Anger is a cover-up emotion; it is a way we run from hurt and fear, but as hard as we try both cannot be avoided. The anger we hold on to can kill relationships, diminish our health, keep us from all that is good. Paths of peace are better and Aikido is one.
Emotional Fitness Thoughts About Running Away
No one wants to be hurt; no one wants to be scared. Can’t be done. Hurt is a part of life, no one avoids it. Once hurt, we learn fear.
As Mark Twain said “A cat who sits on a hot stove will never sit on a hot stove again. But he won’t sit on a cold stove, either.”
Anger is the way we fight hurt; anger is also the way we flee hurt; useful at times but only when directly attacked in a situation where you can out-power your attacker. Even then moderated anger using just enough force to keep yourself from physical hurt is the only useful anger. Then to let go of the anger, once it is no longer needed is the next step. Aikido a martial art teaches these skills.
EMOTIONAL FITNESS TIP ABOUT ANGER
Not a tip but a reminder of how reaching for the hurt or fear stops anger. The following is an excerpt by late Aikido master Terry Dobson in the anthology “The Peaceful Warrior,” edited by Rick Fields (Tarcher/Putnam, 1994) and as also retold by Ram Dass in An Experiment in Awareness – Mile High Church, Colorado, June 24, 1994 and then recounted in Ram Dass’ book How Can I Help, which is where I first read it. I found this version on the Ram Dass Blog.
It is a long story for a blog post, but powerfully portrays stopping anger by releasing the pain it covers:
The train clanked and rattled through the suburbs of Tokyo on a drowsy Spring afternoon. Our car was comparatively empty, a few housewives with their kids in tow, some old folks going shopping. I gazed absently at the drab houses and dusty hedgerows. At one station the doors opened and suddenly the afternoon quiet was shattered by a man bellowing violent, incomprehensible curses. The man staggered into our car, he wore laborer’s clothing and was big, drunk and dirty. Screaming, he swung at a woman holding a baby. The blow sent her spinning into the laps of an elderly couple, and it was a miracle that the baby was unharmed.
Terrified, the couple jumped up and scrambled towards the other end of the car. The laborer aimed a kick at the retreating back of the old woman, but missed as she scuttled to safety. This so enraged the drunk the he grabbed the metal pole in the center of the car and tried to wrench it out of it’s stanchion, I could see that one of his hands was cut and bleeding, and the train lurched ahead, the passengers frozen with fear. I stood up. I was young then, some twenty years ago and in pretty good shape. I had been putting in a solid eight hours of Aikido training every day for the past three years. I liked to throw and grapple, I thought I was tough. The trouble was that my martial skill was untested in actual combat, as students of Aikido we were not allowed to fight.
“Aikido,” my teacher had said again and again “is the art of reconciliation. Whoever has the mind of fight has broken his connection with the universe. If you try to dominate people you’re already defeated. We study how to resolve conflict, not how to start it.”
I listened to his words, I tried so hard, I even went so far as to cross the street to avoid the kids, the pinball punks who lounged around the train stations. My forbearance exalted me. I was both tough and holy (laughter). In my heart, however, I wanted an absolutely legitimate opportunity whereby I might save the innocent by destroying the guilty.
“This is it!” I said to myself as I stood up. “People are in danger, if I don’t do something fast somebody will probably get hurt.”
Seeing me stand up the drunk recognized the chance to focus his rage, “Ah hah!” he roared “a foreigner! You need a lesson in Japanese manners!”
I held on lightly to the commuter strap overhead and gave him a slow look of disgust and dismissal. I planned to take this turkey apart, but he had to make the first move. I wanted him mad so I pursed my lips and blew him an insolent kiss.
“Alright” he hollered, “you’re gonna get a lesson!” He gathered himself for a rush at me, a fraction of a second before he could move someone shouted “hey!” It was earsplitting. I remember the strangely joyous lilting quality of it. As though you and a friend had been searching diligently for something and he had suddenly stumbled upon it “hey!” I wheeled to my left and the drunk spun to his right, we both stared down at a little old Japanese man. He must have been well into his seventies, this tiny gentleman sitting there immaculate in his kimono. He took no notice of me, but beamed delightedly at the laborer, as if he had a most important, most welcome secret to share.
