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Buddhist philosophy and anger

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by justmike, Feb 19, 2017.

  1. justmike

    justmike Peer Supporter

    I am aware that I have a lot of internal anger. I've struggled with it my whole life. I think this is primarily because I was bullied as a child and forbidden by my mother to defend myself for religious reasons. This and a whole host of other little injustices have left me feeling angry almost 24/7.

    Buddhist philosophy is something that seems to be in vogue these days and I've been encouraged by certain people at one time or another to try adopting some of the Buddhist principles in an effort to address my anger. However, it seems to me that the Buddhist attitude about anger is to eliminate it from your life, as if it has no place in the life of someone who is "happy". This seems in direct conflict with what is espoused in books about TMS.

  2. Huckleberry

    Huckleberry Well known member

    My admittedly somewhat limited understanding of Buddhism is that rather than hunting around for happiness we should actually embrace acceptance. The core tenant of Buddhism is that life is suffering and it is only through development of a Buddha nature that this cycle of samsara can be broken. How this Buddha nature is attained seems to be the defining point of the various strands of Buddhism. To this end, I think that buddhists would see that anger is an understandle reaction whilst living a life that is fundamentally one of suffering but that this is a base and automatic response will feel when we believe that life should somehow be different or fairer etc than it actually is. I've always thought that Buddhism was all about acceptance so I think this fits in well with the accepted protocol for TMS recovery.
    MindBodyPT and Ellen like this.
  3. justmike

    justmike Peer Supporter

    Here is something I found:

    Buddhism teaches us that anger, like all mind states, is created by mind. However, when you are dealing with your own anger, you should be more specific. Anger challenges us to look deeply into ourselves. Most of the time, anger is self-defensive. It arises from unresolved fears or when our ego-buttons are pushed. Anger is virtually always an attempt to defend a self that is not literally "real" to begin with.

    As Buddhists, we recognize that ego, fear and anger are insubstantial and ephemeral, not “real.” They are merely mind states, as such they’re ghosts, in a sense. Allowing anger to control our actions amounts to being bossed around by ghosts.

    This sounds like a really negative characterization of anger and seems to invalidate the emotion, as if it's all in your head and not part of your "true self". On the other hand most TMS literature seems to say that ALL emotions (including anger) are valid and are visceral - not in your mind, but in your body. My therapist keeps telling me that my emotions are like a compass, giving me signals that I should acknowledge. If I try to eliminate anger from my life, it seems like part of that compass would be missing.
    TG957 likes this.
  4. Huckleberry

    Huckleberry Well known member

    I don't think anybody can realistically or even should want to eliminate anger totally from their lives but rather the aim is to not be hoodwinked into thinking that anger or whatever is something it isn't. Whilst the emotion may be a valid expression I think we need to be aware of the true causality of the emotion. I think this comes back to the idea that we need to aim to create a space or gap between our feeling an emotion and then us acting or responding on it. This doesn't negate the validity of the emotion but rather it can serve us to better understand what exactly is pushing our buttons. So much of our emotional behaviour and responses have become an automatic process that all too often we actually have no idea what it is that is driving them.
    Ellen likes this.
  5. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Huckleberry and justmike,

    I am enjoying your discussion. I would add that the "true self" which many of the spiritual traditions aspire to does on the surface seem to negate so much of our human, emotional experience. From the "true self" view we have perspective, and acceptance, and love. From our normal living side of things, I believe we need to practice attuning to our feelings and emotions with as much love and patience as we can, especially when we are caught in difficult feelings like anger or hurt. This can create the "gap" and understanding. This attunement and space for the emotions is also a very basic a Buddhist practice. It is our "improving and fixing" mind which ends up making our selves "wrong" for so much common experience. In my experience, the more we accept, the more things flow and clear on their own.

    Andy B
    zclesa and Ellen like this.
  6. TG957

    TG957 Beloved Grand Eagle

    From my very little exposure to Buddhism: it teaches that there is nothing wrong with negative emotions themselves. However, people can do wrong things about negative emotions. As long as we recognize the anger (or other negative emotion) at the time it is happening and handle it properly, we are fine. They call it meeting, greeting and transforming the emotion. The entire teaching of Buddhism is about recognizing and respecting the human nature. They teach that it is natural for us to be angry, but it is not healthy to be hung up on the anger, let alone suppress it and push it inside. This is very consistent with what I learned from Dr. Sarno.
    Dfw and Ellen like this.
  7. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle

    Very well put TG957!!
    TG957 likes this.
  8. Eugene

    Eugene Well known member

    I am a Buddhist and have studied it in quite some depth over the last few years, however, I am definitely not an expert - hopefully in a few more lifetimes :)

    The best place to start is with pretty much any of the Dalai Lama's books. There's a lot of Buddha-lite pop-psychology type books around these days, which tend to be more 'how to be happy' books than informative books about Buddhism itself.

