Transforming Rage into Right Action

Apr 12

I have always had to go deeply into my own rage in order to bring it into the light to heal. If I don’t allow myself to feel the rage, I cannot heal either myself or others. Not allowing myself to feel it is like clamping a lid on a boiling pot of water. Eventually, it boils over in uncontrolled ways.

Feeling the rage does not mean acting it out against others. But what then do we do with this powerful emotion?

When my husband refused to leave his mistress for the sake of our marriage and family, at first I felt shock, disbelief, and deep numbing pain. I sobbed at night for hours.

Then suddenly the pain transformed into rage. I felt disrespected and betrayed, not only by the man I had married and trusted, but also by the woman I had once believed was my best friend. I deserved so much better, as did our children. Together, my husband and his mistress had relegated me to nothing more than a convenient maid, cook and babysitter. I felt used without my consent so that they could go off and play.

I felt like buying a gun and killing them both, but didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in jail; nor did I want to leave my children orphans. What was I to do with this boiling rage which had suddenly appeared in my life? I was between a rock and a hard place. I had tough moral decisions to make.

Rage serves valuable spiritual purposes.

One, for me, was the release of self-righteousness. I knew from personal experience how it felt to want to murder. If I were capable of murder, how could I ever judge another person who was going through a similar traumatic inner struggle?

A second was the realization that rage was a messenger. It was telling me I needed to grow and change. But how?

Change does not mean getting rid of rage. Change means transforming rage into constructive, nonviolent action that supports values of fairness, safety, justice, mutual respect, and courage.

The children and I had needed my husband’s financial and emotional support and protection while the children were growing up. He had abandoned us all mentally and emotionally. I had no choice but to learn how to protect both myself and our children as well as I could.

I divorced my husband, dropped his surname, went back into the job market, fought for half of our assets in court, took care of our children as well as I could, applied to law school, graduated cum laude, and was offered a position as an associate attorney with a large Atlantic City law firm. Later, I opened my own law practice.

Ultimately, my rage transformed into a deeper understanding of what the Buddhist Eightfold Path calls “right action.” There is conduct that supports human cooperation, respect, love, justice, harmony, abundance, and peace, as well as conduct that disrupts them. “Right action” supports the values we all cherish where everybody wins. It is the arena of morals, ethics, and the Ten Commandments. Committing adultery destroys marriages and families.

This is not a path I desired. Rather, it seems to have chosen me, and yes, it has been challenging and a constant overcoming.

I have had to learn to stop enabling injustice without myself being unjust, stop enabling disrespect without being disrespectful, stop enabling abuse, control, and manipulation without myself becoming abusive, controlling, and manipulative. I have had to learn to be very transparent in expressing my needs and offering support to others.

I have also had to learn to be just, respectful, loving, forgiving, and grateful toward myself so that I know how to be just, respectful, loving, forgiving, and grateful toward others. I have had to walk out of many unjust, disrespectful, and abusive relationships to protect my own soul and sanity. Only then have I been able to re-engage these same people from a more expanded, deeper, and transformed awareness.

Under no circumstances do I believe others are evil. Their intentions, in ignorance and lack of awareness, are simply directed toward goals that serve only themselves at the expense of others. They have their own spiritual lessons to learn and their own karma to live.

Has my path been the path of the spiritual warrior? Are we all spiritual warriors grappling with the rage within so that we can transform it into passionate purpose?

General David Petraeus – An Archetypal Pattern? (continued)

Dec 11

(This is the final half of the blog begun on November 16, 2012.)

While a few men know how to court a woman, far too many men see women as a one time conquest that simply increases their bonding ability and respect from other men. “Score!”

A man can always walk away after satisfying his sexual need. A woman who becomes pregnant never can. She then carries the full responsibility for nurturing the child, mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, and often with an added societal burden of judgment and blame and the consequential internal feelings of guilt, shame, and low self-esteem.

A man who fully respects a woman and wants her to bear his seed and provide him with offspring, makes a commitment to protect and provide for her so that together they can nurture, guide, rear, and protect their children. Without a protector and provider, the woman simply cannot do her own job well. She needs a very safe and physically comfortable nest in which to rear their offspring.

Is it this same almost uncontrollable biological sex drive that drives married men like President Kennedy, President Clinton, and General Petreaus to become sexually involved with women other than their wives? The man sees no harm in what he is doing. He may see it as a one-time fling or simply an affair. My friend commented that every woman with whom he had ever had sex was an angel.

