These are challenging times. Isolation and quarantine are difficult; they are counter to our need to gather in community. In this container, emotions are getting stirred up. One of those emotions is anger.
Not coincidentally, this is the emotion associated with the season of Spring in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
So if you’re feeling angry these days, know that you’re not alone and that you’re in sync with the seasons.
In one online community in which I participate, a member this week shared that they were feeling “unreasonably angry.”
In response to my inquiry about why the anger was unreasonable the person offered several reasons.
What I heard in the response was a story — a belief — about what emotions are valid or not valid in any situation; who has the “right” to feel angry.
Judgment Creates Suffering
All of the reasons we give are judgments about the emotion. These judgments are stories that invalidate our experience of the emotion.
The Buddhists have a parable about shooting arrows. If I am shot with an arrow, I feel pain. If I am shot again with an arrow in the same place, the pain intensifies.
So too with our emotions. When we feel a certain uncomfortable emotion, we experience a pain connected to the emotion. Not just an emotional or existential pain, by the way. All emotion manifests as physical pain.
When we judge our initial emotion, by making ourselves wrong or declaring it unreasonable or invalid, this is the second arrow.
Buddhists say this is how we create our suffering. It’s not the initial emotion that causes our suffering, but the fact that we make ourselves wrong for that emotion. The characterization of our emotion as “bad,” “wrong,” or “unreasonable” is a form of resistance to the emotion.
In my first career I was an attorney. As a lawyer, I learned that “reasonable” is a terrible standard because everyone has a different definition of what is “reasonable.”
Reasonable people can differ on what is reasonable.
It is true that your anger is really about you, and not about anyone else. It may be true that other people are faring worse than you are right now.
But why does any of this make your anger unreasonable?
In that sense all anger would always be unreasonable. Every emotion would be unreasonable.
Would you be willing to sit in the possibility that your emotions — the anger, resentment, jealousy, or anything else coming up — are reasonable and valid?
What if you tried this on — even if just for a day?
People may not see where your anger coming from. But why do they need to see it? Why do WE even need to see it for ourselves?
What if There’s No Reason?
What if emotions just come for no reason at all that we can see or appreciate?
What if they don’t need a reason for arriving at the door to our hearts?
Or, what if emotions have a reason and a point — what if they are messengers?
What if we could be free to feel what we feel without making those emotions right or wrong?
What if we allowed ourselves to cry or scream without needing a reason? (This feels so cathartic by the way, I highly recommend the practice).
And also: what if everyone understood exactly where your emotions were coming from? What if everyone (or many) secretly feel the same way?
What if the way you’re feeling is more “normal” than you think it is?
Emotions Are Messengers
My approach to the second arrow has tended to be “why stop at 2?” 😉
But I’ve found that carrying all those arrows is heavy and shooting them all at myself is painful. I am learning to let them go, to sit with the emotion itself.
All emotions are messengers. When we are judging our emotions, we aren’t open to the messages. There is wisdom beneath your anger, but you won’t receive it unless you put down the shield of judgment.
I invite you to consider releasing the judgment around your emotions.
You are worthy of your own grace.