I have been practicing Buddhism for quite some time and meditate regularly. At times I experience calm, and what I would call peace and happiness, but much of the time I continue to be consumed by anger, by negativity, by fear ... It exhausts me. When I am not in that space, I know those emotions are harmful to me, and yet I can’t seem to free myself from them. I need help.
Tired of Anger
Dear Tired of Anger,
What you describe is a common experience of those trying to walk the path. One must remember that you are trying to change the habit-energies that have entrenched themselves in you over a lifetime ... to lead your life in a way which is not supported by your upbringing and the dominant culture. Worse, those factors actively oppose, create barriers to, the spiritual life you aspire to.
People often ask, “Why do I continue to react to things in a way which I know is harmful to me?” If you read my blog post, “The Mystery of the Ego - An Answer,” you’ll see that I realized one day that what I refer to as “little Ronnie,” myself as a child. constructed a host of mechanisms to “protect” me from what in his eyes was seen as a social/family environment where I was not wanted, not loved, etc. ... the source of his deep insecurity. So my ego thinking-mind sees these mechanisms, these behaviors, as protecting me, and as a result it is intransigent and resists any efforts to alter these habit-energies. Never mind that they are in reality very harmful.
Our tendency to be consumed by anger, negativity, and similar emotions are part of the same phenomenon. You may even have felt that there seems to be something you like, that feels good about being angry, expressing negativity towards others. It’s an odd sensation.
The reason is that when we are angry we feel self-righteous, we feel better than others. And why do we like feeling self-righteous? Because it’s a mechanism to flee from our deep feelings of insecurity.
The same thing is true for feeling victimized, which is often tied to feeling anger. Why would someone like feeling victimized? Because then there is someone else to blame for the situation, not themselves. If someone is secure, they can face their own blame. But if someone is insecure, the mind runs from self-blame. This is not to say that anyone should beat themselves up, but accepting responsibility rather than blaming someone else is another matter. That is a healthy perspective.
How you free yourself from being controlled by your ego thinking-mind in this way requires a very disciplined approach to meditation and your spirituality, and usually the passage of much time. If you haven’t been reading my blog, you might want to start with my recent post, “The End of Suffering Cheat Sheet,” which will give you an overview of the process.