misdirected aggression

The Wisdom of Anger

by Melvin McLeod

Is anger an empowering and appropriate response to suffering and injustice, or does it only cause more conflict? Is it skillful or unskillful? Does it help or hurt?

With so many bad things happening in the world these days, there’s a lot of debate about the proper role of anger. The answer may lie in the fundamental distinction Buddhism makes between anger and aggression.

According to Buddhism, aggression is one of the “three poisons” that drive our suffering. Even a brief moment of reflection on our own lives, our society, and human history will confirm that aggression is the greatest cause of destruction and suffering.

As with the other two poisons — ignorance and passion — what defines aggression is ego. Aggression is the energy of anger in the service of all we define as “self,” ready to attack anyone and anything we deem a threat. But when anger is released from its service to ego, it ceases to be aggression and simply becomes energy. The pure energy of anger has wisdom and power. It can even be enlightened.


The buddhas are not just the love-and-light people we like to think they are. Of course, their enlightened mind is grounded in total peace, but in that open space compassion spontaneously arises. It has many manifestations. One is the pure energy of anger.

Anger is the power to say no. This is our natural reaction whenever we see someone suffer — we want to stop it. The buddhas say no to the three poisons that drive injustice. They are angry about our suffering and they will happily destroy its causes. They aren’t angry at us. They’re angry for us.

Traditionally, it is said that the buddhas’ compassion expresses itself through four types of energy. These are called skillful means, the different ways wisdom and compassion go into action to relieve suffering.

First, the buddhas can pacify, helping suffering beings quench the flames of aggression, passion, and ignorance. The calm and pacifying buddha is the one we’re most familiar with, whose image brings a feeling of peace to millions around the world.

But sometimes more is needed. So the buddhas can enrich us, pointing out the wealth of resources we possess as human beings and healing our inner sense of impoverishment. Then, if need be, they can magnetise us, seducing us away from the suffering of ego to the joy of our inherent enlightened nature.

Finally, there are times when the compassionate thing is to destroy. To say “Stop!” to suffering. To say “Wake up!” to the ways people deceive themselves. To use the energy of anger to say “No!” to all that is selfish, exploitive, and unjust.

In its pure, awakened form, when it is not driven by ego, anger brings good to the world. In our personal lives, it helps us be honest about our own foibles and have the courage to help others see how they are damaging themselves. On a bigger scale, anger is the energy that inspires great movements for freedom and social justice, which we need so badly now. It is a vital part of every spiritual path, for before we can say yes to enlightenment, we must say no to the three poisons.

The energy of anger is an inherent part of our nature — we can no more have yes without no than light without dark. So we need a way to work with the energy of anger so it doesn’t manifest as aggression, as well as methods to tap its inherent wisdom. We need a profound understanding of where aggression comes from, how it differs from anger, and a practical path to work with it. That path begins where all healing begins.


Most of us aren’t physically violent, but almost all of us hurt other people with aggressive words and harsh emotions. The sad part is that it’s usually the people we love most whom we hurt. We can also acquiesce in or implicitly support social evils and injustice through our silence, investments, or consumption habits.

Buddhism, like all religions, offers guidelines to help us restrain ourselves. We may not like rules and limitations, but the morals, ethics, and decorum taught directly by the Buddha are guides to doing no harm.

The principle of right conduct applies to acts of body, speech, and mind. Guided by the inner attitudes of gentleness and awareness, we monitor what arises in the mind moment by moment and choose the wholesome, like peace, over the unwholesome, like aggression.

Buddhism teaches helpful meditation techniques so we are not swept away by the force of conflicting emotions like aggression. These techniques allow us to take advantage of the brief gap in the mind between impulse and action. Through the practice of mindfulness, we become aware of impulses arising and allow a space in which we can consider whether and how we want to act. We, not our emotions, are in control.


Without excusing or ignoring anything, it’s helpful to recognise that aggression is usually someone’s maladapted response to their own suffering. That includes us and our aggression. So caring for ourselves and cultivating compassion for others are two of the best ways to short-circuit aggression.

We are suffering beings, and we don’t handle it well. We try to ease our pain and only make it worse. The practices of mindfulness and self-care give us the strength and space to experience our suffering without losing our stability and lashing out. And when we are targets of aggression ourselves, knowing it may come out of the other person’s pain helps us respond skillfully.


Fear and shame distort the basic energy of anger and create suffering. We fear that intense emotions like anger will overwhelm us and make us lose control. We’re ashamed that such “negative” emotions are part of our makeup at all. So we protect ourselves against the energy of anger by either suppressing it or acting it out. Both are ways to avoid experiencing the full intensity of emotion. Both are harmful to ourselves and others.

What we need is the courage to rest in the full intensity of the energy inside us without suppressing or releasing it. This the key to the Buddhist approach to working with anger. When we have the courage to remain present with our anger, we can look directly at it. We can feel its texture and understand its qualities. We can investigate and understand it.

