Let’s face it, when you see people show up with torches and Nazi flags professing their hate it can ignite anger, hate, disgust and a host of other emotions in you. How can you handle these emotions responsibly?
First, be mindful. When you see images of angry torch bearing protestors you may think, “What is wrong with these people? They are so ignorant, uncultured or evil.” Yes, it is awful, but we can’t stop there. What are you really saying? Are you saying you are smarter, more evolved and better? Are you saying they are beneath you and you are superior? Superiority is superiority. Yours is not better than theirs. This mentality is the root of the problem in the first place. We have to do better. We have to look deeper at this.
If you spend a few seconds on social media, you are quickly immersed in people telling other people what they need to do about this. You see people pointing fingers in every direction, which actually gets us nowhere. All it does is relieve the ones pointing the fingers from doing anything about it. Blames tricks people into believing they are powerless. The fact is there is something each of us can do about it, and it might be the last thing most people are actually willing to do – deal first and foremost with your own feelings. No one else is responsible for your feelings. They may be responsible for their behaviors, but your feelings are yours. Spewing them all over social media, the office or your home might feel good for a minute, but venting is much different from healing.
There is power in anger, which is why feeling angry can feel good. It is also why it can be addictive. Think about it. When you don’t own your anger and decide it is always someone else’s fault you feel righteous and superior. It feels powerful, but that power always requires making someone else wrong. Just ask the protestors in Charlottesville.
What does it mean to own your anger? In my office it means expressing anger unfiltered and on purpose. This is incredibly challenging for people. They like to jump right into analyzing and fixing and right over being with what they actually feel. What they don’t understand at first is the fix is in the feeling.
Noticing what is here now and being present with that takes learning and practice. I invite people to say whatever they want regardless of how petty, mean or childish it may sound. This is when they drop the act completely and have one goal: to be real and raw. We pause, notice and feel deeper into moments. Old wounds that need to be mourned might show up. They might meet face-to-face with a situation in which they feel oppressed that needs attention and action. The experience is different for each person, and it is often surprising.
I must tell you being with yourself this way requires bravery. I am thankful to those who embark on this type of journey. They are moving themselves forward and in the process inching the world forward. Peace in the world is actually an inside out kind of job. The war within is where you begin. Are you brave enough to go there? Will you do your part in moving the world forward?