Anger, Revisited

“Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” – Buddha

I had seen this quote before a long time ago and it really spoke to me. I had been holding anger against so many people, situations and just angry in general. There was no other emotion that made me feel so alive, humming with emotion and intensity. Anger is like battery acid, eating away at anything it comes into contact with and it wasn’t long before it began to eat away at my self-esteem, my outlook on life and how I dealt with the world in general. I was like a walking furnace of rage, radiating negative energy all around me. People instinctively pulled away from me, as if they knew that getting too close would be harmful to their well-being.

Anger has a seductive pull to me, the absolute power of it. It made me feel as though I could fight the world and win. I could blaze a path through a crowd, scare the Hell out of any fool who had mistaken belief that they could make me feel better. But, at some point, the anger turns inward and the acid eats away at me. I had managed to wound myself seriously, push away all those who care about me and put myself in a position of great unhappiness. This would be the time I would go out and drink until I blacked out, trying to numb myself to the entombing sadness and utter aloneness of it all. The unhealthy behaviors gladly jump to the forefront of my consciousness when I’m weak and vulnerable and before I knew it, things had gone from bad to worse.

It has taken me a great deal of time and not a small amount of introspection to fully understand where this anger came from and why I felt justified in blaming others. More importantly, how to undo or heal from the anger I’ve inflicted on myself. It’s very easy to blame others for my feelings and my failings and oh so difficult to turn that critical eye inward. Accepting responsibility for my choices, my thoughts, and my actions is the only way that I believe I’ll ever find a measure of peace, much less happiness. Forgiving myself, loving myself and learning from those unhealthy behaviors are the tools by which I’ll heal and grow in a healthy, honest way.

I recognize that a lifetime of behavior cannot be undone in one day and that I will more than likely spend the rest of my life adjusting my thoughts, pulling back the reins on my anger and finding healthy ways to cope with the consequences of my actions that are not self-destructive or destructive to those around me. I believe that anger comes from a place of powerlessness, of feeling as though fighting back is the only option. I no longer believe that I am powerless; I know that I have no power over others’ actions, but I do have power over how I respond to them. Rather than judge them, I need to have compassion and understand that they are driven by things that I cannot see nor can I understand. But just like me, they are doing the best they can with what demons and doubts they carry with them. It’s hard work, though. The force of anger is always right on the surface, while forgiveness, compassion and understanding are further down and take effort to access.

I cannot expect things to change if I continue to follow the old behaviors and thought processes. I am no longer the victim, the wounded child or the misunderstood manic-depressive. I am just me, a child of the Universe searching for my destiny and my own self-realization. The people I meet along the way are on their own journey and when our paths cross, I believe we each give something to the other. My gift will no longer be red-hot, scalding, soul-killing anger; I have many gifts to offer that are healing, understanding and loving. I will do my best to change my default setting to gratitude, empty the gun that fires the bullets of rage and put that beast to bed, once and for all.



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