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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dealing With Anger

"When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically. In dealing with resentments, we set them down on paper. We listed people, institutions or principles with whom we were angry. We asked ourselves why we were angry. In most cases it was found that our self-esteem, our pocketbooks, our personal relationships (including sex) were hurt or threatened. So we were sore. . . . "

"We saw that these resentments must be mastered, but how? . . ."

"This was our course: We realized that the people who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick. Though we did not like the symptoms and the way they disturbed us, they, like ourselves, were sick too. We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person offended we said to ourselves, "This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done."" (Emphasis added.)
 Alcoholics Anonymous, pages 64-67
"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self . . . to be made new in the attitude of your minds . . . to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore . . . “In your anger do not sin." Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry."
Ephesians 4: 22-26
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Resentments are, simply put, thoughts that anger us which we hold onto over time. Thus, in all the world's great wisdom teachings, anger is seen as a base emotion that must be addressed promptly as it separates the person who is angered from Wholeness. 

In Buddhism, anger is seen as one of the "three poisons" that perpetuate the suffering of the unenlightened being. A Chinese proverb observes that "anger is a toxic poison that eats away the vessel which contains it from the inside out." In Christian teachings, anger is seen as one of "the seven deadly sins" - meaning one of the seven ways in which our thoughts are misdirected and harmful. (Thus, we are advised not to "let the sun go down" while we are still angry, for anger held over time becomes deep resentments that separate our being in consciousness from God.) 

In A.A. parlance, "anger" is seen as one of the character defects of the ego which must be removed in order to allay the spiritual malady (i.e., the separation from Wholeness) which lies at the heart of our alcoholic addiction." Thus, we are cautioned (at page 66) in the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous that:  
"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 are poison."
But what a subtle, varied, yet powerful, emotion anger is. How deeply held are the "old ideas" that give rise to our anger in the form of resentments; and how powerfully do anger and resentments continue to affect us. "To be angry," observes Rev. Ted Nottingham (in the attached video), "puts us outside of God's will."

"According to the Holy Teachings, not only of (the Christian) religion, but of all Great Teachings, "he points out, "anger is a poison, anger is a lie. Because when we are angry all that we can see is what justifies us. . . . We can only see that little piece that we think allows us to be angry. We'll never give that to the other person who is angry - we'll never justify their anger - but we can always come up with lots of good reasons for (ours). . . . (Yet) suddenly all of our justifications, all of our self-righteousness, all of our bad habits are laid bare (and) shown for what they are."
"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
"Be sure," Rev. Nottingham notes, "that every time you are angry you are turning away from the Holy (and) disabling . . .  Spirit in your life." And this is true, it seems, irrespective of the many variations of anger that may manifest in our consciousness, including (according to Nottingham): "malice, irritability, rejection, resentment, hatred, intimidation, dissatisfaction, complaining, criticizing, condemnation, annoyance, frustration (and) indignation.

"The way we live!" he exclaims. "You can go from first thing in the morning until the last thing at night and (anger) is all you have got. No wonder," he notes, "people can't find God. We are cutting ourselves off. . . . We are supposed to oppose that part of us that is turned away from the will of God."


  1. ...very helpful've laid off the zanax,now im trying to focus on and pinpoint the root of an underlying sense of uneasiness/ not aware (yet) of any latent resentment(s) but i've been told by those close to me that i DO have anger issues..this most frequently manifests itself at work where im often short and snippy with customers..I dont understand WHY im this way because as a rule im a really nice guy,or so i've been told..I grew up in an Alcoholic home with an abusive father..i was diagnosed with Anxiety Neurosis and PTSD when i was in my 20's...its only been in the past 5 years that i've sobered up and seriously persued the interior life by meditation and contemplative introspection..I've made huge progress since but im stumped on any underlying anger issue(s)...I'll just keep hammering away i suppose..

    1. We expect what we have known, then we turn around and fear what we expect. And it is this fear that activates our defects of character, including that most potent of defects, anger.

      I, too, was physically abused as a child which left me with a heightened and acute "existential knot of being" - a knot of being common to every person except the enlightened. That knot is like the legendary "Gordian Knot" it cannot be unravelled, it must be cut through with a sword. (Like Alexander the Great cut through the original Gordian Knot.) In this instance, the sword is the primal awareness of a consciousness beyond the ceaseless chatter of ordinary self-consciousness.

      All of us have basic instincts or drives for sex, society and (most importantly for those who have been abused) security. We want/desire these instincts to be satisfied perfectly and permanently - an attitudinal and mental wild goose chase, as there is no permanency in this world and the only constant is change. "Even the sun must die" as Eckhart Tolle has pointed out. It is these desires for permanent and perfect security etc. that must be challenged (and potentially) overcome by the sword of higher consciousness if we are too enjoy emotional sobriety.

      "Since most of us are born with an abundance of desires," Bill W. writes, "It isn't strange that we often let these far exceed their intended purposes. When they drive us blindly, or we willfully demand that they supply us with more satisfactions or pleasures than are possible or due us, that is the point at which we depart from the degree of perfection that God wishes for us here on earth. That is the measure of our character defects, 65or, if you wish, our sins." (Twelve & Twelve, p. 65.)

      The "measure" he speaks of is, I take it, the mental room - the state of self-consciousness created by fixation on our desires - in which our thoughts go awry and "miss the target" (which is the original meaning of the term "sin" in Greek).

      The interrelated practice to reduce and (perhaps) eliminate the mental space for our defects to operate consists of:

      (1) affirmative and invocative prayer -"God is everything and I am a part of that",
      (2) meditation, in which we move from ordinary self-consciousness to God-consciousness, and
      (3) self-examination, in which we are aware of our thoughts and when we are dragged back to self-consciousness.

      Constant vigilance, spiritual warfare, or daily maintenance, and work upon, our spiritual condition is required as we "trudge" (rather than skip merrily along) "the Road of Happy Destiny."

    2. ..What an awesome helpful reply!..Thank You ...the first paragraph particularly strikes me as both profoundly insightful and very useful for self-examination purposes,i will need to contemplate on it fact,your whole reply has deeply resonated with me...I appreciate you...

    3. .".... the primal awareness of a consciousness beyond the ceaseless chatter of ordinary self-consciousness."'s only been within the past 2 or 3 years that i have come to understand exactlty what you are describing here and it came about gradually through practicing most everyone,i thought that meditating was bogus and a total waste of time until i got sober and became desperate for some relief from the turmoil going on in my mind.then one night i heard a guy on the radio named Roy Masters who urged his listeners to try a meditation technique called 'be still and know' i tried it and from then on i took meditation seriously...Its made such a difference in my life since then...

    4. "Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10) "The practice of yoga is learning to still the thought waves of the mind." (Patanjali's Yoga Aphorisms 1:2)

  2. I have a person in one of the AA meetings I attend that simply shuts off or never turns on any kind of distraction when he gets up in the morning and then just sits in silence for about 1/2 hour. He says this is how he connects or feels spiritual with his higher power.

    1. In a Hazelden biography, Ebby T. (Bill W.'s Sponsor) tells how he and Rolland H. would, before morning coffee even, sit quietly for ten minutes attempting to let go of outside thoughts and thereby gain inner direction. Each would then write down a simple plan for their day based on that direction. I've found this to be a great technique, particularly when working with a newcomer whose thoughts about what he or she "has" to do are all over the place.

      I admire your friend who sits for a half hour in the morning. I can do that stretch in the evening, but have greater difficulty going for long stretches in the morning. This is something, it seems to me now, I must practice further.