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)

Good “Angry” People

Aug 07

My good friend, Frederick Zappone, just started a big discussion as the result of his INSPIRED LIVING blog talk radio show. His topic was Got ANGER?  Find out how to make anger your most powerful ally and your best friend.

You can’t imagine the resistance his topic brought up from people still stuck in their heads about anger, certain that anger was somehow bad.

I can only assume that those people have lived very comfortable lives. Have they ever been jailed for a crime they didn’t commit? Raped? Tortured? Had their homes ransacked and gifts from their loved ones stolen? Been evicted because their landlord could get more money from someone else? Lived in a society where disputes are resolved by bribes? Been forced to exist in a concentration camp? Been relegated to the back of a bus or forced to drink from a different water fountain because of their skin color? Been an innocent victim of a nuclear bomb? If not, they simply can’t understand anger and outrage.

The issue is not whether there is anger and outrage. There is. The issue is what we do with it when we experience it.

Do we stuff it and pretend these evils never happened? Do we remain silent, tacitly supporting this kind of inhuman conduct and allowing it to continue?

I, for one, choose to speak out against it, bring it to the light of day, make it transparent for the whole world to see, and take action to stop it whenever I can. It is simply not acceptable conduct in a co-creative, collaborative world.

Feeling anger and taking appropriate action is not the antithesis of love and understanding. It is love and understanding at the very deepest levels of our souls.

I can still love the person who engages in this kind of despicable conduct and understand that he, too, may have been abused, without standing silent in the face of his dysfunctional conduct.

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.

Why Forgive?

Apr 20

David Beale, a long time spiritual friend from Perth, Australia, has a brilliant and penetrating mind. Years ago, he offered a wonderful analogy for understanding forgiveness:

The yin-yang, though symbolic, does sum up the harmony that averages to nothing when taken over a wide enough viewpoint. …. A hurricane that goes in both directions may in sequential time do lots of damage yet the net average is No Wind ….

David went on to note that to forgive, we must have a sense of both:

  1. It does not matter because it can and does add up to nothing; and
  2. In this physical life, we have an obligation to change both ourselves and the elements of disorder so that they balance and no longer bother us, “allowing us to enjoy our temporal existence with minimal disruption and maximum joy …. we are individuals growing in a limited environment so as to better enjoy a less limited environment. Forgiveness is part of the less-limited environment. (Emphasis supplied.)

In short, there is no need for forgiveness and yet every need for forgiveness. What in the world do I mean by that paradoxical statement?

In what sense is there no need for forgiveness?

Each of us physical human beings births onto this planet with limited perspectives, limited bodies, physical needs for food, water, and shelter, and emotional needs for love and belonging. Baby Mary cries because she is hungry or cold or has a bubble of air in her belly. Her perspective is limited to her own immediate needs. She doesn’t understand that Mommy may be exhausted from cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, and caring for her brothers and sisters. She knows nothing about the sixteen hours per day that Daddy spends in a coal mine to provide a few dollars to buy rice and beans. Maybe she doesn’t even know she is hungry or cold or needs to burp. She just knows she hurts. She cries because that is all she knows how to do. She has done the best she knows how with the limited resources she has. Mommy is doing the best she knows how. So is Daddy. There is no need to forgive any of them, even though they live in desperate poverty and pain. They are all doing the best they can with the resources they have.

In what sense is there every need for forgiveness?

As Mary matures through youth and adulthood, the pain continues to gnaw at her gut. Now she notices that not everyone is hungry or cold or without shelter. As she becomes aware of her external world, her pain turns to anger. She may resent those who have more food and better shelter. She may blame her parents for their lack of education or the fact that they haven’t always been able to respond to her needs. She may come to hate other children whose parents can afford to buy them nice clothes. Her boyfriend may leave her for another woman, betraying her trust. Her internal pain and external anger may generalize to labeling all men liars and cheats, even though she has had personal experiences with only one or a few. Worst of all, she may hate herself because she feels powerless.

