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EBUP58: How to Defuse Anger

Eric Butterworth Unity Podcast #58

Eric Butterworth Sunday Services — How to Defuse Anger

Eric writes, “One of the major evidences of the lack of emotional management is anger, and we want to talk a little bit about it today. Sometimes a subtle, slow-burning rage seethes within, unrecognized, unaccepted. And yet present and doing tremendous harm to all the facets of our lives.” He then lists seven ways to defuse anger. This is a wonderful talk.


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Religion is an interesting word. Obviously it’s a word that is referred to or considered on Sundays or Sabbath days across the land. Quite often, a person will say, “I’m into religion.” What does he mean by this?

We’ve tended to think that religion is something that you study, something that’s separate and apart from life. But it seems to me that true religion is not a thing. It’s not even a set of creeds. But basically true religion is a perception. Not a way of seeing certain things, but a certain way of seeing all things. And we’re never really into religion. We get into a consciousness, enables us to perceive all things from the highest possible perspective.

The word ‘religion’ comes from the Greek word which means to bind together. It’s a consciousness that enables us to get together in consciousness, get a sense of oneness, get the sense that the allness of the infinite is present at every point in space.

When you get involved in the study of truth, you very suddenly come face to face with the realization that you have to accept responsibility for your life. That life is consciousness. That the cause of all the difficulties and confusions, the financial problems and physical illness are within the milieu of your own mind. This is not always a pleasant thing to accept. And let’s face it, many persons are not up to accepting it. They prefer to believe their problems are caused by conditions or persons out there.

It’s a fact, like it or not, that many persons never achieve the success in life that their potential should unfold. With the continuity of health, there’s a divine heritage. Because of what we might call emotional leaks in the boiler. Life for these persons is often hampered by what one writer calls ‘rampaging riots of undisciplined squads of emotion’.

One of the major evidences of the lack of emotional management is anger, and we want to talk a little bit about it today. Sometimes a subtle, slow-burning rage seethes within, unrecognized, unaccepted. And yet present and doing tremendous harm to all the facets of our lives.

Perhaps you have what you have whimsically referred to as ‘a short fuse’, in which even the slightest conflict can set off a temper, a fit, a pique. This certainly is a condition that one needs to set out to correct. And it can be corrected.

I especially like the story that’s told of Winston Churchill, who listened to a hot-tempered, raving, ranting tirade directed against him by an opponent whose mouth worked faster than his mind. At the end of it, Churchill rose and said, “Our honorable colleague should, by now, have trained himself not to generate more indignation than he has the capacity to hold.” That’s putting it rather light, isn’t it?

You know, there are two ways in which most difficult problems are met. First, to outwardly rebel, to fight back, tit for tat, the eye-for-an-eye, you-can’t-do-that-to-me consciousness. Then you give a person a piece of your mind... along with it, perhaps, give him the peace of your mind. This person seldom has emotional problems because he immediately gives vent to his passions of anger, but he perhaps may not be aware of the fact that he’s polluting the atmosphere around him with his regurgitated poisons, and his own creative potential is weakened by his leaky boiler.

The second way in which difficult problems are normally met is to rebel inwardly, to bristle up, but to do nothing outwardly, thinking dark thoughts and keeping them all bottled up within. And of course, as we know, this person has great emotional problems. He rarely flares up with people. He rarely reacts outwardly. But his inward fires, his seething rage may give rise to mental and physical problems that can require extensive and expensive treatment.

And you may be thinking, “You’re not talking about me,” or, “My anger is different. It’s completely justified. I have every reason to be angry and bitter after what was done to me.” And I agree. You have a perfect right to your anger and resentment. But you also have the right, too, and the responsibility for the insomnia, the hypertension, stomach upset, heart and circulatory problems that will surely follow.

You see, the old idea of righteous indignation is a delusion. We’ve tended to hold onto it because we say, “Well, like Jesus ripping the money-changers out of the temple, I have a right to my anger at what people are doing around me.” But it’s a delusion. Because we’re dealing with law, not caprice.

Say, “Why, then, did Jesus get angry?” I can’t say why he got angry. But I can say, because we’re dealing with law, this... and it’s with a present sense of delight that I see this... this evidences the fact that Jesus stepped in consciousness for a moment at that time. It makes him so much more human, so much more acceptable.

