"Forgo your anger for a moment and save yourself a hundred days of trouble." -Chinese proverb
Emotions are a funny and fickle thing. I've done the homework -- dated Mediterranean men, performed on stage for years and now play counselor to yoga clients every day. While emotions can be as confusing as page one of James Joyce's "Ulysses," pride may be even more complex. Pride is the godfather to emotion. If pride gets wounded then the entire machine gun wielding posse of emotion goes on a rampage to revenge pride's honor. This particular style of emotion is called anger. Anger has many fishy and questionable cousins like greed, jealousy, sadness and denial. When these cousins go too long without a proper outlet, they lash out in anger, and let's just say it ain't a pretty sight.
I recently had an onslaught of anger and judgment poured all over me. I felt just like Bill Murray in Ghostbusters -- I got slimed. I was at the center of a publicly heated debate, often having unfounded arrows shot at me while I quietly tried to morph myself into a cinnamon bun -- coiled tight, protected and compact. My safe pastry mode was then put in the oven for way too long when a loved one decided to release their hounds of rage on me as well. I was drained, overwhelmed and taking things very personally. I practiced yoga, did my meditation and breath work and it finally hit me:
These attacks weren't personal. There was no need for me to be emotional or angry.
The heated public debate and personal attack was a good, old-fashioned example of people using a scapegoat to release their undirected pain and frustration. I may have felt like the beast at the top of the castle battlement surrounded by angry, pitchfork-bearing villagers, but they weren't directly angry at me. No, they had misdirected frustrations about a deep-seeded issue in themselves. My person close to me lashed out because they have been in pain for a long time. I, on the other hand, have not. I do my best to create light and support every day, and that only made her more frustrated. They weren't angry at me, but rather at the emotions they felt when they interacted with me.
Of course, there's two sides to the coin, and depending on the flick of a wrist, you'll get a different story. It's the clash of stories that often leads to so much anger and conflict. If we could take the time to stop, slow down and breathe, there might be a moment for the smoke to clear. Once the fire is out and the smoke is gone, you'll be able to see clearly -- and not only from your side of the battlefield. As old-fashioned as it sounds, you have to imagine yourself in the other person's shoes. See where they are coming from -- not on the surface, but where they are really coming from. Anger comes from deep-seeded pain or one of its many cousins. So look past the gun show and get to the root of the problem, buried there beneath the stockpile. Then step back into your shoes and take a good look at yourself.
Why are we so angry? Is it really because of another person or situation? Or is it the way we have decided to perceive that person or situation? Is it the way someone else is treating us? Or the way we've allowed them to treat us?
And be careful. Because jealousy will drag you through the mud. Greed will prevent you from succeeding. Sadness will lure more birds of a feather to nest in your hair and denial will get you no where.
Does this mean you need to summersault through life with a permanent smile? Of course not. The second agreement from Don Miguel Ruiz's "The Four Agreements," is never to take anything personally. I think of this agreement every single day. It's easy to be on the defensive because many of us live our lives in fear. My advice is this: choose love over fear. Ask for healthy competition when you feel jealousy's beady green eyes boring into your soul. Remember generosity and karma when greed pops up. And finally, remember that we are all experiencing the same life in different forms. We all feel love, we all feel pain and nothing is permanent. Nothing.
And ultimately, see the lesson behind what we perceive to be defeat or pain. Sometimes there's even a tough but amusing inside joke the Universe will share as well. Remember to smile, step back, and see the situation from a safe distance instead of shoved right up in your face. This too shall pass--but not if you can't stop, step back and take a breather.
And never forget that there is no need to fear or be angry. Especially when you choose to learn and love instead. So go ahead, stand up to anger and choose love because that's truly all there is.