Pain and anger are simply different forms of the same energy. Pain is negative energy directed inward. Anger is negative energy directed outward. It doesn’t really matter where the negative energy is directed. The challenge for each and every one of us is how to release the negative energy and transform it into positive energy, or at least into neutral, detached awareness.

Mary’s adult condition is the human condition that Buddhists call “suffering.” Suffering is not necessary and can be released. At this point in Mary’s life, there is every need to release suffering. There is every need for forgiveness.

Forgiveness is one of many spiritual tools we’ve been given to transform our pain and anger into deep, personal, inner peace.

Why forgive? Certainly not because the other person deserves it. In their own misery, desperation, and low self-esteem, they may have done horrible, ugly things that felt like knives through our hearts. Perhaps they lied because they were ashamed to tell the truth. Perhaps they murdered. Perhaps they committed adultery or stole our physical possessions. Perhaps they were simply not present in their relationships with us.

Their actions were certainly not functional. We do need to pay attention to how others treat us and conduct themselves in their relationships with us. If we don’t notice what others do and how it makes us feel, we haven’t learned the relationship lessons we were intended to learn.

However, we never change the relationship by changing the other person. We change the relationship by changing ourselves.

Why then forgive? We forgive for ourselves. We forgive because forgiveness releases our own pain and anger, changes our relationship dynamics, and allows us to move forward in freedom and joy.

Holding onto pain, anger, and blame destroys each and every one of us. It makes us sick. It keeps us stuck. Anyone stuck in this negative energy and unable to let it go will eventually kill themselves as well as all the loving relationships that surround them and could support them. Being stuck in negative energy condemns you to a life lived in hell (using Christian words) or a life of suffering (using Buddhist words).

So why do we forgive? We forgive to shift our own energy from hell to heaven (Christian terminology). We forgive to release our own suffering (Buddhist terminology).

First, we forgive ourselves, knowing that we did the best we could with the resources we had. Then, we forgive others, knowing they did the same. Forgiveness does not mean staying in abusive, dysfunctional relationships. If we learn the lessons our pain and anger have taught us, we move out of abusive, dysfunctional relationships and seek out relationships that support us. When the abuser no longer has a victim, the abuse stops.

Can You Choose What You Want to See?

May 14

Old Hag or Young Woman?

A friend recently commented, “I wanted to believe I could choose what I wanted to see, what thoughts would be in my head, what emotions would be in my heart, and bring them into my life. It didn’t work. The people starved, were trafficked, raped, and plundered.”

Sometimes choosing what you want to see works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

You can never will yourself to see something that isn’t there. “Choosing what you want to see” does not mean hiding your head in the sand, nor does it mean ignoring your thoughts and emotions. Far better to be honest, see what you see, think what you think, feel what you feel, and stay open to receiving more information and clarity. Prayer and meditation help you stay open.

“Choosing what you want to see” does work when you’re looking at a half full or half empty glass or at an optical illusion such as the young woman or old hag. What’s out there doesn’t change. What changes is the way your mind structures what is out there. Hindus call it “maya” and strive to “pierce the veil of illusion”. This means you either experience awareness and oneness with no mental structuring or learn to mentally structure in many different creative ways. Sometimes you do one; sometimes the other. It all depends on your needs of the moment and the needs of those around you.

My friend made an observation based on his personal perceptions – an observation he couldn’t, wouldn’t, perhaps even shouldn’t release. But wouldn’t it have been more useful to ask an action question?

  • If you experience something you don’t like, what are you going to do to change it?
  • What realistically do you have the power to do?
  • If you are feeling mentally and emotionally drained by what you see, can you do anything other than let the tears flow and be kind to yourself?
  • If you are so full of rage that you are about to become violent, can you save your own sanity and move out of the relationship?
  • If all your human support systems have deserted you, do you have the courage and perseverance to move forward alone?
  • Can you choose to believe there is an energy out there much bigger than all of us that will support you in mysterious and unexpected ways when you ask for help?

