I’m a firm believer that there is no really negative emotion – even the little venal desires can be channeled to positive outcomes. Anger, however, is an emotion that can be destructive and can get out of hand so quickly. It’s no wonder that we liken anger to fire – hot and blazing. Even the Buddha did so:
Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else. You are the only one who gets burned.
The point of this is to address anger as part of a yoga practice. We as yogis and yoginis practice an art that is designed to give us control of ourselves. Very little, though, is addressed to the volative explosive power of anger. Its like a rogue wave in the ocean – destructive and dangerous. No matter how it is expressed – aggressive, passive, or passive-agressive, anger is something that needs addressing, yet rarely is in yogic circles.
Passive-aggressive anger is like mixing bleach and ammonia – both are some pretty nasty chemicals to begin with, but the mix of the two is lethal. Not only are you internalizing your anger, but you are lashing out in unfair ways against the person you are angry with.
Of all the ways there are to be angry, this one can cause the most harm because not only do you hurt, you are hurting those you love. By manifesting your pain as ‘getting even’ with nasty little attacks here and there, you not only destabilize your own emotional well-being, but you are actively destabilizing those around you.
To be honest, its a human thing to have schadenfreude. To take delight in someone’s misfortune. Generally it relates to competition – you win, they lose, so they suck and you rock! However, outside of the drive to win, this emotion only serves to poison yourself and your own environment – you can have the vicious satisfaction of lashing out at the people around you and enjoying their suffering, but in the end it drives people away and leaves you alone with your pain.
The permutations of passive-aggressive anger are endless, but in general traits include:
- Denial or rationalization about your behavior
- Fleeing the situation
- Rubbing your head
- Becoming silent or withholding
- Isolating yourself in response
- Compulsive eating, spending, cleaning or sex
- Revenge fantasies
- Sad or depressed
Passive-aggressive anger poisons the self and others. These behaviors quickly internalize – actions can invoke feelings just as much as feelings invoke actions. These behaviors can consume the person and destroy the relationships around them. In punishing the other through this kind of anger, we not only hurt them, we hurt ourselves, too.
When we move from these states, we not only inflict harm on ourselves, but others, too. This kind of anger burns us internally and externally burns the other person by manipulation. In the end, we end up hurt and alone.
The variants of anger are as many as the clouds in the sky – to be able to identify each iteration would be endless and pendantic. Instead, anger should serve as the need to notice that you feel you have been wronged and the situation needs to be addressed. It is not a call to arms, or a reason to be nasty to the person who wronged you.
Voice your emotion without attack. State the grievance and speak constructively on how to solve it. Indulging your anger as “I have a right to be angry” serves nothing but destructive ends. Everyone has the right to be angry, but no one has the right to hurt another person.
One last passage from the Buddha on anger:
An angry person is ugly and sleeps poorly. Gaining a profit, he turns it into a loss, having done damage with word and deed. A person overwhelmed with anger destroys his wealth. Maddened with anger, he destroys his status. Relatives, friends, and colleagues avoid him. Anger brings loss. Anger inflames the mind. He doesn’t realize that his danger is born from within. An angry person doesn’t know his own benefit. An angry person doesn’t see the Dharma. A man conquered by anger is in a mass of darkness. He takes pleasure in bad deeds as if they were good, but later, when his anger is gone, he suffers as if burned with fire. He is spoiled, blotted out, like fire enveloped in smoke. When anger spreads, when a man becomes angry, he has no shame, no fear of evil, is not respectful in speech. For a person overcome with anger, nothing gives light.
Be filled with light.