Because you’re dealing with law, and the law is, and Jesus himself stressed it, love is the answer. Love is the only way. Love and forgiveness.

Certainly in a human sense, Jesus had a right to rip the money-changers out of the temple. After all, they didn’t belong there. We have a right to, in consciousness at least, rip the negative people out of our lives, give them the lashing of our tongues, hold them in this burden of anxiety and anger and resistance and resentment. Again, we have a right to that if we want to. But we must accept the reactions in the physical and emotional and human and even financial sense that come as a result.

To dwell in anger or resentment, to harbor hurts and sleights, is what we might call spiritual suicide. If any good has ever been achieved by anger, hate, and resentment, there’s no record of it in all history. Unbridled negative emotions warp the personality, impair the judgment, destroy the reason, and render a person totally incapable of seeing himself as he really is.

Now we mentioned the two ways in which most difficult problems are met: to rebel outwardly, venting your feeling of disturbance, ‘letting it all hang out’ as we say; or two, to rebel inwardly and keep it all bottled up inside. But there’s a third way. Jesus suggests this in his words ‘turn the other cheek’. This is one of the ideas that’s been totally rejected as naïve and impractical by many persons, unsuitable behavior for dealing with the real world out there.

But you see, Jesus, who was a master of the metaphor, has been misunderstood. He doesn’t mean that you should passively allow people to walk all over you. Quite often, the religious devotee shies away from any display of emotion. Quite frankly, I think a lot of truth students do this, too. He thinks, “I’m a child of God. I must not get upset. I must not show my feelings.” He thinks he’s taking the second way. He thinks he’s taking the third way, but he takes the second way, deluding himself. He thinks he’s turning the other cheek. What he’s really doing is bottling up his seething rage within.

Jesus deals with dimensions of consciousness. More specifically, with the inner and the outer man. As one writer puts, the great me and the little me. When people or conditions rub you the wrong way, it’s not so much what they’re doing, but how you’re reacting to it.

Jesus is saying if you’re disturbed, it evidences the fact that you’re disturbable, because you’re in that level of consciousness. So turn to the other level of conscious, turn to the deeper part of your nature. To the big me, to the greater self, to the Christ within. The Christ way of love and nonresistance. It is always a potential within you. It’s always an option that so often we refuse to take. This comes from a conscious commitment to take charge of your life, thinking and feeling what you desire to think and feel, not reacting negatively, letting other persons and conditions determine how you’re going to think and feel or act.

You don’t get far in any day before you hear the expression... perhaps, if you’ll admit it to yourself, even say it yourself... the expression ‘he makes me so mad’. Have you ever heard that? Of course, you’re good truth students, so you never said it.

Wise indeed is the person who make the discovery that no one can make you upset or angry ever. No one can ever make you upset or angry. Ever. Yet any person may provide you with an excellent opportunity to get upset, if that’s the way you choose to deal with the situation. Take a good look at that.

So often we justify our upset. “Of course, I’m upset! Look what happened! Look what he did, look what they said!” No one, no condition, no situation can ever make you upset or angry. And any of these things can provide you with an excellent opportunity to get upset if you have a tendency or a habit of dealing with things in that way, but you can deal with it another way.

It’s good to face up to the anger and resentment and get it out where you can acknowledge it and deal with it, but always from the standpoint, not, “Why did he do that? Why is he disturbing me?” but, “Why am I disturbed? Why am I upset?” Very simply, you’re disturbed because you’ve slipped in consciousness. The need is to turn the other cheek. Turn to the other side of your nature. Let the momentary explosion, the momentary flushing of the face, rising of your blood pressure be a reminder to you, almost as a red light signal flashing on the board before you, you better get yourself, in consciousness, stabilized.

So in a way, in a very real sense, a person becomes really committed to the quest for truth and self-realization whenever anyone causes you, or seems to cause you upset, instead of reacting negatively against him, you could... even though it seems like a St. Francis of Assisi consciousness... “Thank you very much, because you helped me to see that I’m out of tune. Can I get back in tune, because if I don’t get back in tune, this little blowup that’s happening right now will simply exaggerate and continue, amplified, until it gets to a situation where it’s very hard to control.”

