Monday, September 30, 2013

Acting in Our Own Best Interest

 “Anger is our friend.  Not a nice friend.  Not a gentle friend.  But a very, very loyal friend. It will always tell us when we have been betrayed.  It will always tell us when we have betrayed ourselves.  It will always tell us when it is time to act in our own best interest.  Anger is not the action itself. It is the action’s invitation.”  --Julia Cameron

"Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned."  --Buddha

[Emphases in bold are mine.]

I pride myself on entering situations fully--with both freedom and fearlessness.  I also recognize that there are situations for which this might not be the best approach, in which case entering fully, but with wisdom and wakefulness is a more sensible way to go.  At this moment I am trying to restore, to recalibrate, and to settle into a space where I can act intentionally, deliberately, and naturally--this is what I can do when I'm feeling strong.  It's staying balanced enough so that we aren't bowled over that is essential.  

And, as much as I dislike anger (I've written about this before, I'm certain.), it is mostly the "holding onto anger" that I dislike.  I'm trying to recognize, as Julia Cameron offers in the quote above, that sometimes anger lets us know when we need to act in our own best interest.  Like everything else I think about, this is a balancing act.  How do we stay attuned, acknowledge the feeling when it arises, and acknowledge what it might be offering us, without holding onto it and burning ourselves?  I have no desire to act on my anger, to hold it tightly or to throw it at someone, but I have a strong desire to learn from the feelings that emerge and determine if there is a corresponding action that needs to be taken in order to remain present and proactive in any given situation.

One of my favorite quotes from therapy a couple of years back was, "What about that surprised you?"  These are the moments I'm trying to be attuned to--these moments when I'm caught off guard by behaviors that are not surprising at all, but I allow them to be.  I want to be able to hold to my center when these things come at me.

I was talking to a new acquaintance this past week, a man who works in a much more cutthroat field than mine, and he listened as I said, "Why would anyone be working for self-promotion instead of the greater good of a project?  And why would anyone assume this about others?"  And he said, "You're such an idealist."  He didn't say it in a belittling way, but as a matter of fact, and slight disbelief that I could operate from this stance.  Do I want to be anything but?  No.  Do I want to better navigate the world so that I won't be surprised when others aren't?  Yes.

There are so many people in my life who are willing to operate from this place.  We can share experiences and laugh and cry and laugh some more.  What I've noticed?  None of us are naive; most of us have had more varied life experiences than many of the people we are surprised by.  And none of us hold tightly to anger.   What we are all working toward, well, we're working toward this balance--letting go and also taking action.  Being proactive while also holding onto equanimity.  We're all fallible, none of us are "right," but all of us have a pretty solid compass for how we want to move about the world, and we are always refining and reconfiguring.  And I'm grateful.  Always grateful for the grace and wisdom of the people in my world.  

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