“Come here” the old man said in an easy vernacular, beckoning to the drunk, “come here and talk with me.” He waved his hand lightly, the big man followed as if on a string. He planted his feet belligerently in front of the old gentleman and roared above the clacking wheels “why the hell should I talk to you?” The drunk now had his back to me. If his elbow moved so much as a millimeter I’d drop him in his socks.
The old man continued to beam at the laborer, “whatcha been drinking?” His eyes sparkling with interest. “I been drinking Sake,” the laborer bellowed back, “and it’s none of your business!” Flecks of spittle spattered the old man. “Oh, that’s wonderful!” the old man said, “absolutely wonderful! You see I love Sake too. Every night me and my wife, she’s seventy-six you know, we warm up a little bottle of Sake and we take it out into the garden and we sit on our old wooden bench and we watch the sun go down and we look to see how our Persimmon tree is doing, my great grandfather planted that tree and we worry about whether it will recover from those ice storms we had last winter. Our tree has done better than I expected though, especially when you consider the poor quality of the soil. It’s gratifying to watch when we take our Sake and go out to enjoy the evening, even when it rains.” He looked up at the laborer, his eyes twinkling.
As he struggled to follow the old man’s conversation, the drunk’s face began to soften, his fists slowly unclenched. “Yeah” he said “I love Persimmons too…” His voice trailed off. “Yes,” said the old man smiling “and I’m sure you have a wonderful wife.”
“Nah,” replied the laborer, “my wife died.” Very gently swaying with the motion of the train the big man began to sob “I don’t got no wife, I don’t got no home, I don’t got no job, I’m so ashamed of myself.” Tears rolled down his cheeks, a spasm of despair rippled through his body.
There I was, standing in my well-scrubbed youthful innocence, my ‘make this world safe for Democracy’ righteousness, I suddenly felt dirtier than he was. The train arrived at my stop and as the doors opened I heard the old man cluck sympathetically “my, my” he said, “that is a difficult predicament. Sit down here and tell me about it.” I turned my head for one last look. The laborer was sprawled on the seat, his head in the old man’s lap. The old man was softly stroking the filthy, matted hair. As the train pulled away I sat down on a bench. What I had wanted to do with muscle had been accomplished with kind words. I had just seen Aikido tried in combat, and the essence of it is love.
As the world becomes more and more frightening, more and more people are rushing to arm against terrorists and invaders. Fear drives this rush. I am not opposed to people bearing arms. So I do not want guns banished, just carefully regulated and licensed as we do with other dangerous weapons – cars for example.
But mostly I want every school to make Aikido a mandatory course. All security guards, soldiers, and policement must also be trained and attend Aikido sessions weekly. The world should be hiring more Peace Dojos than security guards.
Pacifist that I tend to be I saw that my children were trained to protect themselves as well as taught using kindness. Both attened karate classes. I also arranged for Bill Leicht Peace Dojo and founder of Urban Visions to teach self defense and peace making to the families I worked with when I directed mental health crisis teams in the South Bronx, a gun toting knife wielding area of New York City.
Aikido teaches what to think about what matters and to practice kindness, two of my Daily Twelve Emotional Fitness Exercises. Both go far in our efforts to bring peace to our world. Click here to go to the webpage that describes all twelve.
You might enjoy my Emotional Fitness Pinterest Boards. They are designed to keep you strong. Some are laughs, lots are posts of other people’s advice I find useful, both my blogs posts can be found there.
Meanwhile thank you for your support and as I tell myself over and over – share, care, and stay strong
DISCLAIMER: FORGIVE MY GRAMMATICAL ERRORS FOR I HAVE DYSGRAPHIA. If you need perfect posts, you will not find them here. Dysgraphia is a not well-known learning disability and means that sometimes my sentence structure is not that easy to follow or I make other errors. Still, most people understand me. All of my books are professionally edited, but not all of my blog posts are. If this troubles you, feel free to read elsewhere. If you persevere, you are practicing kindness by lifting my spirits for that means you find what I say helpful and that is one of my missions. Kindness always repays those who spread it.
All my books can be found on the my Amazon’s Author page For now they are for parents, but come the new year and I will jump into the adult fitness market.