So face up to the resentment, the anger. Look at it. “Why am I disturbed?” Turn the other cheek. Turn to the Christ consciousness, to the sense of love and nonresistance. And in the midst of a hostile, angry moment, that may seem to be very difficult to do. It may seem to be almost impossible. How can you turn from your anger and just let it all go and turn to the inner self? You can do it if you practice it, if you work at it. If you understand the problems involved, you’ll very definitely make an effort to do this.

To understand the very human emotion of anger, we must be willing to give up the psychological old wives’ tale that it is healthy to vent your anger, to tell people off and let it all hang out, or to tell it like it is. This is real rationalization. “But I’m just following good mental health. I’m letting it go, I’m getting it off my chest.” Unfortunately, the tell-it-like-it-is usually is expressed in an outburst liberally spiked with four-letter words. It’s simply an excuse for weakness.

Carol Travis, in her book Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion challenges the popular belief that suppressed anger is dangerous to health. She says that blowing your top can be far more damaging than keeping your cool. There’s a study conducted at the University of Michigan School of Public Health which measured the effects of anger expression, and anger suppression and cool reflection, on blood pressure. The report pointed thumbs-down on hotheads. According to Ernest Harburg, the chief investigator, the people who kept their cool, who acknowledged that anger were not only openly hostile and verbally or physically had lower blood pressure than people who either bottled up their anger or became openly hostile.

Yet, and in her book, Carol Tarvis says that expressing your anger makes you angrier, solidifies an angry attitude, and establishes a hostile habit. She says that if you keep quiet about momentary irritations, and distract yourself with pleasant activity until your fury simmers down, chances are you will feel better, and feel better faster than if you let yourself go in a shouting match. I’ve said many times over, hitting the ceiling is no way to get up in the world.

A man once told Mark Twain that he was very troubled by the things he didn’t understand in the Bible. Twain wittily replied that he was even more troubled by the things he did understand. You may be troubled by Jesus’ words ‘forgive and you’ll be forgiven’, ‘love your enemies and pray for those who despitefully use you.’ You may find yourself saying, “What? Pray for that so-and-so?” It’s not always too happy a thought to be told that you must let go of all anger and indignation, no matter how justified it may seem to be.

Peter went through this. Remember, he asked Jesus, “Master, how often shall I forgive? Until seven times?” Jesus replied, “I say unto you, until 70 times seven.” In other words, what he was saying is, perpetually, always. Not just sometimes. It must be an attitude that transcends the offense.

Peter could have been saying, and I’m sure we could agree with at times, but you just can’t go around forgiving everyone. How much can a person take? My answer to that is, don’t take it. You don’t have to take it. Let it go. Turn the other cheek.

But you see, Jesus lifts it to the level of principle rather than the level of emotion. It’s simply that if you want light in the room, you have to turn on the light. If you refuse to open the switch, you sit in the darkness of your own choosing. In other words, turn on the light, let go the bitterness, not so much because your enemy deserves to be forgiven... that’s to miss the whole idea; we’re not talking about him... it’s because you need the release that comes through forgiveness. You need the healing energy that only right thinking can bring. To indulge in the bitterness or the rancor or the upset would always do harm to you, and we’re thinking about you. Forget about the other person.

Forgiveness is normally thought of as a pious act, engaged in with a Sunday school moralism. Actually, it’s a vital safety valve that not only diffuses the anger and resentment, but which reestablishes you on the path of truth and wholeness.

Just imagine, if you can, what life would be like if the troubles and scrobbles and the differences of your life were carried over from day to day without the leaven of forgiveness. Just accumulated, all the difficulties and all the angers, all the fits of pique that you ever experience in your life, all in a knapsack on your back. The awful weight of woe and hate and condemnation would soon annihilate your very being.

If you’re seething with an inner rage, can’t you see that it’s not the wrong done to you that has caused it? It’s because you haven’t been able to let go and let flow, let the love flow process flow in.

A man was cheated out of a great deal of money many years ago by a partner who himself went bankrupt sometime later. Now, the errant partner met his problem, searched himself for answers, saw the emptiness of his values, changed his whole self image, all his way of thinking, completely rebuilt his life and became a new person. Eventually, he went on to become extremely successful, both in wealth and happiness.