The male involved in an extramarital affair still loves the mother of his children and takes for granted that she will always be there for him – to cook, clean, wash his socks and babysit the children. But his wife knows at a deep gut level about his affair. His involvement with the other woman changes his energy and therefore changes the energy of the marital relationship. His mind is elsewhere. He is less attentive to wife and children. He is less present in the relationship. While the man’s involvement with the other woman may transform and expand him personally, it simultaneously destroys (impurifies, adulterates, ruins) the energy of the original male/female relationship on which the health of the entire family depends.

Once the children have grown up and left home, the woman has lost 25 years of her life that otherwise might have been spent developing financial skills, building assets, and expanding business acumen. Her only skills are cooking, cleaning, gardening, and babysitting. By that time her husband may have developed a fabulous career, be making lots of money, traveling around the world, and associating with many more interesting people. If his sexual drive then pulls him into the arms of a fascinating woman from whose sexual charms and magnetism he cannot release himself, his wife will go through denial, disbelief, emotional anguish, loss of trust, rage, and ultimately, she’ll leave – forever. Then she’ll sue him for as much money as she can get. Faced with the challenge of reconstructing her life, she must make a living in a world where women are financially disadvantaged, heal her feelings of low self-esteem, victimhood, rage, being used, not being respected and appreciated, and her total distrust of men.

If the male and female biological differences are real and the needs very different, how do we consciously reconcile them? Or don’t we?


General David Petraeus – An Archetypal Pattern?

Nov 16

One more time, the archetypal pattern of the extramarital affair has reared its ugly head. Former CIA Chief General David Petraeus, became involved in an affair with his biographer, Army Reserve officer Paula Broadwell. Then Jill Kelley, a Tampa socialite, who apparently had also been flirting with Petraeus, began getting anonymous, threatening letters telling her to stay away from him. Kelley complained to a friend who was an FBI agent. The ripples spread throughout the highest echelons of the FBI and CIA as fears arose that the internal security of the United States had been breached. Emotions ranged from fear to pain to rage to guilt to betrayal to loss of trust. The story is as old as history.

Isn’t it time men and women together started looking honestly and transparently at this recurring pattern? Why does it happen, over and over, to the pain and detriment of wives, husbands, children, families, communities, nations, and the world? Isn’t it time to put this dynamic into the center of a compassionate, safe, thoughtful circle and share our experiences and grief in order to understand the biological and energetic differences between men and women, our differing needs, and the conditioned, historical, societal dynamics that have betrayed and devalued us all?

Recently, I had a conversation with a conscious male friend about the almost uncontrollable biological sex drive young males experience as they approach adulthood. They think about sex at least 50% of the time. They have sex whenever they have the opportunity. They are always looking for opportunity.

This sex drive creates a very territorial, competitive way of interacting with other males. They heckle one another, make fun of one another, verbally abuse one another, and ostracize those who don’t play the game. The jousting, whether conscious or unconscious, is a fight for a steady sexual supply. Women and children become objects, prey, and victims.

Tears flowing, my friend said, “It is so lonely. Women have a sorority based on communication, understanding, collaboration, cooperation, and compassion. Men don’t have a fraternity. The sexual drive forces them to stand alone and fight for power and control.”

Young women rarely think about sex unless they need to offer it as a temporary way to increase their self-esteem or sometimes, as their only way to eat. If they are more fortunate and have higher self-esteem, they wait to be courted by a conscious, respectful, masterful male. He buys them flowers, tells them how beautiful they are, treats them to excellent dinners in fine restaurants, and learns the skills of lovemaking so that the woman desires sexual union as much as the man. It takes money to be able to court a woman. Money is sexual power.

Individual, competing males may ultimately learn to respect the skills and expertise of other males, bond together as a football team, and together compete against other groups of males, (football teams, businesses, nation states, street gangs). The fraternity they form is still based on territory, competition and power. The ultimate need is sexual supply. The bonding far too often takes the form of gang rape, torture, war, and other physical violence.

(to be continued)

Benevolence and Leadership. Valuable? Possible?

Jul 31

A recent post on the Business Spirituality LinkedIn site asked: “What difference can a benevolent leader bring to people and organizations? Is it possible to be benevolent without being naive?”

I’m not sure benevolence is the right word here. Benevolence, to me, implies giving to others, sometimes without including myself in the benevolence. I find myself preferring the word compassion. The word compassion, to me, has more of a sense of having walked in the shoes of the other, having experienced their suffering, and supporting all of us in moving toward a more joyful, purposeful life. Compassion is essential to good leadership.

One of my life long lessons has been learning how to expand into my own spiritual understanding and power and then use that spiritual understanding and power to support others as they expand into the fully developed, unique individuals they are intended to be. Supporting them does not mean giving them whatever they want. Often, it means challenging their current thought processes or flat out saying ‘no.’ This is the role of the spiritual warrior.

