How to deal with my anger?

Jan 16, 2023

 

QUESTION

Dear Venerable Robina,

 

I hope you had a happy birthday! I also hope you’re doing well this holiday season. Thank you again for giving me the opportunity to take vows with you, it’s been a really special and powerful experience.

 

Unfortunately, I’ve been struggling with a lot of feelings of anger and resentment lately, and it’s usually directed towards my parents. My upbringing wasn’t perfect, but looking back honestly it was very good, however there are many things in it I’ve been struggling to overcome, like physical violence.

 

I’ve been very fortunate to be able to discuss these things with my parents many years after they’ve happened, and I’ve been even more fortunate to find my parents responsive in some regards – even apologizing for much of what happened. Additionally, my parents have been extremely kind to me in other respects, and they’ve helped me get where I am today.

 

Despite this, anger still arises, and I just find myself blaming them for things going wrong – sometimes things they are completely unattached to! Additionally, I’ve been struggling with expressing genuine kindness to them, or wanting to reach out. I still try and do it, but deep inside it doesn’t always feel genuine because I carry all this anger and aversion towards them.

 

Since starting my practice, I’ve been able to not let the anger run my body and my mouth completely, I’m getting better at controlling my speech and being kind – but my mind still feels very toxic and it’s almost suffocating to be in there. Whenever this arises, I try to go through things logically, and I see all of what they’ve done for me, and not just their faults. This way the anger occasionally subsides. But it’s not so easy. These days my anger is really heightened, and any small stressor, even if unrelated to my parents, ticks it off inside my mind. It’s been helpful that I live far away from my parents, so I get a chance to zip my lips whenever this anger is around.

 

It’s almost as if I just have this anger that arises, and it looks for anything external to blame. When it’s my parents and I’m able to show my mind that that’s unreasonable, I will just blame myself or be angry with myself. But none of it really has a valid basis when I sit down to analyze it. It’s true that I’ve had lots of negative experiences here and there, but those negative experiences aren’t here now, and I have a much more positive relationship with my parents nowadays.

 

Are there any particular practices you would advise in this regard? I already have a daily practice, and I’ve been doing my best to keep it – although some days I do fall off. I still struggle with keeping a daily habit, but practice is always in my heart.

 

Thank you so much for your time, Venerable Robina, I really appreciate it.

 

Kind regards,

J

 

ANSWER

Happy to hear from you, dearest J.

 

I understand exactly what you’re going through. But the interesting thing is that this anger has been there all the time! It’s just that now, because you’re practicing, you’re seeing your mind more clearly.

 

When we understand that anger is the response when attachment doesn’t get what it wants — you brought these delusions with you from the past so they’ve been there since the first second of you in this rebirth — then it’s clear that every time since as far back as you can go in your life that you were beaten or told off, etc., etc., then just naturally aversion would have arisen in your mind. Because, of course, attachment only wants nice things, nice treatment, pleasant words!

 

This doesn’t mean they were right in harming you. No. But we’re looking at your side of the deal. You had the karma to go to these parents.

 

Probably as a child you didn’t express it, so it was suppressed. But it doesn’t go away — everything we think and do and say stays in our memory. 

 

So now, how wonderful that you’re seeing it. Painful, yes, but don’t be disheartened. You’re seeing it! That’s what’s fantastic!

 

And, naturally, you blame. Of course you do. That’s what anger does! All the analysis you’re doing is perfect. You understand the lack of logic of anger. But it runs deep in all of us, so don’t beat yourself up.

 

A friend of mine years and years ago, at some point after having done intensive long retreats was out of his mind with arrogance and anger. He was quite distressed. He told Lama Zopa Rinpoche about it — and Rinpoche laughed and laughed! “Fantastic, the dirt has to come out, the dirt has to come out!” 

 

So, be glad, J. Interpret it properly, like the above. You’re a work in progress, remember that. And you’re definitely moving forward. I rejoice!

 

What do you think?

 

Much love,

Robina

 

QUESTION

Dear Venerable Robina,

 

Thank you so much for your kindness and insight, I really appreciate it. I agree with everything you said, and I can see how my anger ties in with all my attachments to nice things, experiences, and in particular praise and being seen as “good” and being “loved.” It’s really helped to live away from my parents, and has minimized the amount of arguments and unpleasantness, because I tend to only call/visit them when I know I will be able to emotionally, and missing each other has made us more grateful for each other.

 

So far, whenever the anger arises, I try to argue with it or just sit with it. I’ll keep working at it, and as you suggested I will try to shift the way I see my anger as a whole – so hopefully it doesn’t feel as unpleasant when it arises or persists.

 

Sometimes it also helps to conjure the image of an enlightened being in my mind. I find the images of Tara or Palden Lhamo particularly calming, but I’m not empowered for any of their practices, is that still okay to do? I just generally visualize them and ask them to help me embody their kind and enlightened qualities, and thank them. I’m still trying to work on the basics and focusing on my anger, so I haven’t been focusing on receiving extensive tantric practices and teachings. 

 

Thank you Venerable, I really appreciate you!

 

I hope you have a blessed start to the new year.

J

 

ANSWER

Good, J.

 

It’s excellent to imagine the buddhas, and it’s okay that you haven’t received an empowerment in order to do that.

 

And it’s good also to say Tara’s mantra at such times, on top of the anger even; it can loosen the grip of it.

 

And it’s important, by the way, when you’re visualizing the buddhas, to have in your mind that they are oneness with your spiritual mentors: it makes it more personal. And it’s wonderful that you ask them to help you!

 

You are doing beautifully!

 

Keep moving, J!

Robina

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