People who don’t know me well sometimes mistakenly consider me placid and easy-going. Those who do know me are laughing already, because I’m opinionated, direct, and rapidly growing into my middle-aged anger.
When I write, I’m often angry. Angry at the pseudo-psycho-spiritual soup of social media. Angry at anything (from explicit teaching/coaching to not-very-funny memes) that keep people trapped in suffering. Angry at those who decide what other adults can “understand” and dumb down their work to the level of a lie. Angry at those who try to persuade me that there is an ultimate truth in their opinion about politics, diet, exercise, business, relationships or medicine (but tell me it’s an opinion, on the other hand, and we might have a fun conversation). And angry most of all when I see people being told to deny their feelings, deny their situation, deny their responses.
And, you know what? I love that anger. I love that feeling of aliveness, of animation, of movement. Of full engagement with life as it shows up.
Let’s just take that last example: denial. Has anyone ever tried to convince you we need to neutralise a situation, in order to know peace?
Some examples of teaching denial:
- “The person who cut you up in traffic might have been delivering vital medication to his granny.”
- “It doesn’t matter what the situation is, you are only experiencing thought.”
- “The things that woman said mean nothing, unless you add meaning, there’s no reason to be sad.”
- “It’s all the same essence, so you shouldn’t resist that situation.”
And the problem with each:
- At some point you will meet a situation where it is personal, it is directed at you (whether you think you deserve it or not). If your only way to feel peace is to assume good intentions by the other person, then you’ve just hit a brick wall.
- We all know this isn’t true, unless we redefine thinking to mean something other than it means. But if you’ve been told it with great confidence, you’ll probably have tried really hard to make experience conform to this rule.
- There’s a suggestion that feeling sad is a mistake. It’s not.
- This comes in a few parts. First, it is all the same essence, that’s obvious at any level. Why would that mean anything? Second, you can’t resist a situation, it’s impossible – you can only resist truth, and a situation, however real, is not truth. So stop trying not to. You are allowed to not like something. Third, you can’t divide your response from the “situation”, as though the “situation” existed in circumstances outside of your mind, and the response within it. This mean that whatever your response, it’s part of the situation or experience.
Why am I angry? Don’t these help people?
I’m all for temporary comfort to someone who is feeling distressed. But rarely, if ever, would it make any sense to make the above suggestions, unless they were presented as emergency measures.
What do I suggest instead?
Know yourself. Properly get to know the nature of “I am”. The timeless, reliable nature of the knowing of experience. And in this knowing, find the peace that appeared lacking.
Then, you are free to engage with all experience, without trying to deny any element of it, including your feelings.
That’s why I’m angry. If we can know ourselves as peace, we don’t need fancy, complicated and untruthful techniques to manage experience. It’s time to go direct to source.