June 30, 2010

Angry, angry, angry

anger management, ken mcleod, dealing with anger

From Teabaggers (I never got used to "Tea Partiers" and stick with the name they gave themselves) to television news shriekers to the average Jane and Joe on the street (employed or not), Americans seem pretty testy lately. Just turn on cable or take public transportation—or read the blogs.

Whether it's difficulty adjusting to the realities of the new century or to our much-changed role in the world, people are angry. So I thought I'd link to a short piece by Ken McLeod, who wrote on anger, its causes, and its remedies through mind-training (lojong), a practice Acharya Judy Lief writes about regularly for us at tricycle.com.

Ken wrote back in the hot summer of 1998:

Mind training is about learning and knowing that you don’t exist the way you think you do. Anger ceases to arise because there’s nothing to defend...

How does mind training help? It works in two ways, which are the two components to Mahayana practice. One, they help cultivate compassion, and two, they help cultivate an understanding of emptiness.

Since then, everyone seems only angrier. Maybe the country doesn't exist the way it thinks it does. Or maybe everyone missed that issue. If that's the case, you can read "Awakening to Anger" here.

Photo © William Klein

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celticpassage's picture

Assuming it's true that most Americans are full of anger (and I would say this is true particularly of North America) then though it all sounds good, neither RET, nor any other self-help psychology, nor even Buddhist mind training works to eliminate anger. Otherwise people in the US (the most 'psychologized' country on earth) wouldn't consist of such overwhelming numbers of angry people.

jjwalker7730's picture

According to the Wheel of Life dharma, the human realm is the realm of anger.

Mick Mayers's picture

I joined the "Coffee Party". It's a response to the Teabaggers in that we encourage debate, so long as we keep it civil. In fact, we "signed" an agreement to respect differences and to encourage discussion while keeping the emotion out of it.

If more people would listen to the whole story and seek to understand rather than to accuse, we'd all probably be a lot better off.

Mark's picture

When we're afraid, we like to get angry at someone else for causing our problems, so we don't have to examine our own complicity in creating our situation or accept our responsibility to change. Those who repackage our emotions for commercial or political purposes know that about us, so they have created whole industries around reinforcing people's outrage over their own perceived victimhood (cable news shows being the obvious example). I am in a job in which I often take phone calls from people who just want someone to rant at. It's hard, but I try to listen for the pain behind the anger -- at least it keeps me from reacting to their anger in kind.

william allred's picture

David Bruce wrote:Much of the anger in the USA is warranted yet misplaced. These are tough times, and they are likely going to get tougher. Instead of people focusing on divisions, they ought to be finding their common ground, their oneness with each other.

Things are going south quicker than most folks would believe...48 of fifty states in the Union are worse off than Greece and the Bond market-which alot of retirees depend on is set to crash in the next few days. State coffers empty and employees will be furloughed from state jobs...medicare bankrupt(also state coffers) so we have alot in common...nothing, nada...broke.
We will learn to rely on each other, family, friends and people we don't yet know...the guy with a tent in our backyard or his-reserved for you. The Old Chinese curse is really a blessing in the sense that bad karma is good karma-it's how we learn the truly useful, beneficial lessons. "God Bless us everyone"..."More gruel, please?"

celticpassage's picture

I don't think tough times make people angry, rather angry people just have a tough time.

I would imagine that the cause of all of the anger is the ultra individualistic society that IS the US. This essentially breeds a don't care attitude about anyone or anything else, and a looking out for number one at all costs.

I've talked to lots of Americans that essentially believe: If you're poor, it's your fault. If you're sick it's your fault. If you're in a job you don't like, it's your fault. If you're unemployed it's your fault. If you're homelss it's your fault....ad nauseum.

Doug's picture

I did notice this anger quite a bit. Compared to my experiences in the EU, or in Japan, Americans really are tense, combative and confrontational. A sad state of affairs for our culture, since I believe this is a recent generational phenomenon.

David Bruce's picture

This is a timely post, James.

Gone are the days of great anchors like Walter Cronkite. Now we have pundits on the left and right who filter the right combination of news clips to get their viewers riled up, often over trivialities.

Much of the anger in the USA is warranted yet misplaced. These are tough times, and they are likely going to get tougher. Instead of people focusing on divisions, they ought to be finding their common ground, their oneness with each other.

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