The reason that anger can be helpful with depression is that they are very near each other as thought processes, but anger has more energy behind it. That was the logic behind the previous exercise.
Depression is when we’ve given up to the point where we don’t even conjure an opponent within ourselves to argue with. We are alone. Self-debating has surrendered to listlessly reciting the world’s ills –ours in particular. One of the most painful parts about it is how dull it is. At least an angry argument has sparks.
Anger is really an argument within our consciousness about how we believe some aspect of the world (potentially us), could be better in some way. The energy is derived from the interplay between those two selves, almost like how the exchange process in a battery works.
Those internal conversations are not exactly like an external person and all they bring, but it reminds our brains of real people and caring about something enough to be upset about it. It’s the caring and together parts we want to make use of now.
Note, the difference between suicidal and angry is that in one we’re alone reciting ills, and in the other we perceive an opponent of some kind. But if having an internal opponent defines where depression ends and anger begins, then what is the upper end of anger?
What defines the next phase of our journey into frustration? Where is that border? It’s where our internal voice makes a shift from being unreasonable, to something more realistic. We have to make more sense.
Anger is explosive and unreasonable and silly and dangerous. It generally lacks good logic. And even if we are angry about something that someone really did, deep down we all know that –as the saying goes– shit happens. People screw up and do dumb things. We have.
Still, most of us will argue with the world for a while before surrendering to the hugeness of the universe. Then we move on. The depressed person keeps arguing, and of course it’s depressing.
Who’s ever going to win an argument with the universe? Investing in futility is pretty depressing. But there’s anger just waiting for us…. So now that we’ve found an argument partner in our heads, let’s have them talk some sense into us.
Instead of some ruminating ego-voice in our heads that just agrees with us and adds more fuel to every fire, let’s meditate our way through this with wisdom. We need a good, clear, wise debating partner that represents our healthy self.
Let’s use common sense to shoot some holes in the feeder lines to our anger. Let’s cut off some of its supply of venom with logic.
Yeah, maybe we hate our mother for how absent she was, but she was human too, right? Maybe as an older person, when we look at her life stress, we might recognize more of it now that we have bills or kids of our own.
Or what about that boss that fired us and destroyed our confidence? Did they really destroy it, or did we really screw up big time? And because deep down we suspected that might be true, have we been undermining our natural confidence with insecure thoughts? Is our confidence really still there, but just suppressed by our insecure thinking? (Yes.)
Or maybe some person hurt us by stealing someone away from us. But maybe we realize that maybe they just saw the same qualities in the other person that we did. So does that person deserve to suffer for falling in love? They didn’t do that to us. It just happened, the same way it did inside us.
So is the problem really that the person who won the love exists? Or is that there was only one object of affection available to two equally admiring people? Did it just come down to the other person liked sports, or art more? (Often it is something like that.)
However we make sense of it, anger is always fear-driven (usually about our inadequacies). But if we find the fears we’ll usually find it fairly easy to find the logic holes or giant assumptions or generalizations we have used to define a situation or ourselves. We need to pick at those.
This is what ‘being responsible’ feels like in the best sense. We are treating the insides of our minds like the martial arts studio from the movie The Matrix. We are attacking any illogical idea that is attacking us.
If people watch the whole scene linked above, it’s a great metaphor. Neo is our emotional ego-self. Morpheus is me for now, but we ultimately want Morpheus to live within each of us, pointing out the failures of our internal attacks. (If people prefer, I could have said we should give advice to our angry self much like Dumbledore would to an angry Harry.)
As we find logical reasons to undermine our own anger, we will feel the tide shift even more, as less life-force is going into wild energy for its own sake, and more is going into the sort of sensible thought processes that are the wisest uses of the human mind.
Our capacity to think is another tool, like our hands. With our hands we can punch someone, or do surgery and save their lives. The choice is ours.
The same is true with our minds. We can carelessly butcher ourselves on the inside with cruelty and depressed observations, or we can respectfully debate ourselves into a healthier state of mind using facts we know to be true? Again, the choices is ours.
The best part about this is, if we learn this healthy meditation skill now, then we have learned it for life. Because all of life is just a wander around this big Consciousness Clarity Scale of feelings.
Wisdom isn’t about always being in a positive state of mind. Wisdom is about improving our ability to move around between states of mind.
A move from unreasonable anger to intense frustration is a step up that someone should be pleased to have accomplished. We’re less dangerous and more balanced. That’s a better headspace to make our next choice from. I look forward to seeing you for the next step.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own over-thinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.