An experiment of the Theosophical Society in Israel in offering some Theosophical principles to the public in simplified and practical form.
Lesson 2 (out of 5 Lessons)
Ways to Release and Cope with Anger and Fear
What are emotions?
Emotions are ENERGY!
We are able to transmit emotions from person to person. When we enter a room filled with people we feel the atmosphere – if it is comfortable or charged or laden with discomfort. The energy (motivating force, activity) of emotions carries information to the body and when it hits a body, the body reacts to it.
We become aware of an emotion the moment it finds expression in the body.
Negative Emotions cause contraction – we can experience difficulty breathing or discomfort in the abdomen, diaphragm, throat, etc. This energy collects in the muscle tissue, wears out our bodies and causes great damage. On the contrary Positive Emotions expand – More blood and energy flows through the body and as a result, we feel good. Each emotion has its own vibration and each vibration influences our body in different ways: Vibrations cause our nervous system to activate our glands and our muscles to contract or expand. We identify each emotion by the physical feeling it creates: Emotions like anger, bitterness and jealousy influence our bodies differently than joy, affection, etc.
There are a few basic emotions that we are "programmed for", so to speak: fear, anger, jealousy, love, attachment, attraction to pleasure and repulsion to pain and suffering. Other emotions, like hate, are learned and are based on the above basic emotions.
Emotions are messages from the mind – information on what is happening within the mind. If I feel hatred, what does it say about what is going on within the mind? It indicates that the object I hate hurt me in the past and I have a memory of the pain or that it threatened me for some reason and I am afraid of it. In other words, we hate things that hurt us and frighten us.
Before we go deeply into today's topic, let's do a relaxation exercise and connect to our breathing. We shall repeat the process we did last week. It is strongly recommended that you make this a part of your daily life, practicing it each morning or evening (and preferably twice daily). Part of the process of coping with anger and fear begins with calming your physical body. Consciously relax your muscles; look at and observe your body and any negative feelings that arise. When you give these your attention you become mindful, letting things arise as part of the process of release and relaxation.
What is anger?
Anger is a survival mechanism. Its role is to mobilize energy for the body to achieve something or to prevent something. Anger is a vibration that passes information to your body that you must achieve or prevent something! Anger is fear that gives the illusion of power.
Anger can reflect a repeated failure to actualize desires. It can also stem from fear that we want to prevent something but are not able to do so. Fear can hide under the anger; fear's message is that we lack self-confidence and don't believe in ourselves.
Repeated anger turns into an emotional pattern. Emotional patterns become stronger when they are repeated. The more we are pulled into the emotional pattern of anger – accompanied by non-objective thoughts saturated with insults, fear, jealousy – the more empowered the anger becomes. (This process is also true in the case of positive emotions, like affection.)
It is important to understand that aspirations, ambitions and expectations are instructions imprinted on our emotional brains and are programmed to be survival motivated – to achieve or prevent something. All desire or lack of desire, or reservations turn into standing orders imprinted on the subconscious and will be activated by all events that stimulate it. Thus our thoughts, anger and fears are programmed by our pasts: The anger "program" takes over our body when obstacles to our achieving pleasure or avoiding pain appear. In extreme situations a person may lose control to the point that he even doesn't remember what he did.
The deeper the desire and expectation for pleasure imprinted on our emotional brains through thoughts and imagination, the greater the disappointment when they are not satisfied and the more anger fills us. The amount of disappointment equals the amount of expectations. The same is true for the need to avoid pain. As in a lake, the winds of desire awaken waves; the stronger the desires, the stronger the storm winds. After the storm passes, the waves continue their motion; in other words, patience is needed! It takes time for the mind to become calm.
How do we cope with anger and its harmful influence?
We shall divide the answer into two parts:
(a) Short term or Immediate work –We can release excess harmful energy resulting from some event that caused anger through strenuous physical activity (i.e. going for a walk, jogging, cleaning the house, etc.) The physical release does not dissolve the anger, but it relaxes us and enables us to work with the inner anger later on. Until we release the anger at a physical level, the body stays filled with energy and restlessness – which prevents further work. When we are aware that anger is beginning to arise, we should distance ourselves from the situation and not be drawn into it. To alleviate anger we should activate the awareness of our 'inner observer', identify the event and connect ourselves first with the sensations of our physical body. This way we won't be lost within our emotions.
Let's do an Anger Awareness exercise
Sit comfortably. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. As I inhale – I am aware of the anger. As I exhale I accept the anger.
As I inhale – I am aware of the anger in my body. As I exhale I release the anger from my body.
(b) Long term Coping – Learning to observe the anger, without being emotional
Inner observation without emotionality helps us accept the emotion of anger and make peace with it. In other words, we allow the anger response to appear as a bodily sensation, we accept it and observe it without anger.
Alert, aware observation of and connection to the body are part of the process of avoiding being drawn into the negative thought pattern that strengthens anger.
Let's allow ourselves to be in the now regarding our physical bodies. Look at the anger, be an observer; look at it from a distance and understand that this anger isn't you – you control it – it doesn't control you. It is very important not to identify yourself with the anger.
(Instead of "I am angry", think or say "I feel anger").
Connect to your feelings and allow yourself to experience the emotion without emotionality. This is how we release an emotion. Understanding and empathy for ourselves releases us from our distressful emotional load and enables us to experience the emotions surrounding the anger from a broad and objective place.