What we discover is that we are not actually threatened by this energy. We can separate the anger from our ego and storyline. We realise that anger’s basic energy is useful, even enlightened. For in its essence, our anger is the same as the buddhas’.


We have the same power to say no that the buddhas do. Traditionally, it is said that the enlightened energy of anger is the wisdom of clarity. It is sharp, accurate, and penetrating insight. It sees what is wholesome and unwholesome, what is just and unjust, what is enlightenment and what is ignorance. Seeing clearly, we lay the ground for action.

We all experience the wisdom of anger when we see how society mistreats people. When we have an honest insight into our own neuroses and vow to change. When we are inspired to say no to injustice and fight for something better. This wisdom is a source of strength, fearlessness, and solidarity. It can drive positive change.

If Buddhism offers us one piece of good news it is this: in our basic nature, we are enlightened and our anger is really wisdom. The confused and misdirected aggression that causes such suffering is just temporary and insubstantial.

When the energy of anger serves ego, it is aggression. When it serves to ease others’ suffering and make the world a better place, it is wisdom. We have the freedom to choose which. We have the power to transform aggression into the wisdom of anger. There is no greater victory, for us and for the world.

Mars in the 12th House

The twelfth house is the house of containment and self-undoing if it doesn’t find a way for the energy to be released. When Mars is found in the twelfth house, one needs to release the energy and not let it remain blocked or bottled up. Energies of mars in the twelfth house will work against them when its repressed or inhibited. Being able to express their feelings in a non-combative manner and developing a creative self-expression would be not only wise but helpful. A good advice for those with Mars in the twelfth house is to let go of old resentments.  When Mars gets placed in the twelfth house, it can indicate a resistance towards taking action, and people may find it difficult to actually stand up and deliver. They may make a lot of plans but the outcome is rarely satisfactory because they spread their energy into different places. A lot of energy is lost in their activities.

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anonymous asked:

I'm a different anon from the one asking if they're queer, but I have a question. What exactly would you call it if you are already part of the LGBT+ and someone uses a slur against you that doesn't actually fit what you are? It's hard for me to explain. I can understand the misdirection thing if the person being insulted is cis, straight, and non-intersex, so therefore not oppressed under the slur. But what happens if you are one of the oppressed anyway? :/ Is it misdirection then?

It’s still misdirected, yes, but it’s also kind of… complicated sometimes?

I don’t often talk about this here, but I’m intersex. The most visible evidence of this is that I naturally grow a thick, dark beard. I’m a pale redhead, so this beard is not always easy to hide even with a close shave and lots of makeup - and I can only do a close shave every few days, since I have very sensitive skin. So sometimes it’s necessary for me to exist in public as a woman with a visible beard.

The possibility of being intersex is not on most people’s radar. I don’t get called intersexist slurs on public transit. Trans women, on the other hand, are hypervisible, and I get mistaken for one sometimes. This puts me at risk of misdirected transmisogyny.

The hostility I’m greeted with isn’t meant for me. It’s meant for trans women. The t-slur isn’t made to dehumanize me, it’s meant for them. The intent is to be transmisogynist, not intersexist. The social context is the normalized, violent oppression of trans women.

You could easily make a claim that by targeting me, they’re being intersexist as well. My intersex traits put me at risk for this violence, and someone identical to me but not intersex would not be vulnerable in this way. At the same time, this violence is often obviously intended for trans women, which makes it, unquestionably, misdirected transmisogyny.

It gets muddy like that. Oppressions overlap. Sometimes a broader term works better - I’ve used “sapphobia” the past year or two for the common oppression lbpq people share because of our attraction to/relationships with women. This is part of the reason we’ve formed what @punlich​ aptly calls the “Alphabet Soup Suffering Coalition” (LGBT+) - we’re all punished for deviating from specific norms, although how we specifically diverge can vary.

Does this make sense?

anonymous asked:

how do you justify consuming enough calories to maintain obesity when people are legitimately starving all over the world and in your home nation? how can you call yourself a feminist (who by definition wants equality) when in your own life you take more than you need every single day? selfishness and equality don't mix, and that's what you are. you aren't fat or fierce you are a selfish human who can't admit your own flaws and rages at society for pointing out your hypocrisy.

are you okay? do you need a hug or something? like, really. what’s up, buddy? this is really aggressive, super misdirected anger towards someone you do not know. this kind of behavior is really disconcerting and something someone who is emotionally well does not do. do you need help?

i think this takes the cake for the strangest in-game mail I’ve ever gotten

i don’t know anybody named Kate in WoW? I have never interacted with the character who sent it? 

Is this a follower of mine, by any chance? because otherwise I am writing this off as some very bizarre misdirected passive-aggression lol