The man who had been cheated had lived in this same period of about 20 years in anger and bitterness. He spent time every day stewing in his juices, as we say. He couldn’t let this go. It was even doubly painful as he watched his former partner’s reformation of success. He kept saying, “How come? Why? After what he did to me! He gets all this good and I get nothing!”

Now, I might say that the former partner has made many efforts to make recompense for his earlier act, and to repay the partner completely. But the cheated one refuses to forgive or to accept the payment. Now where’s the problem? The cheating partner has since been healed, but the cheated partner has been cheating himself, carrying the burden of anger through 20 years of self-induced hell.

It’s important to see these side-by-side because so often we find ourselves feeling sympathetic toward the cheated one. But if we can separate the experiences of our life from the people involved, and see what we’re doing to ourself... It’s not what this man, his partner did to him, but what he’s been doing to himself for 20 years of his life. We’re dealing with law, not caprice.

Apply this situation in your life. Maybe the basis for some grudge that you hold against someone, or some group of people, for something done or left undone. The important thing is, let it pass. Life goes on. There’s so much to be done. Because someone did something to you that you think is harmful to your life, is that any reason why you have to continue hitting yourself on the head for the rest of your life? Crucifying yourself, living in self-imposed prison? Life goes on. As the Bible says, ‘vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord.’

A person must always deal in kind for everything that happens. This is the karmic law, or the law of cause and effect we always have to pay. There’s no free lunch. But it’s not up for us to decide how another person is to atone for what happens in his experience. The only life you have to be concerned about is your own. Let it go. Get yourself in tune.

You see, turning the other cheek is not only religious or Christian, it is also good business. It’s good common sense. Consider two hypothetical brothers, Tom and Jim.

Tom holds grudges. He never lets a thing go. He remembers the thing continuously. Jim does not. If Tom has a disagreement with someone, he manifests a feeling toward the party permanently. He boasts about the fact. “I’m like an elephant, I never forget.” He holds onto things. Holds them to his chest closely.

If Jim clashes with another person, he may speak his mind with reservation, then he proceeds to forget about the unpleasant thing. To him it is water under the bridge. The affair is closed, with no lingering anger or resentment whatsoever.

Of course, he has many friends. He’s a happy person. He’s successful in business. He has a harmonious life.

On the other hand, Tom has a sour disposition. He has two friends. He has a terrible time making ends meet in life. He really believes he’s unlucky. He believes he’s being picked on. It would be hard for him to accept Shakespeare’s words ‘the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves. We were underlings.’

See, holding grudges is a bad mental habit. Some people openly say, as Tom would say, “Okay I hold grudges. It’s not easy for me to forgive. It’s just the way I am.” And they believe it. But it’s not the way they are, it’s the way they habitually identify themselves. It’s a complex that needs to be changed, and can be. One should never tolerate this type of thing in his consciousness if he’s really serious about his quest for truth. Get to work on it. It can be changed. If you look honestly at yourself and know that you’re really a spiritual being with the power to express love in all situations, keep working at it, keep trying. Go a little farther every time. Pick yourself up and dust yourself off and go forward.

Let’s consider what we might call a simple formula for diffusing anger and resentment. Some simple concepts that you can make a note of, if you will, or think about them in consciousness. Something to work on. We’re not dealing with a theory, we’re dealing with a very important process and principle.

First of all, be willing to admit to yourself that you’re experiencing feelings of anger. If you feel that sense of resistance, that reaction in the negative sense to something that goes on, something somebody does or something that happens around you, admit to yourself that you have that feeling. Sometimes we deny our anger because we feel guilty about it. Obviously, if we’re upset, we need to deal with it.

Very often, a truth student, again, refuses to accept this. He will say, “I’m not angry. I’m not. I’m really not. I’m not angry, you understand? I’m not angry!” All the while covering up this seething rage within himself. Be willing to admit it to yourself so you can take responsibility for your mind. The fact that you’ve suffered indicates that there’s a responsive cord within you. It’s a signal that there is a sore spot that needs treatment. And the sore spot is not the result of a fancied injury, it is actually the cause of the injury, as far as you’re concerned. Remember that. It’s not the result of a fancied injury, but it’s the cause of the injury, as far as you experience it.

