Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


Resenting Resentment

I feel like I've been sensing those gray edges of depression for a few weeks now. No, I don't feel like I'm sliding deeply into that dark funk, just aware of how it shows up as the growing frustration that seems closer at hand lately. I am so spun up with self-doubt from my Inner Critic that it is causing me to have problems processing what people say to me. Everything I hear comes through the filter of self-doubt and only then seems to confirm the uncertainty I feel or as if I am truly being questioned about my ability.

It is getting tedious.

A suggestion was made to me today - Perhaps I need to actually allow myself to feel the anger I have. To resent the hell out of the things I resent until I'm done resenting them. Yes, I may have acknowledged that I feel it, but I view as if from afar.

Anger feels terrifying to me. This is something not uncommon in abuse survivors. Anger is a signal that things are about to go seriously wrong on some, if not many, levels. Quite often as children we are denied it, punished for it. It is pretty understandable that I really don't have any tools to express it now.

So there it sits. I look at it and go, "eeew, scary anger." Rather like viewing a scary predator at the zoo or aquarium*.

And there I am minding the dirty cup and ignoring the pure wine in it. Again.

Today I was also reminded that the sensation of being broken, that is just the element of suffering we all share. Bad, unfair things happen and each and every one of us is touched in some way by them. We all have some way in which we feel that sensation of brokenness. This is the First Noble Truth.

Leaning into the anger, going through it, is a very sharp point indeed. Practice has taught me that it is possible to relax into grief, to settle into it. I was able to navigate myself, teach myself even in the grip of terrible, ages old fear. But my mind really pulls away from experiencing the anger.

I hear my fearful-mind rationalizing, looking at the anger closely and reminding me of the Ninth Precept. "Oh no," she says, "we cannot give rise to anger."

Yet I know that's another way of keeping that scary predator safely in the tank, behind glass. Viewed, appreciated, acknowledged, but not touched. If anger turned outward is unhealthy for those around us, and anger turned inward is depression, then what is the middle was of experiencing anger in a way that is healthy?

*Just on a side note - I fortunate to see the Great White Shark that was at the Monterey Aquarium a while ago. She was, to borrow inspiration from Umberto Eco, beautiful and terrible, like an army arrayed with banners.

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