I was very fortunate to have had two wonderful parents. Both were teachers. Both were fair and compassionate. Both valued order and structure, and yet, there was always space for play and creativity in our home. My parents truly led by example. Because I was happy, I never questioned their leadership. I knew I was loved, respected, and valued. I did what they told me to do simply because I trusted them.

Then I moved out into the rest of the world and discovered, over and over, through painful experience after painful experience, that not everyone was as kind, benevolent, compassionate and fair as my parents. Other people said negative things about me, verbally abused me, bullied me, and betrayed my trust. I had to learn how to protect myself from all this negative energy. I had to learn how to detach mentally, emotionally, and sometimes physically. I had to learn how to release my fear. I had to learn how to refocus my outrage from judging and blaming the bullies and abusers to shifting the energy of that outrage into being just, fair, and accountable. As painful and sometimes terrifying as it often was, I had to learn how to say ‘no’, I will not enable and support that conduct. I will not stay in a relationship where I am not respected. I will move out of relationships where I am verbally abused. I simply deserve better.

For me, finding the balance between benevolence and naivete requires a constantly shifting awareness of the energy dynamics of any situation. I can then change those dynamics by changing myself. It always requires staying in integrity with my own values of compassion, non-violence, mutual respect, and accountability.

I’ve walked in the shoes of the other. I’ve experienced their suffering. How can I be anything but compassionate toward us all?

Does Evil Really Exist?

Jul 01

Are we asking the wrong question when we ask, “Does evil really exist?”

What if we change the question to: “What does the word “evil” mean to me in this particular experiential context?”

Envision a mother, bound and gagged, forced to watch a brutal gang rape of her beautiful ten-year old daughter. The mother’s and daughter’s physical and emotional pain has to be nothing short of excruciating.

If I were in the shoes of either, it would be easy to label the rapists “cruel”, “brutal”, “uncaring”, and even “evil”. From the rapists’ perspective, they are probably simply showing off their sexual prowess and engaging in male camaraderie. But at what cost to the mother and daughter?

If you’ve never spoken with a woman who has been brutally raped, you have no idea what shame, guilt and anguish she experiences or the years it takes her to heal. If she’s fortunate, her shame, guilt and anguish will eventually turn to rage and outrage, and yes, this rage and outrage may initially be directed at the rapists. Temporarily, she may need to label these men “evil” in order to find the courage to step into her own passion, power and purpose. What will that passion, power and purpose be? To protect herself and all other women on this planet from this type of life-shattering experience and stand firm in her own core respect for and appreciation of herself and all other women.

Dealing with Abusive Relationships

Sep 05

A friend asked, “What if people have done something very unacceptable or hurtful to me, I tell it to them and they deny, their reply is that ‘it is just my shadow’ without acknowledging my feelings or truth (other people see their behavior is not right), how can I solve the situation? Perhaps let go of resisting their behavior, heal my negativities and probably they will stop? But shall I also walk away from those people? Aren’t they using the fact that “it is my shadow or projection” to throw crap at me?”

I empathize with my friend’s questionings. What to do about ugly or abusive relationships has been one of my lifetime challenges.

Yes, we are all absolutely entitled to healthy relationships. So how do we get them? We simply choose the relationships that support us and walk away from the ones that don’t. We don’t need to justify our actions. We don’t need to explain unless we want to. All we need to do is walk away.

Nobody deserves abuse. Nobody. But as long as we stick around, we are enabling the abuse and it is likely to continue. If we simply walk away, there is no one left to abuse. Our power lies in changing ourselves.

I first learned about the power of walking away from a very dear friend of mine, a judge who had offered me a job when I first graduated from law school. I should have taken the judge’s offer. Instead, I decided to work for a very large, prestigious law firm.

The partner for whom I worked had me working 80 hours a week. He would send me off on one research project only to change his mind and send me off on another. He never seemed to be able to decide what he wanted. Worse yet, he always seemed frustrated, angry and irritable.

One evening, at a bar dinner, I was chatting with the judge and began complaining about this abusive partner who was totally exhausting me. After about a minute, the judge simply excused himself and walked away. My tirade stopped immediately. I had lost my audience and rightly so. I was wasting both my time and the judge’s with ineffective complaining.

What I should have done was quit the job. I did that six months later, willingly taking a pay cut to gain the advantage of better working hours and respectful treatment.

If you’re like me, walking away is not easy. After all, we’re strong, right? And smart, right? And committed, right? And we can handle anything, right? Well maybe the shadow we don’t want to look at is our own vulnerability and pain. When we notice these and don’t want them anymore, it’s quite easy to change. The power lies totally with each of us. While we can never change another person directly, if we change ourselves, the dynamics of the relationship change. Sometimes, the other person changes indirectly as a result of our own direct change.