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Transforming Our Anger

I shared a beautiful Instagram post on Facebook of a child in Africa dancing with (what appears to be) a young American girl. The exuberance in this young boy's face was heart-warming. I don't know why this young woman was in Africa, but the fact that she was dancing to their music, learning their dance, speaks a universal message of collective unity.

Not everyone would agree.

One person responded, "cultural appropriation." One of my students responded negatively with emojis. What one person perceives as unity, another one perceives as cultural appropriation. This woman wasn't mocking this boy. She wanted to share in his joy of the dance. I think this echoes what's in our hearts.

So many times we are unaware how our own anger can be projected onto others. Afflictive emotions such as anger carry a heavy weight. Think about when you had an argument with a loved one or a challenging day at work. Left unprocessed, we'll carry that afflictive state to another situation, such as the car that cut you off in traffic or the cashier who worked too slow for your needs.

We then re-energize our afflictive state with our reactions. Because they were left unprocessed, like burning cinders they easily ignite with the proper kindling. If we fail to transform our afflictive states, we walk around ready to explode. We react to everything with the flame of our anger.

Instead, we can give space for ourselves when a situation awakens our afflictive states. We might not choose an appropriate response that moment, but we can step back and reflect after the fact. We recognize how our afflictive state caused us to react without rational thought.

We also make a vow to ourselves to try to "catch" ourselves the next time an afflictive state arises. We recognize where we feel it in our body and practice healthy means of discharging these states.

Then, we don't become the object of someone else's projection. Rather than responding to someone else's afflictive state, we respond the way (I think it was) The Dalai Lama would respond:

"If you receive a gift and you choose not to receive it, to whom does the gift belong?"

In other words, if you aren't receptive to other people's "gift" of anger, it returns back to them. This is also the case with peace. If someone isn't receptive to your peace, shake the dust off your feet and move on.

Transforming anger isn't easy, but it's the only way to bring peace within yourself and the world.

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