Anger – How can it be healed?

Have you been hopping mad recently? Some people temperamentally seem to be more easily roused to anger than are others. Yet, to some extent we all get irritated at times. We feel cross when others attack what we love like our child or pet animal. It could be something we love in ourselves, that when attacked, causes us a sense of wounded pride. Offensive put-downs thrown at us in a condescending tone of voice also can get to us.

anger

Irritation can easily spiral into full-blown anger when we retaliate in kind and the heated things that are said – which on reflection we often do not even mean – hurt both parties. It is possible to harbour resentment for years especially if we continually avoid someone or allow ourselves to slip into the habit of not conversing with them when we do have an opportunity.

Making up with the person who caused you anger

Making up may be easier said than done. And not every attempt at reconciliation works. After all, it takes two to tango. We need to eat a little humble pie even if the other person who triggered anger does not.

“The fellow who thinks he knows it all is especially annoying to those of us who do” (Harold Coffin)

Even when we swallow a bit of pride the other person may not stop his or her ego trip. Unless the opponent meets us halfway, the attempt at finding a way forward may possibly fail.

To increase the chances of success we could try saying what we think in a low-key way. By seeking a common understanding, we are giving the relationship every chance to get past this difficulty. It means looking at the situation from the other person’s point of view; not assuming that he or she is entirely at fault, using our imagination to step into their shoes whilst at the same time not avoiding thorny issues. It is possible to voice our feeling of anger without exaggerating and without casting blame. We can try to think of different points of view rather than one wrong one and one right one.

Sometimes we do not try hard enough to make up and rarely are the first to make a conciliatory move. One fallacy is to believe that “a relationship that needs working at is not worth having.” However, satisfying relationships are unlikely to develop unless all concerned are prepared to be committed and to make an effort.

We may wrongly assume that the other person who has hurt our feelings should know how hurt and angry we feel. Yet people cannot see into each other’s minds and however close we are to others, they will never be able to know exactly how we feel unless we let them know.

Using good sense when dealing with anger

We need to show good sense when relating to others. Making unwise compromises that maintain destructive relationships is not good sense. In other words, doing good to others and forgetting their wrongdoing may not always be wise if the behaviour is harmful and persists.

There may be violence within the home or sexual infidelity with no remorse or effort to change. Then our acceptance of the other person’s limitations, rather than simply saying we forgive them, may be a more realistic goal. In extreme cases sometimes it is better to part company.

Letting go of very deep-seated hurt and the consequential anger may take considerable time that requires real or imagined encounters with the perpetrators of our pain. A few of us have been so very badly abused and offended against that it has caused a long-lasting suppressed state of anger. We may firstly need professional help to work through our shock and denial and become more aware of the effects of the terrible wrong done to us. This may involve starting to appropriately express feelings to others of hurt, grief, anger and rage. It greatly helps if the fact of the wrong-doing is acknowledged by those previously involved.

Great anger in South Africa

Desmond Tuttu the black clergyman living in South Africa during the apartheid period and many other black Africans had every reason to feel very angry at the treatment meted out to them by the white supremacists in power over them.

  • Separate public facilities were enforced on racial lines.
  • To all intents and purposes only white Africans had the vote.
  • Black Africans were legally confined to rural reserves covering only about 7% of the country whereas they consisted of 68% of the population.
  • Segregated townships for blacks working in urban areas were set up. Blacks had to carry a passbook identifying themselves and showing whether they were entitled to be in a white only area.
  • Husbands and fathers were separated from their loved ones as a result of a pernicious system of migratory labour.
  • Their children went to overcrowded schools in black townships and lived in inadequate shanty housing with a woefully inadequate system of transport.
  • Black people who protested suffered long periods of detention without trial and there were deaths in detention. All this meant that the black people suffered frustration and humiliation. They were a subject people.

