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The spiritual lessons of anger

Woman holding her head in frustration

Anger marks a boundary being violated—a boundary we might not even realize we had until someone sets off the landmine. It can be as routine as someone cutting you off in traffic or as horrific as systemic injustice.

When we’re angry, we inflame our sense of morality: the “wrong” behavior has occurred (this can be an especially sensitive trigger for those with Gate 10 in their Human Design chart). The angrier we are, the more likely we have been following the rules, the “right” behavior, and we become incensed that someone else doesn’t have to.

For example, if we diligently pay attention to the cars around us and drive with focus and sensitivity, why does someone else get to dash in front of us and nearly cause an accident? When anger burns through us, we are taking it personally because we assume everyone else should follow our rules.

Granted, traffic and safety laws exist for all of us to follow, and this topic can be especially difficult when it comes to laws. Everyone is supposed to abide by them. So, let’s talk about that inconsiderate driver who broke safety laws by cutting you off. It was wrong. Have you ever done something wrong on the road? Have you ever gone over the speed limit, even by a mile? Have you ever sped through a yellow light that turned red before you could cross the intersection? Is your driving record spotless?

This metaphor extends to all areas. If your sensitivity is around civic pride and you always dispose of your trash responsibly, yet you see detritus in the alley or litter on the sidewalk, why is it your job to clean up after other people? Why do they get to be careless while you are paying such careful attention?

Let’s say that you have never littered. Have you ever been unintentionally careless with someone else’s feelings? Have you perhaps ended a relationship in an insensitive manner? Was there an emotional fallout that you didn’t clean up?

There's a cognitive phenomenon in psychology where we judge others dispositionally and ourselves situationally. It basically means that when we do something out of alignment with our values, rules, etc., it's because we had a good reason. When someone else does it, it's because they're a bad person. This fundamental attribution error shows us where we project our guilt onto others.

A Course in Miracles talks about how there is really only one of us here. Shadow work in transpersonal pyschology explores this further by looking at our projections. What we see on the outside is what we're rejecting on the inside.

Linked to the solar plexus, our radiance is how we shine in the world, it’s our will, our center of divine light. In fact, the Sanskrit name for this chakra is Manipura, which translates to “city of jewels” (Yogapedia). When the spark of anger burns through us, our radiance is out of control. Imagine a dragon ferociously guarding its treasure trove of jewels. When someone encroaches on his territory, he breathes fire. “MINE!” he roars. He won’t let go and he won’t let anyone near.

Now, let’s imagine that same dragon peaceful and content. He loves the jewels he’s collected, they shine brilliantly and he is proud of them and his place in the world. He moves confidently because he likes who he is. When someone comes near, he is relaxed yet alert and greets them appropriately. There is no fear of loss. And if a loss were to occur, he would simply go out and search for a new jewel to replace it. Confident in his abilities and trusting that there is always enough, the dragon appreciates what he has and accepts the flow of life, knowing that there will be loss as well as gain.

How do we work with this in real life?

Start by accepting. Accept that you're going to get triggered, that people are going to tick you off, that life will seem unfair.

Then, extend compassion. Give the other person compassion and yourself for judging them. It can help to imagine a scenario that would excuse the behavior. Maybe that person rushed in front of you in traffic because there was an emergency and he's racing to the hospital. Maybe he's just having a terrible day.

Work with the feelings. Tapping is a phenomenal resource to move through the energies and release them from your body. For others, it's journaling or venting with a friend who can help you move through it (vs. wallowing or getting mired in complaining).

When you're feeling more calm, you can progress to the more difficult step. Examine yourself. Have you ever done something similar to the behavior that pushed your buttons? If not, is it because you'd really like the freedom to be that carefree, that unconcerned with what others think of you? If neither of those apply, can you imagine a scenario in which you might do that behavior? What judgements come up?

Teal Swan takes self-judgements, those hot buttons, and applies two questions: What does that mean? And, why is it bad? Keep tracing it back until you hit the root, which is likely going to be around worthiness or lovability.

Then, you've got something you can work with. Otherwise, the more you resist, the more you attract. The Universe is following your attention. If you place focus and energy on unwanted behavior, you'll attract more of it. Conversely, if you focus on compassion and release, you open up space for energy to flow and you have room to create and play.

And really, isn't that why we're all here? To expand and grow. To explore. To refine our desires. Much as it might seem easier to do that by yourself, it's our interactions with others that show us our blind spots. You can consider that as a punishment or as a loving light to guide your path.

Shine on,



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