Years ago I googled, “Dalai Lama Angry”. I was in a state of honestly wondering what spiritual leaders do with their anger. I was tired of being in spiritual and psychotherapy communities that by-passed their anger. In the spiritual world I rolled my eyes every time I read some trite advice about “letting it go” or “opening your heart”. In the psychotherapy world I felt anger when models said “anger is a secondary emotion” or “you just need to shift your thoughts to change your emotion”.
Um, anger can actually be a very accurate response to a situation – anger can sometimes be incredibly healthy. Too often the anger gets the focus and not the problem underneath.
I remember feeling relief as I watched a Youtube video of the Dalai Lama lashing out towards someone. Part of me felt relieved at seeing such a strong Spiritual Leader having such a human moment.
Shifting The Stigma About Anger
I have been thrilled to see a slight opening in dialogue about anger emerge from spiritual leaders.
Here are few!
Jack Kornfield is a leader in the Buddhist meditation world. He was interviewed by Tim Ferriss in June. Here’s a link to their conversation: How to Overcome Apathy and Find Beautiful Purpose.
Jack tells a great story about returning from a few years in retreat in a monastery and finding himself struggling with his anger as he started to be around people (right?!!). He shares that for him, he realized that he had a strong discomfort and judgment towards his own anger. He did some body-based psychotherapy to help him process his anger and learn new ways to be present with it. He doesn’t share his ongoing journey with anger, but I love that he shares that he needed something different than meditation to help him.
Tim then shares how the process of therapeutically expressing anger, generally just makes him more angry and more stuck in his anger. Jack gives him some ideas from a Buddhist approach.
First of all, Dan would likely hate be called a spiritual leader. He is a news anchor who had a panic attack on live television and that was the impetus to start exploring meditation. He is wonderful for anyone who is more cynical about spirituality, and he has a great sense of humour.
Recently he gave a Ted Talk: The Benefits of Not Being a Jerk Towards Yourself. This one is short and sweet (13:39). Dan shares about his cringing hesitation to try being kinder to himself and his journey to get there. After practising meditation for years, he decided to do a 360 review (a corporate type of performance evaluation). He was noted as being arrogant, rude, and a diva. He then set out to change this and shares the multitude of things he tried and that a (spoiler alert) silent meditation retreat with a a loving-kindness approach towards himself, was a big piece in helping him shift. He realized that if he was nicer to himself, he was then able to be nicer to others. After his second 360 review, he shares his transformation.
I’m new to the Joe Dispenza world, and his work is often interpreted as by-passing sadness, anger, grief, and the more challenging emotions. Here’s a great article he wrote trying to dispel that understanding: Emotions Are Not Your Enemy. He doesn’t share at all about his own journey with anger, but he tries to normalize the process of feeling emotions and highlights his work is often beneficial for anyone who finds that they are stuck in those emotions and past experiences. If you’re a new subscriber and missed my most recent post that includes him – here’s the link to learn more My Crush On Physics.
If you’ve seen a spiritual leader share about their own journey with anger, please share that with me, I’d love to hear more.
And if you’re curious to explore anger a little more, I seem to write at least one post a year about his topic, so here are a couple of them.