The process right now seems to be one of reclaiming all those ever-so-human parts of myself that Art of Living subtly urged me to deny, purge, or breathe away. Most prominent in the last couple of weeks, once the morbidity and bleak terror of nothingness seemed to wane a bit, has been anger. I’ve been getting angry at the silliest things and part of me is kind of enjoying it. Sometimes there isn’t any identifiable reason; I just prowl through the world with a fire in my belly wanting anyone to do anything to deserve a punch in the face.
I hardly recognize myself when I think of the joyful bouncy loving girl most people think of me as– but it’s still me! And dammit, I like having my rage back. I even like having my doubts, depressions, anxieties and insecurities back. I prefer owning these things about myself and my life to writing them on a scrap of paper, throwing them in a basket, and trusting to that fellow in the doti to sort it all out for me and make me perfect like Him.
In Art of Living I was encouraged to surrender all worries and fears to the divine. Great. I was also told, many times, “just be happy. Celebrate.”– OK, that will require some unpacking, but we’ll go with it. But 6 months after my experience of sexual abuse in an art of living ashram, when I told my Swamiji how angry I still was, he told me, “I know– but you cannot be angry.”
What I am sure he meant was that for my own good, it was best to let go of anger and live in the present, not dwelling on what had happened and not letting anger poison my heart. In this way, he was spot on. But what part of me heard was that anger wasn’t Okay, and that to advance on this path, anger has to go. So I became completely alienated from my own feelings of anger, even when there was a good reason for it. Feeling that expressions of “negative emotions” were unenlightened and would betray all of my hideous flaws, I distanced myself from any expressions of anger, rage, frustration. Instead, those emotions got turned inward.
Is this Swamiji’s fault? No, of course not– but the Art of Living dogma encourages us to “just be happy” all the time, to practice joy and celebration because these are spiritual ways of approaching life, and other things are just “emotional storms”. We look to Sri Sri as an example of a Perfect Person, someone who is never angry. Remember this? “A Master is never angry, even though He might show anger.” (anyone smell a rat?)
Well, anger can be a healthy response to a bad situation. It can be a sign that something needs to change in your life, a way of setting solid boundaries and limits, or it can be unhealthy and abusive– but just because it isn’t pretty doesn’t mean we can just meditate it away, or even that we should. I wanted to be the perfect little devi for my Swamiji and not be angry, but I couldn’t.
Is it AoL’s fault that I wanted to eradicate my “negative” emotions in order to be more deserving of love? Of course not. But the AoL philosophy is dangerous because it erodes confidence in one’s own natural emotional responses. I want my anger to be there when I need it. I want to be open to the whole spectrum of my emotions so that I can listen to what they are trying to tell me. I don’t want to breathe them away, get giddy from an excess of oxygen, and then try to pretend that everything is hunky-dory.
Now my anger is reintegrating itself into my psyche as the iron curtain between the parts of myself I accepted and the ones I thought weren’t spiritual enough drops. So, just like I rolled with being depressed and didn’t kill myself, I’ll roll with being irrationally furious and I won’t punch people in the face. Promise.
Unless they really, really deserve it.
Part of me kinda hopes someone will…