When you resent something that someone does, your true feelings will reveal that you’re probably envious of his freedom to do the thing. Maybe you’d like to do it, too, if you could. Because you cannot, you’re jealous and bitter in a subtle, subconscious way. Much of our resentment toward what people do is in this category.

Third, assert your mental mastery. You cannot always control circumstances, but you can and do have the complete control over how you meet them. It’s your life. You can deal with it at any level of conscious you want. You’re not a helpless victim of your temper, though you may think you have been. Resentment is of the mind, and you need not indulge in it unless you want to. You can and should refuse to be angrily disturbed by all the real or imagined sleights and rebuffs that the day seems to bring.

You might take an affirmation that I’ve used so often for a long time,

‘I am poised and centered in the deeper self of me, and nothing can disturb the calm peace of my soul.’

Affirm this for yourself at the beginning of every day, and perhaps many times during the day, you find yourself slipping. ‘I am poised and centered in the deeper self of me,’ this is the turn the other cheek to that other part of my nature that doesn’t get upset, ‘and nothing can disturb the calm peace of my soul.’

Fourth, determine to see things in a true perspective. Remember Joseph said to his brothers, “You may have intended evil against me, but God intended it for good.” Jesus says, “Resist not him that is evil.” Note that he does not say that you should not resist evil. Don’t confuse this point. He doesn’t say you should not resist evil. He himself resisted phariasacal consciousness, the self-righteous tendencies of his day. He says we should not resist him that is evil. He stood steadfastly against wrong ideas, but about people, even those who took his own life, he said, “Father forgive them, for the know not what they do.”

See, we often have been too busy trying to get even with our real or supposed enemies. We should begin to try to get even with God. You see what I mean by that. A person may say, “I’ll get even with you if it takes the rest of my life.” That’s exactly what he does. He gets even. He gets even. He puts himself on a par with the other person, putting himself precisely even with the consciousness that caused the negative reaction. So he’s getting even. He spends all his time getting even, leveling up, getting on the same conscious as the people that he’s resisting.

In a sense, the only person we should ever try to get even with is the one who does us favors and shows us kindness. Anyone else, let it go.

Fifth, we need to recognize that there’s a little paranoia in all of us. If you ever said, “Why did he do that to me?” or, “Why did they say that about me?” The ‘to me’ is what I call the fish hook. That’s the thing that hangs us up. You can cut off the fish hook. Let go of the tendency to say, “Why’d he do it to me?” and ask the question, “Why did he do it?” Then you’re really interested. Then you can rise above the level of the limitation of reaction.

You’ll probably come to realize, if you’re objective and you’ve repressed the issue within yourself, that he did it out of a state of consciousness. He didn’t do it to you, he did it. Something in himself caused it to come forth in this way. You happened to be in the way. You became the convenient subject. So ask yourself again, without the fish hook of ‘to me’, “Why did he do it?” Take time to really analyze his life from your perspective. Be willing to let yourself believe that perhaps his behavior was caused by his upsets because he has trouble at his work, he had difficulties in his home, his finances, he has health problems. Be willing to accept the fact that somehow there’s something in him that’s bugging him. I don’t have to let it bug me, but he’s bugging himself because of this negative feeling in his life.

So then turn away from the “Why’d he do it to me” and put emphasis upon the “Why am I disturbed? Why did I let the ‘to me’ hang me up? Why can’t I forget it and walk on?” If you press the issue and really search yourself, you’ll find that there are a lot of interesting things about yourself that you didn’t know. That his seeming negative emotions and negative actions that you think caused you to be upset are basically revealing something in yourself that you need to understand about yourself.

And the best way to deal with that is get involved seriously in the idea of forgiveness. This is the sixth point. Forgive. You’ll find yourself coming back to love. See, love is the inherent nature of all of us. We’re all in love, but we lose the consciousness of it. Love is not something that people give you or that you give to people. It’s a divine flow from within yourself, which we get frustrated and turn off.

So forgiveness is a means of letting go of the person, letting go of the situation, and coming back to love. Letting love love you. This is the basis of all relationship. And you may recall, when you get yourself back in the thought of love, you may recall that you really care about this person, which may be why his behavior hurt so much in the first place. You’re able to see that, get your thought back into a thought of love, which relates you together on a higher level.

