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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Letting Go of Anger and Emotional Disturbances

"It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us. If somebody hurts us and we are sore, we are in the wrong also. But are there no exceptions to this rule? what about "justifiable" anger? If somebody cheats us, aren't we entitled to be mad? Can't we be properly anger with self-righteous folk? For us of A.A. these are dangerous exceptions. We have found that justified anger ought to be left to those better qualified to handle it."

-- The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 90 --
Why this "spiritual axiom?" Is it not because anger, and particularly "justified" anger, is inimical to our spiritual health and is always poised to delver us back into "the bondage of self" which lies at the root of our problem?

Each time we are "disturbed" - whether by anger, greed, jealousy lust, or some other emotion - it is a sure sign that we have a Step One problem; that is, we are right in there, again, trying to manage our lives (and the people in our lives) in a futile search for self-satisfaction and ego-gratification. In the famous passage on acceptance (at page 417 of the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous), we read that:
"When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place thing or situation - some fact of my life - unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God's world by mistake." (Emphasis added.)
Notice that in both these passages we are talking of being "disturbed."  Identifying and recognizing when, in fact, we are disturbed is thus the key to dealing with an ever-varying world that is beyond our capacity (or calling) to manage and control. The solution to this Step One problem thus lies in the renewed application of Step Three. When we realize that we are disturbed, we need to act on our decision "to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God" as we understand Him. But how should we act in the face of such disturbances? Fortunately, we have instructions on what to do in such instances.
"(I)t is really easy to being the practice of Step Three," we read. "In all times of emotional disturbance or indecision, we can pause, ask for quiet, and in the stillness simply say: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. Thy will, not mine, be done.""
[The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, pp. 40-41.]
There is nothing we can "change" in an instant other than our attitude - i.e., the level of our consciousness and thought. Thus, when disturbed we need to immediately move from the egoic resistance to life's circumstances, to higher consciousness and an acceptive, radical non-resistance to what is. ("To argue with 'what is' is insanity," said the philosopher-Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, "yet the thoughtless cannot resist doing so.")

Next, we must have the "courage" - which may only be found beyond the fear-based ego - to make the switch from egocentric to God-centric consciousness. Here, we must "take heart," which is the fundamental meaning of 'courage', a word that comes from the French and Latin word for 'heart' - 'cour.' ("Fearlessness," Gandhi observed, "is the first requirement of spirituality. A coward can never be moral.")

Lastly, we must know "the difference" between what we can and cannot change at the moment we are disturbed. It is, thus, essential that we know there is the small "self" of ego-consciousness, and the higher "Self" of God-consciousness, and that there is a vast different to the thought processes and emotional reactions of both states. For it is only in this latter 'self-less' state that we can "accept that person, place, thing, or situation" which disturbs us "as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment."

At Step Three in the 'Big Book' we read:
"This is the how and why of it. First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didn't work. Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His children. Most good ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom."

"When we sincerely took such a position, all sorts of remarkable things followed. We had a new Employer. Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well. Established on such a footing we became less and less interested in ourselves, our little plans and designs. More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life. As we felt new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of His presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter. We were reborn."
 Thus, if we ignore the "spiritual axiom" that in all instances of emotional disturbance it is we who are upset, all this falls away, and we are once again assuming sole responsibility to manage and direct a life which will immediately and rapidly spiral out of all control, resulting in emotional outbursts and actions we will later regret and have to make amends for - or it may result in much, much worse.

1 comment:

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