When I lived in a country other than my native land, I told my landlord that I needed to stay in his rental home until my own home was built. He agreed. We signed a lease giving him no rights of termination as long as I paid the rent and took care of the property. Under the law of my native land, I could have stayed forever.

After two years, my landlord sent me an email saying he had found another tenant who would pay more money and give him a three-year lease. Could I meet those terms?

The short answer was “No.”

While I might have paid more money, I couldn’t in good faith enter into a three-year lease. I expected to move into my own home within six months.

My landlord then gave me notice, commenting he was sure I would understand. Business was business.

Was I angry? I was livid. Did I pursue my legal rights in that adopted country in every way possible? You bet.

I talked with local friends. I talked with the local District Attorney. I talked with my own lawyer. They all said the same thing. Under the law of my adopted country, I had to move.

What if I didn’t move and forced the landlord to evict me?

I would just get a judgment against me. That’s not a good thing for someone living in another country by sufferance of their laws.

I had explored every possible avenue for asserting my moral and ethical rights. I had no legal rights or societal support. I moved out as quickly as I could so I didn’t have to pay the landlord any more money. I also let everyone in the neighborhood know exactly what he’d done.

There was nothing beyond what I’d already done that I could do. I shifted my focus, released everything, and let the Universe take over.

My landlord had breached his contract with me. Suddenly and without warning, his new tenants breached their contract with him. That house sat empty for eighteen months with not a penny going into my landlord’s pocket.

You can call this co-creation. Together, my landlord, his new tenant, the Universe and I created the end result.

You can call it the Law of Attraction. My landlord became the recipient of exactly the same treatment he had given me.

You can call it Karma. My landlord’s action in breaching our agreement and evicting me shaped his future experience of having his own new lease broken and not having any tenant at all.

Always give yourself permission to dance your own dance of consciousness. You’ll be amazed at the dynamics that evolve with those around you and the opening perspectives and enlightenment you’ll co-create and receive.

Judgment or Discernment?

Mar 14

Can we make a distinction between judgment and discernment?

Judgment, to me, means pointing a finger of blame, seeing myself as superior, separating myself from another. Discernment, on the other hand, means simply noticing – noticing how others are acting, how they are speaking, how they are relating, and simultaneously noticing my own thoughts and emotions. Then, I can decide how I am going to act (or not) in a particular situation.

There is always a dynamic going on, a dance of consciousness if you will, both within myself and between me and another. I absolutely need to pay attention to that dance so that I can dance as well as possible. If I dance well, I become a co-creator with my Maker. Together, we create a peaceful, powerful, prosperous planet.

Have I experienced rage? Absolutely! Have I experienced terror? Absolutely! But having experienced these emotions, what am I going to do with them?

I truly cannot know the torture another person has experienced. Who am I to judge him? However, it is vital that I notice how his conduct affects me so that I take appropriate action to protect myself and the things I value.

I recently returned to the States after three years in Honduras and three-and-a-half years in Panama. It is interesting to discern some cultural differences. These are, of course, generalizations.

In the States, those who act out their pain with violence are generally behind bars. Those who move out of dysfunctional relationships, instead of reacting with violence, live relatively free and harmonious lives. This does not mean their lives are unchallenging.

In all the Central and South American countries with which I am familiar, there are few effective governmental, legal, or police systems in place to dissuade people from acting out their pain with violence. Nor are there educational systems in place to give children the skills they need to live productive, non-violent lives. As a result, pain acted out with violence frequently rules. There is little trust and little security. The people who live behind bars and high walls in these societies are the people who redirect their pain to productive, non-violent activities, not the ones who act out their pain with violence.

What have I done with my own rage and terror? Stopped, looked at it, briefly considered acting out on it, and then, with a combination of grief, anguish and relief, turned away and followed a new, more productive path.