24 April 2015
Anger may bring some kind of energy for a short period, but that energy is actually blind energy. And anger can really destroy the part of your brain which can judge right or wrong.
—The Dalai Lama
Il Mio Tesoro caught me crying my guts out the other night. I had just parted ways with her after a lecture about some minor infraction. I said goodnight and came downstairs for an “alone at last” breather, but then an accumulation of grievances and fears burst from my chest. I sobbed and she heard me. This extended the lateness of her usual bedtime and also the complexity of the situation at hand. First and foremost, I had to explain it had nothing to do with her. To convince her of this, I was forced to reveal a small part of my grievance.
I rarely do this if I can help it. Adults, I told her, lose their cool now and then. I just try not to do it so often around her. I usually release my frustrations far away from the public, let them flare and then die, and react later when I’m calm.
A family of divorce typically lives with a constant undercurrent of anger. Some adults are better than others at managing residual feelings. All the old garbage vibrates around them during encounters and communiqués; many forget that the children are standing right there, listening, internalizing the message as well as the method of interaction. Anger is a tool the misguided user employs in hopes of striking revenge, but the effort goes wide of the intended target and instead strikes the hearts of innocent bystanders.
Tapping into festering anger is sort of like fracking. The product is trapped deep underground until the driller forces it to the surface with a toxic solution. It erupts like a geyser, leaving behind unseen damage in the form of large hollows; over time, the earth shifts to accommodate those changes. These earthquakes cause damage precisely because the process is so unnatural.
In a person who feels wronged, the anger lies dormant for too many years, waiting for channels to let it rise to the surface. Given the proper channel, it leaps up and flows from the lips of the speaker. For a moment, the speaker feels a satisfying release of energy. This anger, however, clouds his judgment and causes greater harm than he knows. In the aftermath of his outburst, seismic ripples shake the tender psyches of others.
They hear his anger, they feel his anger, but they aren’t a party to his anger so they derive no enjoyment, and their souls feel the earthquakes for the rest of their lives.
Despite these angry undercurrents, a family of divorce must still interact. Discussions and decisions affect the splintered group now and then. Problems crop up, problems that should be viewed with a rational eye. As the Dalai Lama says, “When we investigate reality our mind should be calm, otherwise we cannot see the thing objectively.”
I strive to make decisions affecting my group based on the reality of the situation and the persons involved. My deep seated feelings ordinarily have no bearing on the moment. When compelled to interact, I try go to a place that is zen, to shut away the past and view the problem at hand with a cool, informed mind.
Yet my calmness is no match for an associate whose method feeds on wells of deep anger. I do better than I used to—I can usually delay my reaction long enough to burn it out later, in a more private place. I spend that blind energy on four walls or a friend’s shoulder rather than the souls of my children. Sometimes the kids catch me in the act of that purge. I don’t mind their knowing that even moms have bad moments, I only wish it weren’t these particular undercurrents that taught them this life’s lesson. The anger keeps rippling up from the ground, but all I can do is stand firmly against it.
Because a brain eaten up by deep wells of anger will always lack the ability to judge right from wrong.
And because the only hope for inner peace is to put anger aside.
To see the Dalai Lama speak briefly about the impact of anger on our objectivity, click here.
To read more letters, click on The Path!