After becoming calm we ask ourselves – What awakened the anger? When a person arouses anger within us, is it possible that something in his/her behavior reminds us of ourselves and we are actually projecting our discomfort with ourselves upon that person?! If something in another person angers me, it is a sign that it touched a sensitive spot within me.
Non-critical self acceptance also leads to accepting others as they are.
If we are angered when we are criticized, we check to see if there is truth in it. If so, we can learn from it and if not, then why get angry?!
One way to dissolve anger at another (usually when it involves a close or significant other) is to enter his/her shoes and try to see things from his/her perspective. It's possible that he/she behaved that way with no intention to harm you; or the behavior came from his/her own distress and he/she actually needs your compassion and your empathy.
We will examine our world view and behavior when negative thoughts arise regarding a particular situation and try to see something beneficial and positive there.
Converting Negative Thoughts to Positive ones
Is a specific person who arouses the anger within me a completely bad person? Could it be that he has something good? Is the world black or white? We expect others to relate to us with understanding and consideration. Are we always understanding and considerate?
We have already mentioned that behind the anger lies fear!
1. What is fear?
Fear, like anger, is an emotion.
Fear's message is:
I don't believe in myself – I am not confident in myself.
Fear is a survival tool and its role is to warn and distance us from potentially dangerous things and situations. Being careful to survive is fine; the problem is when we become stuck in the fear and it becomes a substitute for awareness. When we are in an aware state, we are mindful and do not need paralyzing fear to protect us.
2. What are we afraid of?
~ Recommendation: Open the discussion for sharing with the whole group and write points raised on the blackboard. Anticipated answers: The fear itself, the unknown, loss, separation, rejection, pain, illness, old age, death, closed places...~Summarize what was said:
What the above points have in common is the fear of possible pain and the fear of the loss of pleasure. Our imaginations empower the fear by fuelling them. Imagination relies on personal experience and is also nurtured by the media that uses fear messages to increase its circulation and/ or rating.
~ To demonstrate, ask the participants the following questions:
What physical and mental sensations accompany fear? In the body: contraction, shaking, immobilization, butterflies in the stomach, heavy breathing. In the mind: disquiet, tension, stress, restless thoughts, and a desire to escape or run away.
When we are in the thrall of fear our lives are enchained. The fear causes us to shut ourselves off, building around us a prison. It kills us again and again. Where fear is in control, no love can exist.
3. What increases fear?
Rejection and repression of fear simply increase it. The struggle within us just makes the fear grow.
The wilder our imagination, the stronger the fear becomes.
-Negative thoughts are fear's elixir of life.
-Exhaustion and low energy levels.
-Loneliness (as opposed to being alone, with oneself.)
It is important to ask these questions so that we will know what to avoid and how to cope effectively with fear.
4. How to cope with fear? How do we transmute it (transform it into something else)?
Short term: When we encounter a situation that frightens us (darkness, dangerous situations) – focus on your body (be mindful of your walking, your breath, etc.) and don't be drawn into thoughts and imaginations. Be conscious, aware and alert. This lessens the power of fear and enables us to find a solution.
In-depth work to transmute fear: The most important thing is to awaken the desire to release the fear. Be aware when fear arises and allow yourself to look at it, experience it; don't run away from the fear. Go inward... into it. "Never run from your fears. When they finally catch up with you, you will be too tired to cope with them".
Divide the sensation of fear into its factors and examine your physical and mental situations when you are afraid. Connect with your feelings and do not get lost within your thoughts and/or imagination.
Examine the fear – Does the fear belong to the past? If so, there is no reason to fear it today. Is this a rational fear? If yes, we should examine what can be done to prevent that fearful event from happening.
Do what should be done and release the fear! If nothing can be done, make friends with the fear and be with it in peace rather than struggle with it. We can look at the fear as a kind of distress signal within us; part of us is in distress and needs assistance.
It is impossible to destroy fear because it is energy (that doesn't evaporate), but it is possible to change its vibration and make peace with the fear. How?
We shall learn to turn the negative thoughts that fuel fear into positive beliefs. We shall exercise seeing the positive side of situations and people that until now, we saw as only negative. This is the way we transmute difficult life situations from threats to challenges. The true solution to the problem of fear is KNOW YOURSELF in the deepest manner! Everything that has been said so far is a part of that knowing. You can learn this in the course "Insights and Tools for Awareness and Spiritual Development", which is the Israeli Theosophical Society's basic course.
Meditation including the process of coping with fear (15 minutes)
Observe your body, your feelings, be present in the now... don't get lost in thoughts. Now we just look at ourselves... go within. Allow an experience of fear or anger that you have experienced to arise... Let yourself feel it... with all your senses... Let yourself experience again what you felt then...enclose these feelings, contain them...without trying to change them... just look at them... be with them.
Be aware of your breath... breath normally – don't breathe particularly deeply. Inhale – I am aware of the fear. Exhale – I accept the fear with compassion. Feel and clarify to yourself – what it means to accept – without struggle or resistance.
Slowly, within the process of awareness and acceptance, make peace with this feeling... with that place of distress within you... Connect to the little child you were and help him/her release the anger/fear... through love. If it is difficult to feel love, think of someone that you love and then direct that feeling of love to that place of distress within you... Think of the people close to you and send them love.
End of Part two – To be continued