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The proper use of anger
Being a sensitive sort of person I find myself often irritated at things, or worried about them, even angry. Sometimes (often?) this is an overreaction, but it isn't necessarily an incorrect reaction: it's just that it takes up a little bit too much of my time given its importance. I should explain that, for the most part, the only person made miserable by this is myself.

It occurs to me that I should perhaps think of myself as someone who has a great talent for generating energy from small things. The problem is that mostly this energy is in a more or less unusable form. Without starting to sound like an alchemist, surely I should be able to focus this energy to be immensely productive and happy. Surely I'm like one of those wind-buffeted kingdoms which suddenly realizes it can make a fortune generating electricity from windmills. I just don't see how to do it yet. Many of you are wise: can you point me in the right direction?
Dear Mia, 

Suppose you were listening to a symphony. Not Tchaikovsky. Too depressing. The music will take you and you flow with it. There are questions in the music, a little later they answer or resolve themselves. And so it goes, flowing, rising and falling. You do not have to think. It just happens. You have had that experience haven't you? In the middle of it, you never get up and say "hey stop the music, I need to think about that part!" Nor does one sit there, feeling nothing. The first corresponds to too much thought and the second to not thinking at all. Of course the feeling is done through our bodies and there it must all begin.

For me, whether it was flying or martial arts or anything, everything was done through my body. The brain is a part of that. The training prepared me. So in the musical analogy, no matter what came, come what may, be it darkness or beauty, I flowed with it. Not fighting nor acquiescing. Just responding and changing, if need be, as change was indicated. I worshipped nor admired much, save the beauty of the world. One just faces what came and your body told you how much to give.

One deliberately places oneself in that space in the world, a quietness, an awareness. Of knowing. Not just of oneself but also all around. Like the English play cricket. Focused on the ball but aware of all the fielders and what they are doing, where they are moving. Prepared for the sledging the opposition throw at you, to undermine your game.

In painting, you paint what you feel. And what you see changes you a little bit, so you move the brush and you keep going from there. There is joy in it. As there is joy in memory. And desire. Towards an end point, to create something interesting. And you feel better for it.

Does that help? If not, one can try tilting at windmills I suppose. :-)


Thanks for your nice reply. Indeed, I have had this sort of experience with music: but I think it's important to add that music isn't raw -- it is a highly refined and sensitive channeling of energy and power. An education of the senses, perhaps. One might indeed reach sublime heights of self-surrender, but it's a Zen kind of nothingness (reached at the end of a long process of deep training) rather than something simply spontaneous. 

So I might separate the question into two parts. First of all, there is the question of how to deal with minor annoyance: and here your eloquent suggestion of re-routing the resistance is appreciated. But the point about putting up generators goes a bit deeper; one can't get electricity from the occasional sea breeze. Yes, there's a feeling of something stronger.

Therefore if I were to try to describe my emotional reaction to your images, I might say that I know myself well enough to feel that the energy in question, however contained it may be in its eddying here in the shallows, is fundamentally not something to be trifled with; it's not as simple, in my case, as abandoning myself to a certain measure of trust in the universe, because this is not a gentle river to be carried down but a thunderstorm, an ocean. One does not approach a thunderstorm without a kite -- one does not try to let the lightning rod be one's own body. Nor can one exactly throw oneself into the maelstrom, cross the sea without a boat. I have thought about this at some length, and don't think it's a lack of trust or surrender on my part so much as a healthy respect for the power of nature. One need not encounter the deep parts of oneself in the everyday experience of life, of course. But if one chooses to, one should not be naive.

So the question becomes: how might one develop the sensitivity and the fine-tuned reflexes to be able to put on the mantle of one's power, whatever this may be -- to be able to wear it lightly?
Dear Mia,

The music is the analogy is for what is felt. As one operated in a certain way in the concert hall to deal with what was felt then so one operated in that way in life. The music was the inspiration and suggestion for that. I'm not sure if my meaning there was clear. It was not about abandonment although that would be a part of it, perhaps coming at the end of life, to a terrible disease for example. You talk about thunderstorms and then having the reflexes to wear one's power lightly…

The best way I can answer this is probably from experience. It probably isn't useful to describe exactly how one does it because that would be different for different people so one would have to take what is needed from what follows here. Some years ago I was in a train and a group of high school students from a private school accompanied by their teacher came on and sat down. Shortly afterwards, a tall muscular gentleman of skin head appearance pushed past the teacher and started hitting one of the students. Chaos ensued, much screaming and fear. "Skinhead" was extremely angry. I was sitting a few feet away. I reached out to his arm and pulled him away from the boy. The grip was deliberate, controlled and released almost immediately. I didn't want him pulling back. He then directed his anger at me, shouting all kinds of expletives. I didn't hear them very well because I do have a hearing loss. I was still sitting down whilst he stood there, full of rage. I was calm and controlled and stared back at him. The situation detoriated and it was an eyeballing contest. He was aiming to hit me so I followed his arm with my eyes to his fist and then looked into his eyes. He knew that I knew what he was feeling. I kept ahead of him in that way, my eyes playing to his body all the time. But he wouldn't let up, it wasn't working so I began to mirror his anger. That was not difficult because as the situation had escalated I became more relaxed so I only had to let myself become worked up by letting him have an effect on me. A kind of hot burning anger began in my stomach region and rose upwards, heat spread through my body. (I added to it by thinking of my parents who were dead). This was the fight/flight response. My face was colouring, I could feel it. I felt stronger and looked at him in a different way, where anything was possible. From eyeballing, this was now like two wild animals facing off. I was also becoming hyperaware and saw and felt a great deal. His left foot came off the ground and he stepped back. Instantly I said "thank you". To cut to the end, within a minute he ran out of there. Very few words were exchanged and I didn't get up off my seat. 

I could do that because I remained calm due to MA training. The control was over myself and over this gentleman. You learn that from training. But not everyone can do it. With experience you get better at it. You become familar with your body and it's responses. You can even have significant control over it's responses. Self reflection upon one's feelings helps but in the heat of the moment, virtually all thinking ends and you depend on feeling almost entirely, that is why training is necessary. There is no time for thought and the moment may seize you and take you with it. If that is not on your own terms you may be in serious trouble.

How does one cope and abide with the world as Emily Dickinson asked? With sensitivity but not being dominated by the feelings thus engendered.  Whitman accepted feeling, welcomed it, gave rein to it and trusted in it. One lives with life. Tough and tender minded, I remember William James rather than his brother Henry.  He said other things about conflict and the importance of attitude. 

And a thing I found is that one only learns these things - responding in the moment - by actually doing them. There is essentially no other way. Reflection and thought afterwards helps for future times but it is no guarantee of change, by itself. So in a nutshell the answer is to experience life and think like hell about it afterwards. I'm only 45 and as I get older it is true, one wishes one knew now what one knew years ago. Like they say, youth can be wasted on the young.

I hope you can make use of my answer, it's terrible I know but I guess if it were easy, we'd all be doing it. Your questioning strikes a chord in me and I admire your intention and spirit. May it ebb and soar all your life long.

With love,

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