Although not a pacifist, Desmond strongly believed in responding to injustice by asserting ones human dignity and rights in a courageous way with a view to possible reconciliation rather than revenge. He advocated civil disobedience rather than violence as a response to oppression. But when he and others joined illegal protest marches they risked being shot by police. Desmond with other religious leaders often intervened to try to help diffuse situations where violence was a distinct possibility calming down the anger and aggression.

This was the action of someone who believed that problems could be solved by people sitting down together to discuss their differences rather than resorting to violence. He said that the campaign should be characterised by discipline and dignity because they were all involved in a moral struggle and that non-violent protest could only succeed resulting in their freedom.

There were outbreaks of violence by black people but the overwhelming response to the violence of oppression was peaceful protest. Despite the great anger felt the struggle was to be based not on hatred but on the hope of freedom and reconciliation.

Many commentators had thought that bloodshed, violence and civil war were inevitable because a people can take only so much injustice and despair. But they were wrong. In my opinion international pressure and the emergence of political leaders of the calibre of Nelson Mandela and Frederik der Kerk were necessary for the avoidance of civil war but what was crucial in this outcome was the prevalent spirit of love and justice in the nation – other than within the white right-wing reactionary forces. The spirit of love was the message of the New Testament when Jesus said `Love your enemies’

As has been said if we instead were to follow the old idea of revenge embodied in the teaching of `an eye for an eye’ soon all people would be blind and then where would we be?      Longer version of this article

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Heal distress — Can spiritual practices help?

 

healAccording to established research, one in four of us experience some form of mild mental health difficulty each year. Even if you do not suffer – what the medics call – identifiable psychiatric morbidity – nevertheless you still may feel bad; fed up, irritable, worried or distressed. In which case, if you are to be calm, contented and fulfilled, something needs to inwardly change. You may wonder if your spirit needs to heal, then can spiritual practices be of benefit?

Going on a retreat to heal distress

When life gets too stressful then you probably start looking at holiday brochures. If you can afford it getting away to some lovely place for couple of weeks, can be very attractive. A holiday allows us to escape from the responsibilities of home and work. Beautiful and inspiring settings may bring harmony into one’s life. When we get a rest from the ordinary strains of living, we may become emotionally refreshed.

A spiritual retreat may help one reconnect with one’s inner life, one’s hopes and aspirations, values and principles. The religious person may use some of the time to engage in self reflection and prayer with the aim of reconnecting with God.

Practising meditation to heal distress

Meditation is passively observing our experiences simply as mental events without personal attachment to them; trying to focus attention and suspend judgement whilst maintaining objectivity. A huge challenge I believe if you are suffering more than a mild degree of anxiety or depression.

However it is possible with repeated practice to learn to focus  the mind and emotionally distance oneself from random thoughts and feelings. It needs self-discipline to sit down quietly staying focused on one thing at a time: not easy with a mind that is easily distracted by fearful thoughts and is prone to wander off into fantasy.

I would suggest that from a religious perspective, meditation —  say on the words of sacred scripture — brings about calm because it involves transcending self-orientated concerns, opening up an inert life force, and gaining spiritual awareness of the Divine.

Adopting an attitude of mindfulness to heal distress

Those who advocate an attitude of mindfulness in the hum-drum of ordinary situations, claim it can bring about a greater attention to reality. This means being in the moment and getting absorbed in the here and now. For example being aware of one’s surroundings; listening more fully to what others are saying.

With this attitude of mind it is said we become less occupied by mistakes of the past and worries about the future for we see things as they are rather than in terms of our desires and fears.

Being mindful of habitual ways of thinking is central to a well researched form of therapy known as cognitive-behavioural therapy.  Individuals with self-defeating and irrational thoughts, are helped to create and focus instead on constructive realistic ways of thinking. Focusing on how things really are means facing reality instead of fighting the experience of trying to make it something else.

From a religious perspective, being in the moment brings about a consciousness of what is called the eternal now. This is an illuminating perception that transcends time-bound concerns. It flows from a Divine Mind which is both present within and also beyond time and place.

