“Terry, you seem so peaceful. Don’t you ever get upset or angry?”
The honest answer is simple . . . of course I do. I find that it is usually a knee-jerk, immediate response to a circumstance, a word, a look, or an innuendo perceived by me to be challenging in some way. Usually, I quickly accept that my angered response is egoically driven, hopefully recognizing that before my ego is allowed to respond in a destructive and negative fashion.
Any expression of anger, despite one’s attempt to hide it with a smile, is based on a judgment of some sort. The mind and ego tend to categorize circumstances as good or bad, right or wrong. If you think about it, the entire world that your ego has concocted in your mind is merely an illusion, a fallacy of your thought. It is based on your assessment; it is your version of the world based on your perception of it. For you it may seem quite real; but to others, it may seem absolutely absurd.
We have all had the experience of interacting with someone else and discovered years later that our recollection of the circumstance or conversation was totally different from what the other person recalled. The reason is simply that for every conversation you have with someone, there are actually six conversations that can occur. There’s what I said to you, and what you said to me. There’s what I thought I said to you and what you thought you said to me. And lastly, there’s what I meant to say to you and what you meant to say to me.
It’s easy to appreciate how anywhere in this conversational scenario, misinterpretation of words, actions, gestures or inflection of the spoken word could occur. What is even more challenging in the intercourses of this information age in which we live is the difficulty in interpreting the true meaning while texting messages to one another. In our social networking, texting has rapidly replaced face-to-face conversation. This disconnected form of “communication” has created an even greater potential for misunderstanding, confounding our ability to convey what we truly wish to express.
Regardless of the medium, the mind, driven by the ego ruminates over perceived problems with and differences we perceive between others. We tenaciously cling to our own ego-defining convictions. The ego and its responses require this sort of conflict in order to validate its separateness and uniqueness from others. Our ego will often fight to the death in its resistance to giving up the very foundation that in all likelihood created our incredible dysfunctional nature in the first place.
Yesterday was a perfect example. I was driving home on the expressway travelling in the center lane at the speed limit of 60 m.p.h. Not one but three cars sped up within 5 feet of the rear of my car. One young girl was texting! They all swerved around me, speeding past my car. One guy angrily directed a gesture at me, which I took to be his IQ.
What is so disturbing is that in this tumultuous, fast-paced world of ours, road rage is only one of the many ways people act out anger that is eating them alive from within. What most don’t appreciate is that anger is self-destructive. It’s like picking up hot coals with your bare hands with the objective of throwing them at someone you despise. The reality is that you will always get burned first.
The challenge becomes how to respond to anger directed at you from another. One approach might be to try to understand the reason why an individual feels compelled to act out anger. From A Course in Miracles, “Every loving thought is true . . . everything else is an appeal for healing. Can anger be a justification for responding in anger to a brother’s plea for help? Anger is nothing more than an attempt to make someone feel guilty. Those who attack do not believe they are blessed. They attack because they believe they are deprived. Therefore give of your abundance and teach your brother of theirs. Share it with them.”
I know it sounds like the “turn the other cheek” mentality but it is through love and love alone that the raging flames of anger can be doused.
As St. Thomas Aquinas once said: “How is it they live for eons in such harmony—the billions of stars—when most men can barely go a minute without declaring war in their mind against someone they know?”
We should strive to be more like the stars, becoming beacons of light for those hovering in the darkness.