From Anger to Clarity: Transforming Frustrations into Effective Actions

This past week offered many in our country a true opportunity for reflection. The atmosphere felt ripe with heightened emotions. Limiting my interactions in this atmosphere felt like a smart move. The temptation to blame anyone, everyone, someone for my internal sense of rumbling emotions felt overwhelming at times.

And, so I slept. I meditated. I listened to music. Fuming internally is no fun. I actually woke in the middle of the night to the smell of burning embers. It took me a minute to realize it was my own emotional stew pot simmering on a low boil. Experience offered me the comfort of knowing that this too shall pass.

We have all heard the expression anger begets anger. Which leads to the question can anger or any heightened emotion – for that matter – be used as a motivating force for good?

Years ago during a media studies course I was teaching, a student stopped me midstream and said, “Molly, I just feel so overwhelmed by the enormity of the problems I see in the world. It’s so depressing and so impossible to imagine my personal ability to impact change anywhere.” His sincerity silenced the room. Emboldened, I tossed my organized syllabus in the trash and totally revamped the semester’s learning objectives. By the end of the course, a cohort of students within my class had raised $5,000 by designing and implementing an entire “Who Cares?” media campaign dedicated to supporting Habitat for Humanity programs in Detroit. It was a small step, but an important development in my work as an educator. I had witnessed the most disgruntled and disengaged students in my course transform their attitudes with a simple shift in focus: away from cynicism, and toward engagement.

The simple truth is that when my students slowed down and asked in a moment of deep reflection, “Who Cares?” They discovered, they did. Rather than sitting and stewing in their own frustration, they turned toward service to others. And, in giving from a place of care, they made a meaningful contribution to their community.

In the Vedic literature, connecting with others through the experience of yourself is described in the following way: “I am That, thou art That, all this is That” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 1.4.10). Expanded consciousness allows individuals to actually “see” the personal in the diversity. This is why I believe meditation in the classroom is so important. Consciousness based education reminds students to slow down and interact with an awareness of their own impact on their surroundings.

Feeling anger is okay. We all get mad sometimes. But acting out of that anger is not so smart.  We must learn to transcend the calling to such primal states of understanding. Remember in addition to asking individuals to “be the change they wish to see in the world”, Mahatma Gandhi believed that “in a gentle way, you can shake the world” and that a “nation’s culture lies in the hearts and souls of its people.”  

Students ask me all the time what to “do” when others make them feel bad. They are often surprised when I respond by saying that they alone are responsible for how they feel. It’s okay to feel any old way but take ownership of it. It’s not “their” fault. It’s your opportunity.

~ Molly Beauregard

Image/Illustration by: @6bartwork