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Monday, July 18, 2011

The Ego and Its Resentments: Anger, Anguish and Angst

"It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours that might have been worthwhile. But with the alcoholic, whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal. For when harboring such feelings we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. The insanity of alcoholism returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink is to die."

"If we were to live, we had to be free of anger. The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may be the dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcoholics these things were poison."

Alcoholics Anonymous, page 66 --

"Anger," according to a Chinese proverb, "is a corrosive poison, that eats away the vessel that holds it from the inside out." In Buddhism, it is recognized as one of "the three poisons," along with lust and ignorance, that produce dukkha (i.e., suffering), and thus blocks the individual from the higher consciousness of nirvana. And, the great Roman philosopher, Seneca, observed that "anger, if not restrained, is frequently more hurtful to us than the injury that provokes it."

Thus, we see that in virtually all traditions, the destructive force of anger has long been recognized; Nonetheless, looking out at the world around us  - from the frustrations of the traffic jam, to road rage, to the seemingly unending wars, terrorism and ongoing strife that are regular features on the nightly news -
we seem to see an evermore impatient, fearful and angry world. Thus, we see that the "dubious luxury" of anger is not working out very well for so-called "normal men," and we can be forewarned that it is even more perilous for us.

Anger, anguish, and angst - our distemper, suffering and fears - are all symptomatic of a life lived in the throes of the egoic self, rather than in "the sunlight of the Spirit." Inevitably, if unchecked, these symptoms of our deeper soul sickness will lead the sufferer back into the throes of active addiction. "The spiritual life is not a theory, we have to live it." And we cannot live a spiritual life while harboring anger and deep resentments. Thus, the imperative need to move into the action steps - Steps Four through Step Nine - to strip away the resentments that mask our true nature as spiritual beings.

The inner thought stream of the ego - what Bill once called the "painful inner narrative" of self - will not be gotten rid of (or, at least, deflated "at depth") without our effort. Identifying our resentments, seeing how they affect us, determining our part in them, and then making amends for the hurtful actions that caused or arose from them, are thus essential if we are to live consciously in this spiritual life.

The alternatives to not facing the anger, anguish and angst of the ego may, indeed, prove fatal.

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