Welcome to The Path of Water

This site is dedicated to exploring the Tao and Philosophical Taoism; and how it relates to everyday modern life in the 21st Century. It also includes posts relating to how I feel Taoism can provide insights for dealing with the problems of everyday living.

The process of writing out my thoughts helps me to explore what I believe and why, so these posts will probably develop over time. I hope that you'll find this site interesting and, for those of you new to the Tao and Taoism, I hope that it can provide you with a first step on the path to a rich spiritual life. If you want to post comments relating to a post or the site as a whole I'd be grateful as all feedback is helpful.

Enjoy your visit - In Tao - Woody

Who would follow the Way must go beyond words.
Who would know the world must go beyond names. *

No man ever steps in the same river twice,
for it's not the same river and he's not the same man. **

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Taoism, forgiveness and anger management

On the Reform Taoism member forum there's been a really good discussion going regarding anger management and forgiveness. I'm reproducing here the essence of my posts in the thread in the hope that they may be of some wider use.

The original poster (OP)  initially asked for insights from members with regard to Taoism and anger management. This was my response...

For me anger is wrapped up with the ego and arises when my perception of how the world/things/life etc "should be" comes in conflict with how it actually "is." IMHO there's nothing wrong per se with feeling angry. If you feel angry then let it out, but try to direct it so that it causes minimal damage.

What I do once it's out is try to examine where the conflict is and how it arises. I don't try to "control" or "manage" my anger but I find that through understanding the nature of the source conflict, I gain perspective and the situation rarely arises again. Sometimes however it takes several goes before I really understand the source of the conflict.

The strange thing I find is that usually when I finally understand the root of my anger it's almost always something petty, small, and quite often embarrassingly childish. But then as Taoists we
shouldn't run away from our childishness - just not let it take over our lives.

...Following on from the anger management discussion the OP identified that some of their anger originated in unresolved feelings from events in past relationships. In an effort to resolve these the OP enquired about Taoist advice regarding forgiveness. The essence of my responses and resulting discussions are presented here...
  • Forgive or don't forgive. It doesn't matter. It won't change the past - that's been and gone. 
  • Forgiving or not forgiving maintains the illusion that events can in some way still be changed. 
  • Dwelling on past events will bring you no benefit, it won't change anything - it will only take you away from the present and hamper your ability to find harmony.
  • Everything "good" and "bad" has brought you to this point. Both are of equal value in making you who you are.
  • What to do? Give yourself a break. 
  • Accept the past for what it is - something that has been and gone. 
  • Make the decision to live the life you have now, not one that has ceased to be.

...the discussion proceeded onto the roots of the emotional pain from which the anger arises and the urge to forgive or not forgive. You may notice that these issues are closely tied with those of guilt and shame covered in my previous post. Here's what I had to say...

It is the ego that feels wronged. It's saying "Don't you know who I am? I'm too important to be treated like this!" It's all tied up in only "seeing the manifestations" as described in chapter 1 of the Tao Te Ching.I believe that this is a good example of how Taoism can offer us better answers.

It all boils down to a conflict between what happens and what a person (specifically their ego) desires to happen. There is a vision projecting into the future of how things will be & when reality doesn't fit the illusion there is naturally conflict, pain, etc. This can be further amplified by past similar events reinforcing the sense of injustice or vulnerability. This is what the Tao Te Ching is talking about when it says things like...

When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.

The Master sees things as they are,
without trying to control them.
She lets them go their own way,

When there is no desire,
all things are at peace.

[The master] has no will of his own.
He dwells in reality,
and lets all illusions go.

Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.

...so both forgiving and not forgiving are just tricks of the ego making it seem as if you have some kind of power or control over past events. Don't fret over the past and how things didn't live up to your expectations, and don't build expectations of the future and how things are going to be. Give them both up and live in the now...

Living in the moment,
abandoning the baggage of past events,
abandoning the baggage of future expectations,
you become free.

1 comment:

The Rambling Taoist said...

As with the previous post, these are very sage words and thoughts.