“Anger leads to clouding of judgment, which results in bewilderment of the memory. When the memory is bewildered, the intellect gets destroyed; and when the intellect is destroyed, one is ruined. ” – The Bhagavad Gita, 2.63
I am angry. I am angry because that feels better than being hopelessly sad. I’m left with the same questions we have been asking since we were old enough to recognize tragedy: Why do bad things happen? Why do people hurt other people? And at thirty-three years, I don’t have much more understanding than I did as a child. I am left to just shrug my shoulders and say, “This is just how it is.”
I am no stranger to outrage. While my yoga practice has definitely helped me address my own anger issues, I still have moments when I’m blinded by outrage, defensiveness, and anger. I can feel the actual physical sensations in my body as I talk about it: heart racing, shortening of breath, burning in the chest, maybe even a little trembling in my limbs, and the heat in my ears that will spread to the rest of my head. Oh, and the sweats. The rage sweats are no joke. All of those symptoms are an adrenaline response. My body and mind determines that someone or something is a threat, and here comes the hormones. When I read that quote in The Bhagavad Gita, it lands in me because I know intimately the bewilderment of anger, the delusion, the destruction of my intellect, and the ruin it can cause in life.
I have felt all of those things, and yet I haven’t committed atrocious acts of violence. I’m not trying to give myself a “gold star” for least reactive angry person. I want to understand. Why can some can feel that anger and end it at feeling? Why do some go so far down that rabbit hole that the only way out is to end the lives of the people who they believe is the source?
To be honest, I’ve been working on writing about anger for some time, and this just seemed like the necessary time to talk about it. When I’m online, people seem really angry. They aren’t that angry at the grocery store, the yoga studio, or at the park, but they are on the internet. It seems like millions of us are shouting every garbage thought we have into the void, and it creates the cauldron of ire and angst that sets other people off until we’ve created this vortex of rage that is sucking us in and spitting us out. I don’t know how one goes about fixing that. I do know that our current conflict avoidance techniques are not the answer: (i.e. don’t feed the trolls, don’t read the comments section of any news website, don’t bother discussing anything with anyone because their big ol’ dumb heads just wouldn’t understand.) That is arrogant complacency, not fostering peace and agreement.
I get it though. It’s the best we can do with what we have. Taking on the huge responsibility of bringing about peace to every person alive is not realistic, at least if you want to have an actual full-time job. When I read things that tell me that anger leads to ruin, I feel like I shouldn’t ever engage in any activity that might make me angry. I might as well put myself in a sensory deprivation chamber and hope you all can figure out how to make the damn world work. That’s where a lot of us peace-loving folk are hiding out. We are in the corner with our eyes and ears shut hoping the angry people will go away.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna doesn’t just tell Arjuna to not get mad. He explains that anger comes from attachments and desires (2.63). We are attached to everyone agreeing with our socio-political beliefs, our religion, our sexuality, and our life choices. We think that if everyone is like us and in agreement that we will have safety and happiness. Even this attachment to something that seems positive, creates hypervigilance for differences. Then a certain orange-tinted business man says something on Twitter we don’t like, and we fully descend into arguments, diatribes, and those damn memes that are supposed to make light of the dark we feel. And that cycle in our brain just keeps getting stronger and stronger. It clouds our judgment. We forget who we are. We do crazy things. We stand on our little internet soapboxes with megaphones and yell into the vortex of hate until we lose our minds.
I can point my finger at many people and say, “Oh, but they are so much worse.” Yes, there are always those are worse. Committing hate crimes against a population of people isn’t the same as calling someone an idiot over their perceived ignorance about parabens in cosmetics. Yet, I am responsible for what I put out in the world (not in an energetic, airy-fairy way, in a “I am a cognizant being who can choose to use a different tone of voice and less F-bombs” sort of way.) I am responsible for my actions and reactions. It doesn’t matter if the other person is a bully, a hater, or a sociopath. What am I doing? Am I creating change in my life and the world? Or am I contributing to the vortex? Have I thrown my hands up in defeat? Have I become embittered and numb because I’m too damn scared to feel something?
I will not keep my eyes and ears shut.
I will disagree AND be kind about it.
I will know that my feelings are my own.
I will not expect someone to change in order to make me feel better.
I will support the wounded.
I will seek understanding of the wounder.
I will know that in my life, to some degree, I have been both.