    Buddhism has definitely helped with any anger issues I might have had. Yes, I still get angry, but I think you'll find most Buddhist would confess to the same thing as we're all still on the path to enlightenment, but I now find it easier to press the pause button before getting really mad - most of the time.

    If you want any book recommendations Mike let me know.
  9. justmike

    justmike Peer Supporter

    Not to belabor this too much more, but I feel like the Buddhist view is that you should train your mind so that you will not get angry - or get angry less often. This is what I took away from The Art of Happiness. The view seems to place the mind in a position of authority over the body, which is where all feelings originate.

    I also read Facing the Fire by John Lee, in which he more or less says that you cannot train yourself not to feel anger anymore than you can train yourself to breathe underwater. He says what you should do is feel your anger and be okay with it. And you should express it in some visceral way that is safe and doesn't harm others. It needs to be expressed so that it doesn't stay in your body.

    I'm not here to talk down about Buddhism or say that I disagree with it. But I feel like the Dalai Lama and John Lee espouse two very different views when it comes to dealing with anger.
  10. lexylucy

    lexylucy Well known member

    I enjoy this discussion.
    I have a lot of anger right now. And I notice it comes out in curse words here and there. For me I feel ok with anger coming up and I find expressing it by myself in some way to be uplifting and relaxing. But it also can trigger fear in me. I don't want to blame other people for my feelings. And I don't want to act in a way that feels out of control.

    The Dalai Lama was once asked what is the highest virtue of a spiritual practice. His answer:

    "Kindness. Kindness is my religion."

    I find I feel the same way. For me it is important to feel my feelings AND to feel that I am capable of choosing my words when I want to express myself to another person.

    I find when it comes to connection and confrontation I practice love, acceptance, non judgment, kindness and gentleness. And I connect and confront with courage and try to be very clear in whatever I am requesting. There are however times when there are people in your life who are beyond confrontation. Meaning that you have tried many many times to ask for what you need and you are treated with disrespect. In that case, as if riding on a bus someone I look for a place where I can get off. And I find, even if it is a coworker or someone who is a part of my life like it or not, I find it helps to know that I have let go of any kind of personal relationship with them. Then I can actually be forgiving.

    Here's a wonderful 3 minute excerpt by Buddhist munk Pema Chodron called "What to do When you lose it Completely"

  11. Un0wut2du

    Un0wut2du Peer Supporter

    Sounds like some unresolved resentment towards mom. Anger is seen as a wasted emotion. Nothing comes from it. The reality of letting go is liberating. I am not sure why you think TMS literature thinks you are to hold onto anger? What I read over and over in the Sarno books is that we are to 'feel' emotions as that is normal. It is the repression that is damaging. Being told "good boys don't do x, y, z" etc. I was raised catholic and we were friggin TOUGHT repression, holy cow... You GET to feel. Are you managing those emotions and feelings in a healthy way? That is what I read in Sarno's books. I see an anger management counselor. He is teaching me many, many ways to look at, feel and properly evaluate the situations. Not explode which is my way. These are things I would never have thought of on my own. When I think I have all of the answers, I get into trouble. I need to ask an objective outsider. Give anger counseling a try. Nothing bad ever happened to someone who tried to get better. Back to some religion based hurt/guilt/shame, take a look at the "structured educational program' and especially day 2. The article there written by Kim Ruby meant a lot to me as she pointed out the feelings of "not good enough." I had already been through several Sarno books but missed that message. It hit hard that this was a huge source of old pain. I too look at the buddhist stuff but if you have physical pain you believe to be TMS I would leverage my time here on this site and read the books people here have said helped them with their pain. I too am doing the structured program and it is marvelous. It is geared very specifically to work on TMS based pain. Journaling is HUGE for me. Try that program. The buddhist stuff will be waiting for you.
  12. justmike

    justmike Peer Supporter

    I'm pretty sure I never said the TMS literature said to hold on to anger. I feel like in this thread people are not really reading what I've posted and keep putting words in my mouth. My point is that anger is a valid emotion, just like any other emotion. And it needs to be FELT before it can be released. To me the Buddhist idea of controlling it is just another form of repression.
  13. MindBodyPT

