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?

7 Responses to “Transforming Rage into Right Action”

  1. Shelley Darling says:

    Bravo Janet!
    I have been lucky to experience this”Transformation of upset and rage into passionate purpose”
    From one spiritual warrior to another,

  2. Debra Crerar says:

    I love your honesty and I am glad you took the time to write this.

  3. Harvey Austin says:

    I find myself in deep accord with what you have written, friend spiritual warrior.

    I would add this about ‘anger’. Anger has three aspects, often undistinguished. Distinguishing these three helps to both understand and speak of anger usefully.
    1. There is the recognition that I have anger.
    2. There is the experience of anger. If one FULLY experiences it, it will either vanish or come close to doing so. If not, it will simply add itself to all previous experiences of anger which, NOT fully experienced, continue to taint the present.
    3. Then there is the acting out of anger. This is where we must stop short, for this is the realm of the ‘murder’ you wrote of. Fully working # 2 relieves the tendency to go to this.

    You speak of transforming it. Yes, that is what can be done instead of going to step three. And this is what is left when one does not fully experience the anger. Unfortunately passionate purpose often is undergirded by anger. Not useful, for the ‘anger will out’.

    Creating a great purpose and having it be passionate is a declarative act. Such a declaration does not depend on being the result of rage, transformed. It is great in and of itself.

  4. Tammy Martin says:

    This is awesome. I try not to battle with this but it is still hard to deal with.

    Tammy Martin

  5. Firas S says:

    Beautiful article Janet. Transforming rage to un-patterned burning fire is so blissful. I agree with you that no one is evil, probably no one is an angel either. It is all an interpretation in the mind.

  6. Christopher Young says:

    Great stuff! As a divorce survivor turned cage fighter I am all too familiar with being deeply immersed in rage. At times I feared tapping into it was harming my psyche but I realize it brought to me a valuable lesson, as you stated, a deeper understanding of principles that I had only cursory experience with previously. I now am much more transparent and open about expressing my needs, and attempt to be mindful of what others need and what makes a functional, harmonius relationship. It certainly isn’t accomplished every day and at times I fail at it, but striving to be respectful, loving, forgiving, and open to helping others is a worthwhile challenge and a struggle I will commit to daily.

  7. janet says:

    Thank you, Shelley, Debra, Harvey, Tammy, Firas, and Christopher, for your wonderful contributions to a challenging subject. Kudos!

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