Last night, I got into a conversation about anger and resentments – I am not lacking in either. The other party stated that anger was a colossal waste of energy, that it served no purpose – so why hold on to it? Why hold a grudge when the recipient (in this case, a particularly distracted driver) wasn’t even aware of the offense and was, in actuality, totally unaffected by my outrage? I wouldn’t gain anything as a result of my anger, thus it was a waste of my own precious time.
I thought about this for a while – it was a logical argument, I agreed. There are certainly situations that warrant anger but most of the resentments I cling to do not fall under that category. It didn’t make sense, yet I continually chose to stew over minor offenses, allowing them (and me) to paint a larger picture of an unkind, unfair, and unloving world.
And then it dawned on me: my anger does serve a vital purpose, albeit a somewhat camouflaged one. Beneath the overt cause and effect, anger allows me to create a very specific internal story about myself.
What do I mean by that?
As humans, we are natural storytellers. We communicate all kinds of stories to others – verbally, through the written word, through art, etc. Internally, we create stories about ourselves and our life. Stories based on rather subjective interpretations of past events – memories. Obviously, we are all the protagonists of our own story. In my internal story, for example, I am the misunderstood but highly capable hero, struggling against an unjust world.
Our mind, or rather our ego, will interpret events to fit into this internal story – even if it requires skewing or altering some aspects of objective reality. Why? Because in my story I am the hero, and the hero is always just, fair, and righteous.
So my anger continues to fuel this story and, in turn, my ego. It tells me “I’m right and you’re wrong” or, taken further, “I’m better. You’re worse.” Above all else, it keeps me separate from you and from humanity as a whole. This separateness helps keeps the ego alive and thriving, after all. But it also leaves me alone with myself – and, for me, that’s a dangerous place to be. Most, if not all, of my worst decisions were made in this place of separation, of utter aloneness with a loud and unrelenting ego.
Yoga has provided me with a much-needed respite from this place. It seems that the opposite process occurs every time I am in class. I can go in stewing but, through the flow, the anger melts. Moving in the same breaths as my classmates, I feel connected to something larger – no longer ‘better’ or ‘worse’, but simply ‘being’. My ego quiets and in its place there is calm and focus. From our many stories one arises – a story of unity, flow, and compassion.
And in that place I realize that just as in my story, I am the hero and the offending party plays the role of the villain, in someone else’s story the opposite must be true. So we are all heroes in our own minds and villains in others’. Yet we are so much more than this two-dimensional description. We are both – hero and villain, and we are neither. We are the amalgamation of every aspect of ourselves, meaning we are all simply, yet complicatedly, human.