like desire, isn’t really what we thought it was. We begin to see its nature, to realize its essence, which is mirror-like wisdom.” — Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, Putting Down the Arrow
I need to be careful with the language I use when I say I am “tackling”, “dealing with” or “working on” my anger. The reason for that is the amplification effect – whatever you resist, fight, try to overcome or “work on” becomes stronger because by focusing on it you give it energy. A more effective tool to use here is acceptance, accepting anger and accepting that it is part of me and any other human (yes, even Buddhists) allows to remove energy from anger, suck out oxygen from the flame. And acceptance leads to love so loving my anger is the next natural step.
You are your anger. Your anger is you. Become aware of it as early as you can and instead of “working on it”, trying to overcome it and change it – face it, accept it, sit with it and love it instead. Be curious, study it, look at it from different angles. Accept and love the angry you. Hold her tight.
There is another possible explanation. As part of the heart (soul) opening practice I might have unleashed the inner void – one can not have the light without the shadow. You let one out and another one follows. One can not grow a lotus flower without the mud. So by aligning more with my soul on the path to light, I may have intensified my shadow and my anger also. The journey to enlightenment lies through the dark side of the soul.
The wild, destructive, untameable, dark side of you that bursts out and does not want to be controlled. It is there and it is you. And you can no longer bury it deep inside because you have opened all doors, which means the genie is out of the bottle and you need to learn to bring it into the light instead of trying to hide or change it.
The solution is always love – love your shadow (and anger as part of it). You are filling yourself with light, you are on the path toward unconditional love and that means you have to love all of you. Every bit of you. Including your shadow, including your anger.
Finally, Ram Dass would have said – let go of your anger. Let go of your anger. Put it down. This is next level. Accept your anger. Love your anger. Let go of your anger. Sit with it and learn from it. Burn in your rage, but not with it.
Catch it. Love it. Let go. This, I guess, is my new mantra. I’m putting it into practice immediately. Let’s see how it goes.