    MindBodyPT Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi mike,

    Personally I don't know a lot about traditional Buddhist philosophy but I have studied mindfulness meditation, which takes many ideas from vipassana buddhism. It doesn't teach to control your anger...it just teaches to notice and be aware of anger like all other emotions, and not to assign it more or less value than others. It sees all emotions as fleeting states of mind that pass. I totally agree, anger is a valid emotion and must be acknowledged before it can be resolved or released. Trying to control any emotion will not work well. I think there are many different schools of thought within Buddhism, its possible that some of them place more emphasis on control of emotions, i'm not aware of that though. You might like books by Tara Brach, who practices Buddhism but with a mindfulness philosophy, she is also a psychotherapist. I enjoyed her book Radical Acceptance :)
    jaumeb likes this.
  14. jaumeb

    jaumeb Peer Supporter

    It's not about repressing anger. It's about observing it rise and fall without being attached to it.
  15. lexylucy

    lexylucy Well known member

    There are Buddhists who feel that when they are in fear they are out of alignment. And when they are in Anger they are in judgement.

    I find - I have just come out of a relapse - where anxiety and anger/frustration were the only emotions I was aware of. But when I did some work on myself I found that there were deep feelings of loss there. I am still coming up out of the water and breathing out these new uncovered feelings. The anger has slipped away. The anxiety is there at times. The physical symptoms are way less. Overall I feel more calm.

    But this is one woman's experience. Another person may be aware of fear and underneath it find a deep feeling of rage.

    There are a million ways that TMS can manifest.
  16. thecomputer

    thecomputer Well known member

    There are many off shoots of Buddhism, and they approach things slightly differently to each other but all come back to the Buddha's original teachings. You can always look at the original Pali cannon if you want to see the core teachings.

    Look at Christianity, you have certain extreme groups who are condemning certain minorities with extreme hate. This wasn't what Jesus taught!

    It's less extreme on Buddhism, but I've met Buddhists who don't seem to embody the Buddha's teachings.

    It's a common misconception that the first noble truth means 'life is suffering'. It is obvious that life is not just suffering, it's a mixture of everything, joy and pain. A better translation would be 'In life there is suffering'. Which I'm sure everyone agrees with!

    There are various stories about the dalai lama and other tibetan monks coming to the west and not being able to understand that lots of people in the audience 'hate' themselves. It's a concept they have struggled with a lot because it was not part of their life experience. I went to see a Tibetan lama who is close to the dalai lama. He said 'why would you hate yourselves, it doesn't make any sense?'.

    He is right, what good does it do to give ourselves such a hard time. But then we can't separate ourselves from the society we live in. Things are still up to leave people dissatisfied, feeling they don't measure up, and mainly feel alone. The Tibetans have been through intense hardships and lost their country, but they had community and if got them through. I read one monk talking about being in these camps after losing their homeland and they were incredibly sad, but he said he never felt that people were 'depressed' in the way people in the west get. There's a huge difference between being sad and being depressed.

    As someone said earlier, Buddhism is all about acceptance. We suffer because we want what we don't have and we don't want what we do have.

    In the west now we have skimmed off one layer of Buddhism, mindfulness. We have used this to help people be less stressed...so they can continue to lead a busy stressful life! It will never work! Even Jon kabat Zinn has said that he regrets the way he introduced some of the Buddhist concepts to the west.

    Being calm and still in meditation is one thing, but there is so much more to it. In Thailand generosity comes first, which makes a lot of sense to me. Look after others, serve your community, give something of yourself to make people happy. If everyone did this the world would be so different. But if everyone just meditates and continues to live in the same way things won't change.

    I think Buddhism works perfectly with TMS treatment. I have had the most benefit from the heart practises : loving kindness, compassion, equanimity, sympathetic joy.

    These practises focus a lot on forgiveness and learning to be kind to yourself. Something I imagine most of us TMSers need a lot of!

    It's an interesting discussion
    MindBodyPT and jaumeb like this.

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