Imagine that you were angry; not just angry for a short period, but angry generally in life. Angry with society, angry with your life situation, angry with your family, with the world – perhaps even angry with God. Perhaps you feel frustrated, overburdened, unable to express yourself creatively, at odds with your family and so-called friends. Life is generally not a uplifting and enjoyable experience for you.
Now, if you wanted to actually resolve this problem, you would first need to recognise that your own anger IS the problem in your life. Without the anger, you would have a much higher likelihood of actually feeling happy, perhaps even peaceful.
You would also need to recognise that you yourself are responsible for generating the feelings of anger – mostly with your patterns of thinking, or perhaps a volatile temperament – and realise that there are in fact other choices available to you.
You could then consider alternative ways to look at yourself and the world; alternative habits that help you to feel more calm and peaceful, and thus hopefully free yourself from the aggravating influence that anger was having upon you. You may thus perhaps begin to appreciate and enjoy what life can be like without the intensity of frustration and anger churning around inside of you.
When dealing with anger, this is by far the wiser choice because you are taking responsibility for what you are feeling, and therefore you have the power to change how you feel, free of any dependency on outside circumstances. This in fact is emotional freedom.
But if instead you were convinced that the real cause of your anger and frustration was not inside of you, but rather ‘out there’ in society, in the world, in other people’s behaviour and attitudes, then how would you seek to resolve the problem of the anger and frustration you are feeling? Instinctively, you would strive to change the outside world, first and foremost.
By perceiving that “the system” is not working in making you happy, you are assuming that your happiness and fulfilment are the responsibility of the government, or whoever is responsible for creating the system. But this is of course not true, because you are responsible. Your life choices, and more importantly your mental choice of attitude towards the world, will either bring you positive experiences or negative ones.
For example, the belief that you are a victim will not bring you positive experiences. First and foremost, you will feel disempowered (unless you are protesting or fighting against your supposed victimisers) and to varying degrees you will feel oppressed, angry, frustrated and at the mercy of a huge sense of injustice that towers over you.
Now, contrast this with choosing not to believe in victimhood. None of these issues would impede you, simply because you have chosen not to identify as someone who is a victim. Instead you hold the belief that your attitude is what determines your life experience, not the colour of your skin, your gender, religious faith, your sexuality and so on. Your attitude, be it an overall positive or negative one, is what invites positive or negative experiences.
Most people can recognise that this is actually true of life. We invite people to treat us a certain way by the way we behave and by the way we carry ourselves and communicate. If we do this with confidence and a positive attitude, the world seems like a different place. People no longer appear threatening to us, we feel strong and enabled to achieve things that we want to achieve. Feeling this way is not dependant on your gender, race, religion or sexuality. It is dependant 100% on your attitude, and this is why we must work on cultivating a positive attitude, on a daily basis.
Do not wake up and think “I am a victim, I am going to have many challenges today.” Wake up and think “I am going to choose a positive attitude today, no matter what happens. I will be patient, tolerant and friendly with every person I meet, even if they are not friendly towards me.” Thus you take control of how you feel and what experiences you invite into your life. Experiment and you will see how powerfully true this is.
Now, if a person were to resolutely choose to continue to believe that the societal system is making them unhappy, the logic would follow that if the system were to change, then they would finally be able to feel happy and free, and until the system changes, they will feel oppressed and unhappy. To tie your degree of happiness and sense of freedom to an entire societal structure is very, very unwise, and will create an immense amount of frustration and anger. But this is what people do.
And therefore, upon believing that an unfair and unjust society is responsible for their problems and for the way that they feel, the more passionate of these individuals naturally pursue this line of thinking towards taking some kind of action against the unjust system, and those who represent it. With young people, this usually takes the form of protesting; i.e. gathering together with others, and showing their resistance to people (or organisations) whose viewpoints, actions or words they disagree with.
Now, I must be clear that I am not criticising this. But as a method of resolving ones own inner dissatisfaction with life, ones own inner conflicts, insecurities and problems, it cannot succeed. Yes, it raises awareness of injustice – which is of course good – and in the process, those who are part of the movement feel a sense of meaning and purpose; a sense of being a force of change and transformation in society. This is naturally empowering, and young people certainly need to feel empowered, as they so often feel powerless.
So, to repeat, as a method for properly resolving ones inner frustrations, anger and unhappiness, it cannot succeed, because you are acting externally in order to resolve what you are feeling internally. Therefore it becomes like a drug. You feel good when you are engaged somehow in opposing injustice, but when you are sitting quietly on your own with nothing to do, the same uncomfortable feelings keep coming back, because you keep thinking in the same way; the way that tells you how unfair life is, and how everything could be so much better if bad people stopped doing (and saying) bad things. If they just stopped oppressing people, people would be be free and happy.
But consider this: There are plenty of people who are not oppressed in the slightest, but they are not happy either. They also feel frustrated or angry or depressed or powerless. Shouldn’t they feel great because they are not oppressed? And consider this also: There are plenty of people who we think should feel oppressed because they are members of minority groups who are marginalised by society, but these people do not feel oppressed. They enjoy their life, they are doing what they want with their life and they feel happy and fulfilled. Could it possibly be that they simply don’t see themselves as victims? It is likely.
Here is the key to the problem: the most significant sense of oppression is actually being generated within our own mind, from the negative, belittling, critical and self-judgemental thoughts we think. This negative thoughts then create oppressive feelings and emotions in our body, like frustration or anger. This is how humans work. We think something and then our body responds to the thought with a feeling. This is why people feel angry when they think about injustice.