Christians believe in this Holy Spirit of God whose presence many say they feel when sitting in silence to create a space in the heart for Him to find a home in.

They say, when you turn to this source, the Divine can flow more consciously into your  experiences of life and you feel uplifted, creative, illuminated. When the love of self no longer rules your heart, then you  rise above your worries concerning the transient things of the world.

Confessing guilty feelings to heal distress

Many distressed people are able gain self-insights and begin to acknowledge their guilty feelings with a non-judgmental counsellor. This confession would be meaningless without a degree of self-examination. It is all about searching one’s heart to discover any repeated desires that infringe one’s own principles — one’s own conscience of what is right and wrong in human conduct.

Would it not be nice if we could just change our bad feelings simply by better understanding them? Just having clearest self insight? However, according to the spiritual philosophy of Emanuel Swedenborg, to heal the understanding with its thoughts and insights, is to heal a person only outwardly. What needs also to change is the inward aspect of the individual — what is felt, wanted and chosen. Therapy for the understanding alone would be like palliative healing, failing to touch the inner malignity.

Psychotherapists talk about resistance by the patient to making personal change because of self-insights that remain only on an intellectual level. Emotional acceptance of what change is needed is more of a wrench than mere acknowledgment because it means real acceptance of the consequences of giving up old ways, old pleasures and old attitudes.

One religious view is that unless we have a change of heart, we can easily retract something that we had only acknowledged in the mind the previous day. We may have recognised where we are going wrong but what is crucially important is an emotional acceptance of a way forward. Religion and psychotherapy are about personal change if they are about anything. The challenge of both is accepting a need to change.

From a modern Christian perspective, repentance is to do with wanting to change from ways of living that are recognised as self-defeating and unworthy.

Just as many alcoholics attending Alcoholics Anonymous may believe that they cannot cure themselves without surrendering to a higher power to help them conquer the demon drink, so religious people believe that it is God who heals the spirit, and it is the gift of healing that can transform the persons life and character through a process known as salvation. For them healing of the spirit takes place through a humble turning to God in prayer.

“Pythagoras said that … if the healing art is most Divine, it must occupy itself with the soul as well as with the body; for no creature can be sound so long as the higher part of it is sickly.” (Apollonius of Tyrana – Greek philosopher)

Copyright 2014 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

THE LORD IS MERCY ITSELF

THE LORD IS MERCY ITSELF
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida, April 14, 1991

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies” (Psalm 103:1-4).

“Restore us, O God of our salvation, and cause Your anger toward us to cease. Will You be angry with us forever? Will You prolong Your anger to all generations?” (Psalm 85:4,5).

What is the true nature and quality of God? Is He a God of infinite love and mercy, as taught in our first text a God who forgives all our iniquities, heals all our diseases, redeems us from destruction and crowns us with lovingkindness? Or is He a God of anger, wrath and vengeance as implied in our second text a God who never forgets our backslidings and punishes us for them? Or is the Lord, like mortal men, subject to both of these feelings and emotions? Is He moved by love and mercy at certain times and by anger and wrath at others? The answer to the latter two questions is an unqualified NO! Our first text presents the Lord as He really is, while our second text presents Him as He appears to the wayward, self-led person.

The Writings declare: “The Lord is love itself, to which no other attributes are fitting than those of pure love, thus of pure mercy toward the whole human race, which [love] is such that it wills to save all and make them happy to eternity, and to bestow on them all that it has, thus out of pure mercy to draw to heaven all who are willing to follow … by the strong force of love” (AC 1735). They further state that “the Lord never curses anyone. He is never angry with anyone, never leads anyone into temptation, never punishes anyone … for such things can never proceed from the Fountain of mercy, peace, and goodness” (AC 245).

The Lord, who is mercy and goodness itself, regards all people from mercy and never turns away His face from anyone. It is we, when in evil and disorder, who turn our faces away from the Lord. This is what the Lord was speaking of in Isaiah, when He said: “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you” (59:2).

