Sunday, January 05, 2014

Stopping the Screaming in My Head

"I want to stop the screaming in my head. I want to stop the endless internal monologues that I have to prove to myself that another person's words, or actions towards me, were wrong or baseless. "

I picked those words up from a blog I read on a daily basis, written by a man with a disability who is often frustrated by the treatment he receives from strangers when he's out and about in his wheelchair.

But those words could have been written by you, or me, or by 99% of humanity. It doesn't take a physical disability to spend half the day (or half a life) fretting over what someone said, or didn't say. What they did or didn't do. How we were treated badly. We all know people who can hardly function because they are still fighting battles that ended years, even decades before.

I've heard people say they won't stop being angry at someone because that lets the person who angered them, or hurt them, off the hook. But does that person feel your anger? No. They go about their daily routine oblivious to your feelings.

Lao Tsu said; Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned. When I'm angry I think, 'How long would I hold onto this if it were Lao Tsu's hot coal?" and the answer is not long! I'd be dropping that baby as fast as I could.

*In the Pali language there is a word, khama, (not karma - that's a different thing altogether). Khama means forgiveness, but it also means 'the earth'.  A mind like the earth is nonreactive and calm.

We can cultivate khama. We do not have to react with anger, strike back, or seek revenge when we are angered or hurt. To do so is to grasp the coal of anger and burn ourselves. To retaliate is simply to blow on the coal and make it even hotter.

The next time you can't bear to experience your sadness or anger, your despair or resentment, try look at the uncomfortable feeling as if it were an object: Instead of blaming your anxiety, anger and discomfort on others or on yourself, examine the feeling itself. Where do you feel it? What colour is it? Is it spiky or round? Does it has a flavour, a shape? How large is it? Can you reduce the size of it by directing compassion at it?  

The way you look on those who hurt you or treat you badly today will affect how happy you are in the future. In any encounter, we have a choice: we can strengthen our resentment or our understanding and ultimately our own happiness. Khama doesn't require that we love or even like another person, but forgiving those who harm you, or even people who simply annoy you, releases you from the weight of resentment and lightens your own spirit. Khama is a gift you can give both yourself and those you meet, on your own, without anyone having to know or understand what you’ve done. 

*Based on a teaching by Buddhist monk Thanissaro Bhikkhu


oklhdan said...

I love this post. I've been fortunate that I do not hold on to anger. In fact I'm very slow to get angry in the first place. I look at all my feelings as a matter of choice. Someone once told me to look at worries as rocks. How many rocks do I want to carry in my backpack? Not many......that sucker gets heavy!

Deb said...

Thank you Dani, khama is a "life skill" I'm working on. I've had a quick temper as long as I can remember. I could analyze it to death, but that doesn't help me get rid of it. I will probably always have that initial flare-up of temper, but I don't process it anymore. Now I drop it and let it dissolve away.
Thanks for dropping by!

Linda P. said...

Great post. I don't hold onto anger, but I do hold onto worry about what someone else was thinking, if I hurt someone's feelings, if they didn't like me, that sort of thing. This would be a good way of thinking about those incidents, too.