And finally, remember Paul’s admonition. ‘Let not the sun go down on your wrath.’ This is one of the most wise and perceptive points in the whole Bible. Let not the sun go down on your wrath. All of us have times and certain days when we are not at our best. Don’t go to bed with it. Don’t go to sleep with it. Resolve it every day before the day is over. As I’ve said often, even as a man, as he undresses, takes all the coins and the wallet and the comb and handkerchief out of his pockets, cleans his pockets out before he lays his trousers aside... in the same way, take all the negative things out of your consciousness. Let them go. Lay them aside. Even if you can only say, “Well I’ll lay this hurt aside for now and I’ll pick it up again tomorrow if I want it.” If you can go to sleep on it, letting it be separated from you, you’ll find that you won’t want it again. It’ll be all gone the next time.

‘Let not the sun go down on your wrath, and walk in love,’ he says. This walking symbolizes our daily actions. If every move you make, every action you take is in love and with love, habits contrary to love will be automatically dissolved. All anger will be diffused. You can rid yourself of anger and resentment by focusing on the opposite. The goal is open-hearted love. Let this flow of love be stirred up within you. Let it become a means to protect you from the limitations of human consciousness. And if any time you slip, turn the other cheek, turn to that fountain of love within yourself which blesses and forgives, but above all, which keeps you in tune with the flow of your own good.

In the Proverbs, we have a very marvelous thought. ‘He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he that rooteth his spirit, and he that taketh the city.’

I just want to advise you to be still for a moment. I want us to take a look at ourselves very seriously, even if it seems to be a negative thing. I want you to focus your attention right now. Any point of rancor, any upset, any anger, any resistance, any resentment that you have in yourself about anything or anyone... even if it’s hurtful to think about it... You may be feeling sorry for yourself, drowning in feelings of self pity. Take a look at it.

But above all, as you look at it, get the awareness this is really something that is out there. Not something that belongs in you, it’s out there. What you’ve allowed yourself to believe caused your feelings of upset has no power of itself to cause you that upset as long as you keep it out there. Something someone did or hasn’t done, something an organization has failed to do for you that you feel they should have, it’s all out there.

For a moment, as you leave it all out there, turn within yourself. Send your attention on that fountain of love which is yours as a spiritual being. Let that love process flow through your whole nature, healing your wounds, dissolving your hurts, diffusing your angers, and see how good it feels.

You remember there’s a tremendous force within you great enough to keep you in perfect peace if you can just keep yourself centered in this consciousness. Let yourself think, “I’m poised and centered in the deeper self of me, and nothing can disturb the calm peace of my soul.” This place of central calm within you, the still point at the center of your being, is the source of a tremendous focus of infinite eternal energy: radiant love. A force that is great enough not only to bring peace to your mind, but enable you to send forth this blessing to the persons and the situations out there that may have seemed to be troubling to your life.

So now you have all these hurts and resentment and rancors out there before you. Turn your love upon them. See them through the eyes of the divine of you. Let love pour forth and dissolve all that is untoward, all that is difficult, all that is limited. Like water pouring upon the flames and the searing flames, the raging fire, is diminished and is gone. Not even a flickering ember remains. So let it go.

And let your love flow forth beyond this, to all the persons and organizations that you feel have been a part of that which gave rise to your hurt and your animosity and your anger. Let this love go forth in a true spirit of forgiveness. Not something that you’re making yourself do because it’s a nice religious thing to do, but something which is a key to your own therapy.

“Pray for those who despitefully use you,” said Jesus. Not that they deserve it, but you deserve the consciousness of expressing it. So bless them. Love them. And then Jesus said, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And let them go. They no longer have any power to cause you anger or upset. You’re free. Praise God, you’re free.

Whisper that to yourself. “I’m free. Praise God, I’m free.”

And commit yourself now to the realization that you will never again pick up these limitations of consciousness you’ve set out before you, that you’ve consumed in flames, you’ve dissolved into nothingness. You’re free. Praise God, you’re free. And we know that you’ll go forth this day on a new level of awareness, thinking and acting from the deeper self of you, from the other side of your being. And it shall be a wonderful day, the beginning of a wonderful week. Praise God for the truth that makes us free. So be it.