Because truly, what we feel inside emotionally is not the result of what is happening in the outside world; it is the result of how we think about what is happening. Our thoughts generate our emotions.
Now of course, I am not saying that when we think or hear about injustice we should feel indifferent, or just forget about it and remain blissfully ignorant. No. That is not a natural human response. It is natural and compassionate to care about the oppression and mistreatment of others. To care about injustice is a deeply humanitarian attitude that I believe exists (and in many cases, is buried) in the heart of every human being. We are naturally caring and empathic creatures, and we should allow our caring nature to guide our actions, our words and our thoughts.
We should allow our compassion to motivate us deeply, but not with anger. Because when anger arises, true compassion is lost and is replaced instead by a feeling of power. Anger is merely a reaction to a sense of powerless and frustration; an antidote of some kind that restores the feeling of inner strength, courage and power that was previously lacking. But it is not a good force to harness for social change, because when people are angry they just want to eradicate that which they perceive is responsible for the problem, because anger is a destructive force. I can assure you that destruction is not the way forward.
So instead, if we allow our anger at injustice to initially empower us, then consult our mind and our heart about what would be the most mature, intelligent, compassionate and co-operative way to direct our power (by which I mean inner power, not power over others) then our choices will be very different. They will certainly be far more effective and have a far greater likelihood of being listened to and taken on board by intelligent people. And thus is what all agents of change should be striving for, rather than reactionary aggression and name-calling, which of course can be fun or thrilling in some way for the people involved, but will truly have little impact in the long term.
You see, the big problem we have is our readiness to turn other people into our enemies. We really should not do this, as it is not an intelligent way to achieve anything in life. Essentially it is the basis of war, and does anybody truly want war, conflict, pain and suffering? I don’t believe so. I believe in our heart we all want a peaceful, happy life; full of shared appreciation, enjoyment and laughter. This would be ideal.
But people seem so eager to find opposition nowadays; all it takes is the slightest differing of opinion or an insensitively spoken word. Why? Because on one level we gain strength from opposition. It makes us feel stronger and more powerful, and as human beings we have a deep and primal need to feel strong and empowered. Yet we can feel this way without resorting to making enemies, and it is wise that we do so, because this precious world does not need one more drop of human conflict.
We must seek to avoid conflict in every interaction and instead fully listen to each other and try our best to understand each other’s viewpoints, without reacting childishly, without mocking, ridiculing and belittling each other. And thus we will get a proper insight into what is motivating each other’s viewpoints.
You would be amazed at how often the motivating factor is a feeling of insecurity, a feeling of anger, a feeling of powerlessness, or a feeling of fear. And we can all relate to this, because at some point we have all felt these feelings. We would then realise that what is motivating our supposed ‘opponent’ is actually the same thing that is motivating us. Of course it might not look like that on the surface, and this is why it is vital that we communicate maturely to get below the surface, and truly understand each other.
If we could just be patient enough in our communications to get below the surface opinions and righteousness (which most opinionated people naturally display) then we would get to the real human being. The human being that cares as much as you do. The human being that wants to feel safe, as much as you do. In fact, the human being that feels pretty much everything you do, although may keep it hidden. For in our heart, we are all the same. There is fear, there is a deep desire for security, and there is a dream that one day every man, women and child on this planet will live together harmoniously and compassionately, in peace and happiness.
These 3 inner desires motivate us more than we know. We are all subconsciously afraid of what might happen to us in the future. We all subconsciously long for total security and safety. And we can all imagine how truly beautiful this world could be if we were all on the same side, undivided, working in co-operation, living in peace; helping and appreciating each other in a heart-based society. It is a big dream. It is the absolute ideal, and it is certainly possible.
But how do we move in that direction? I can tell you for sure that anger will not get us there, and nor will conflict. Even if you feel that the current system itself is the problem, anger and conflict are not the way to make a better system. It is vital to understand this.
An improved system will come about through the wise and intelligent actions of people who do not want to fight. People who care, people who do not want to argue, but instead want to be a part of the solution, rather than destroying the perceived problem. After all, we can all recognise that destruction, conflict, intolerance, anger and hatred are poisons for the human soul. They are the worst problems that each one of us potentially harbours in our own self. So to be part of the solution, we first have to look at ourself and ask “am I truly bringing anything positive to the table? Or am I just venting my own frustration, anger, insecurity and fear?”
We have to be mature and intelligent about this, because if we get it wrong and we impulsively rush headlong into something as a result of our own anger and frustration, we could easily make a terrible mess that not only has a negative impact on our own lives, but which also compounds the problems of division, conflict, and suffering that we are trying to resolve.
As a final thought, please consider this: wars create untold pain and suffering, and ruin countless lives in the most terrible ways possible. We know this. And wars are built upon anger, intolerance, control and hatred. We know this too. The more anger and hostility that is stirred up within a generation (and it usually the younger generation that is mobilised in times of war) the more amenable and agreeable they will be to participate in a violent conflict. This has been true for all the major conflicts of the 20th century, and it is now where we can see the anger bubbling most fervently at this current time in our society.
So please consider what you truly want. Peaceful and intelligent solutions to all of our problems, or war? For your own sake, I pray that it is the former and not the latter. I wish you peace, Alexander Bell
“Develop the strength of your heart”
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