How Do We Deal With Anger?

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There’s a difference between attachment to anger and using anger. Anger is just energy. It is not good or bad. Sometimes we talk about four types of anger. The first type of anger is “attachment” anger. This is anger we hold on to, feed, and put more energy into. The experience of this type of anger can last for days, weeks, months, or even years. Holding on to anger is the most destructive to our lives and others.

The next type of anger is “reflective” anger. Somebody says something to us we don’t like and then we respond with anger, but we see it clearly. When we see our anger and response clearly, then we can make it correct by apologizing or making it clear why we responded that way we did.

The third type is “perceived” anger. You can feel the anger inside, but you are not all caught up in this anger. You don’t act out of anger because it doesn’t control your actions or speech.

The last type of anger is what we call “bodhisattva” anger. How do you use this energy in a way that is helpful? There’s an example I like to share. When my son was two and a half years old, he walked out in the middle of the street as a car was coming. I grabbed him and I said to him strongly, “Don’t walk out in the street when a car is coming! You can get hurt!” He then understood walking out onto the street without looking is very dangerous. It stuck into his consciousness and he never walked out in the street like that again.

That anger I had at that moment didn’t come from the mind that had like and dislike, good and bad, or right and wrong. It came from a mind of love and compassion. I think that’s a really important point. So how do we actually use anger? In order to use anger or any kind of emotion, we must detach from our thoughts and feelings. This doesn’t mean not to have thoughts of feelings. Just see them for what they are without holding them. They are not “us”. Zen practice can help us see everything clearly.

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