Wherever you go, there you are. Unless of course, you choose otherwise. There are as many ways to escape presence as there are reasons not to.
The problem with losing presence during difficult and painful passages is that the opportunity to develop coping skills to deal with life is diminished. Unfortunately, you will likely gain more support in avoiding messy feelings than in allowing for the time to work through them organically. Don’t abandon yourself. The longer that process is delayed, the more arduous the road to self-actualization.
While neuroscience battles out how many core emotions exist, and pharmaceutical companies seek new drugs to suppress them, I’m going to cheer you on to slow down, breathe and recognize them as messengers in your life intended to inspire movement toward growth .
Emotions inform us of our present state of being and point to an action that could potentially lead to greater self awareness and more fulfilling experiences. A clinical trial is unnecessary to conclude that most people desire to be happy. No one wants to be sad. Fear and anger can give rise to denial and trepidation and everything but happy, places you at the doorway of choice, change and transformation.
The most complicated emotion is anger and it makes people uncomfortable. While anger has the potential to lead to destruction, more often it results in the breaking down of outmoded processes, and is a motivator for accelerated change. Anger is a secondary emotion and asks us to address the feelings that lie directly beneath it. You can think your way into anger, but you’re not going to think your way out of it regardless of how many positive memes you post! You need to feel your way through it.
Anger saved my life fifteen years ago when everything suddenly came apart in my marriage. I lost my home and the life I had planned for my children. I was contending with the swift onset of medically induced addiction in my daughter, her attempted suicide and trying to maintain some form of stability for my younger child. Of course, at the time I didn’t perceive my anger in a positive or negative way. I didn’t realize that without it, I would have likely succumb to feelings I was in no way prepared to handle. I raced through my days like a bumper car hitting against one trauma after another, on constant high alert.
Anger literally saved my life. I was packing my room to move, books cutting the air as I tore them off shelves and tossed them into boxes. A photo slipped out from between some pages and dropped to the floor. I brusquely retrieved it, to see my daughters sweet faces smiling up at me in happier times. I packed the photo as tenderly as one might tuck a sick child into bed. I stood alone, raw and vulnerable to my pain. In that single moment an unbearable sadness filled me with a depth of loss that I had never experienced and I intuitively knew I could not survive it if I allowed myself to fully connect. I had just that thought. Don’t connect. A survival mechanism kicked in and I half consciously chose thoughts that would stoke the fires of my rage to a burning hiss and allow me to continue moving forward.
A few years later, my life now consumed with survival issues, my daughters ongoing addiction and my younger daughters well being, I did a two day silent meditation retreat at a Buddhist monastery in New York City. I was in a lot of emotional pain when the meditation began, carrying the weight of my longing and the less than desirable living situation I was now dealing with. My body was tense, every organ, every thread of muscle, every thought like broken glass. I sat among the group of strangers, and closed my eyes wishing the world to vanish. I could feel my being vibrating unevenly. Then slowly, through breath, very slowly, I gave it up and began to relax. My mind emptied and I felt a peace I hadn’t experienced in years.
In my meditative state, I saw what appeared as an orb of dark colored web like energy about a foot in front of me. It occurred to me that it was a manifestation of anger and that my anger was actually not part of me, but a separate mass of active energy created through long held emotion. I remembered the incident with the photograph and how physically different I felt when anger slipped away and I unintentionally connected to sadness, the underlying emotion. I sat and continued practicing silence observing the orb. Then a memory crept in as if leaching from my bones and I could feel the energy of anger being pulled back into my body with a sudden impact. I immediately lifted my eyes to the present moment. I acknowledged the interplay of thought, feeling and emotion in an energetic universe and how we and all living things participate whether unconsciously or consciously.
Anger can be used as a survival tool that allows you to experience the underlying emotions related to a trauma, in manageable increments. Emotions that are commonly veiled in the smoke screen of anger are sadness, fear, abandonment, shame, etc. Move through it slowly, but move through it.
Anger won’t prevent you from crying a river, but possibly from drowning in it.