Even though we may turn away from the Lord and reject His love, still the Lord does not desert us. He is ever present waiting to be received. He continually breathes into us His own life. And even though we may not respond to it according to order, it nevertheless gives us the ability to think and reflect, and to discern whether a thing is good or evil, true or false (AC 714). Thus the Lord provides that, even though we may reject Him and close the door of our minds to Him, yet we retain the ability to distinguish between good and evil, truth and falsity, so that we may, at any time, change our ways and admit the Lord into our life. The Lord spoke of this saying: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20).

The mercy of the Lord is perpetual with everyone, for the Lord wills to save all people, whoever they are; but His mercy cannot be received until evils are removed, for it is evils which oppose and prevent the reception of the Lord’s mercy (see AC 8307). While the Lord’s love and mercy go out to everyone, a person must have that in himself which is receptive to love and mercy; and that which receives love and mercy is truth. Where there is no truth, there can be no good, mercy or peace because there is nothing to receive them (see AC 10579:8).

Divine love and Divine wisdom are inseparable, for in the Lord these two are one. And since mercy is of love and justice is of wisdom, therefore these two are also inseparable. Therefore, when a person rejects the Lord as to truth, that is, when a person rejects Divine truth or the Word, he rejects the Divine mercy also, for, as said before, he has nothing to receive it. And since Divine truth is the Divine order according to which all creation operates, therefore those who reject Divine truth are judged from the laws of justice and truth separated from love, not because the Lord withdraws His love, for it is always joined with Divine truth, but because man has rejected His love and mercy along with the Divine truth. On the other hand, those who willingly receive Divine truth are judged from justice tempered with mercy because they have the vessels in themselves which receive it (see AC 5585:6).

The Lord wills that everyone should enter into the happiness of heaven. This, in fact, is His purpose in creation. But since heaven is within man according to one’s reception of good and truth from the Lord, therefore only those are received into heaven who have heaven within themselves. When the evil are punished, it is not because the Lord wills it, but because such people have separated themselves from the Divine love. So we are told in the Writings: “The Lord in no case sends anyone down into hell, but man sends himself” (AC 2258).

Looking at this question of Divine mercy from another point of view, we should bear in mind that it is of mercy to the good that the evil are separated from them. For if they were not, the evil would do harm to the good, and would be continually attempting to destroy order, for this endeavor is inherent in all evil. The same thing is true on earth. If breaches of civil and moral order were not punished, and the offenders removed from society, society would soon be infected with evils and disorders, and would eventually perish. For this reason, we are told, a judge shows greater love and mercy by punishing evils and those guilty of them than by exercising inappropriate clemency on their behalf (ibid.).

These teachings make it clear that the Lord’s mercy is with everyone according to the person’s state. With those who are receptive to good and truth, the Lord’s mercy bestows peace and heavenly joy. With the evil, who undergo punishment as a result of their breaches of Divine order, the Lord’s mercy bends the penalty of evil to the person’s eternal welfare. Thus, even with the evil the Lord’s mercy is operative, but it takes another form with them than with the good (see AC 587:2). The Lord says: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore, be zealous and repent” (Rev. 3:19). “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7).

The truth of these teachings concerning the Lord’s mercy is evident when we reflect upon the relationship of wise and loving parents with their children. When the children act according to order, they perceive and feel the love which their parents have for them, and they experience states of happiness, confidence, peace and security. However, when they depart from orderly behavior, they are no longer receptive to their parents’ love, but come under the rule of truth. If the parents are wise they do not punish in and from anger but from love, which expresses itself as zeal, but the child does not perceive the love. Temporarily the child is estranged from his parents and therefore mistakes the zeal for anger. It is because of this appearance that the Lord is alternately pictured as a God of love and mercy, and a God of wrath and anger, particularly in the Word of the Old Testament.

While we recognize the truth of the matter from doctrine and the application of logic, we too are inclined to be deceived by the appearance. There are occasions when we are apt to regard the Lord as a hard taskmaster. When we read something in the Word, or hear teaching from the Word, which makes us aware of our evils and shortcomings, we are often inclined to think that the Lord requires more of us than can be reasonably expected. It even appears that He has put stumbling blocks in our way. The truth then seems hard and cold it seems to rebuke us, and we unconsciously attribute something of harshness, or even of anger, to the Lord.

To many people the life of religion seems to be a stern, restrictive discipline instead of a source of inspiration and delight. And for this reason they are inclined to absent themselves from the church and from participating in its functions. They do not want discipline. Furthermore, they do not wish to be made aware of their shortcomings, for it destroys their equanimity and enjoyment of life.

The fact is, however, that the Lord, from infinite love, reveals Himself in the Word and established His church to teach the Word for the sake of human happiness. The Lord seeks to lead mankind to true and lasting happiness through the teaching of the Word in the church. In its essence, the church is not a human institution; it is a product of Divine love. In the family of man the Lord is our Father and the church our spiritual mother. The Lord’s love, directly and through the church, reaches out to us and, like children, we should respond affirmatively to that love. If we do not feel the love which goes forth from our spiritual parents, if we do not experience the states of happiness, peace and security which attend that love, it is because of a state of disorder within ourselves. The love is there, but we may not receive it; we may be aware only of the truth, which seems hard, cold and stern.

We know that this need not be. We are rational beings, and we can see, if we are willing, that this is merely an appearance an appearance caused by our own lack of receptivity. Recognizing this, we should not regard the Lord’s commandments as hard laws which seek to deprive us of the delight of living. Nor should we regard the church as a demanding institution which seeks to confine and restrict us. The Lord seeks our real happiness, and through His church seeks to promote our real, eternal welfare. We are able to see, if we elevate our thought above the senses, that if we will freely walk in the way of truth the path of life we will feel the warmth and reassurance of Divine love.

In this state of elevation we will look upon the Lord and His church as “the source of all our blessings.” We will acknowledge that “before His gifts earth’s richest boons grow dim,” that “resting in Him, His peace and joy possessing, all things are ours, for we have all in Him” (Hymn 30, Liturgy). Amen.

Lessons: Psalm 103:1-13, Luke 15:11-32, HH 522, 523

Heaven and Hell

522. But first let us consider what the Divine mercy is. The Divine mercy is pure mercy toward the whole human race, to save it; and it is also unceasing toward every man, and is never withdrawn from anyone, so that every one is saved who can he saved. And yet no one can be saved except by Divine means, which means the Lord reveals in the Word. The Divine means are what are called Divine truths, which teach how man must live in order to be saved. By these truths the Lord leads man to heaven, and by them He implants in man the life of heaven. This the Lord does for all. But the life of heaven can be implanted in no one unless he abstains from evil, for evil obstructs. So far, therefore, as man abstains from evil he is led by the Lord out of pure mercy by His Divine means, and this from infancy to the end of his life in the world and afterwards to eternity. This is what is meant by the Divine mercy. And from this it is evident that the mercy of the Lord is pure mercy but not apart from means, that is, it does not look to saving all out of mere good pleasure however they may have lived.

523. The Lord never does anything contrary to order, because He Himself is Order. The Divine truth that goes forth from the Lord is what constitutes order, and Divine truths are the laws of order. It is in accord with these laws that the Lord leads man. Consequently, to save man by mercy apart from means would be contrary to Divine order, and what is contrary to Divine order is contrary to the Divine. Divine order is heaven in man, and man has perverted this in himself by a life contrary to the laws of order, which are Divine truths. Into this order man is brought back by the Lord out of pure mercy by means of the laws of order; and so far as he is brought back into this order he receives heaven in himself; and he that receives heaven in himself enters heaven. This again makes evident that the Lord’s Divine mercy is pure mercy and not mercy apart from means.