Anger and violence in dreams

images.jpg
Dharma Chakra mandala Hinamayatantra

Anger in dreams usually reflects the emotional state of the dreamer in their waking life. Typically this anger has been suppressed and uncommunicated in the dreamer’s waking life. The dream is a confrontation with the unconscious and suppressed material that one stuffs while awake. In the dream the anger has permission to vent so it’s better than nothing, but the unresolved issues that have triggered the anger have to be dealt with directly and in the light of day.

In our waking lives the way to deal with these negative triggers is to neither seek revenge nor use violence. This is the second of the Buddhist Noble Eightfold Path1 and is known as Right Intention. I use it here because it speaks directly to the premise of this article– that anger and hate are instinctive reptilian reactions to real or perceived threats, but rarely effective in bringing balance to human interactions and will never lead to happiness or equanimity.

Revenge2 as a means of reducing ones anger is counter productive in that revenge begets revenge. One need only look at the ethnic battles going on in virtually every country or neighborhood in the world to see the truth of this.

Bottom line, revenge does not, will not, cannot restore equity, or balance, to any relationship. Every attempt to use it only escalates a negative cycle. When punishment is used to bring fairness into the equation neither the punished or the punisher is ever able to let go and truly move on.

Violence as a means of righting a wrong doesn’t work either because violence only begets violence. Hate perpetuates hate and hurts/damages both the hater and their target. And the damage is not only psychological, emotional and moral, but physical as well because the body’s health is severely affected by anger and hate.

There is nothing more damaging to the human Psyche (soul, spirit) than doing or sanctioning violence to another human being, regardless of the reason or justification.

Now I’m not suggesting that you reject anger by denying it because you can’t, it’s a natural reaction to threat– to the self or to those one loves. There are ways to deal with it when it comes up however, ways to prevent it from taking you over.

The first step when you find that anger has reared its ugly head is to not respond to the provocation i.e. do not respond to anger with anger. Try delaying your response for several seconds (this is like the old “count to ten” method). This will train self-control and give some time to engage the brain.

Quick to anger is a Lizard Brain (lower brain) reaction and can be overridden by the neo-cortex, the non-reactive higher cognitive part of the brain (that part that separates us from the other animals). Engaging the introspective higher brain will allow one to thoughtfully “respond” rather than instinctively “react”. Delay will give the higher brain a chance to respond in a non-escalating fashion and will result in much less damage to both parties.

Another important step in reducing anger is to treat others with kindness and compassion. This includes those who are not like you or don’t believe what you believe. This also includes those from a different ‘tribe’ i.e. family, neighborhood, village, gang, religion, school, team, city, state, or country.

We are all humans who are trying to survive, feel safe, love, and be happy. With few exceptions, mostly by those who have psychological, spiritual, brain, or psycho-social damage, we all make mistakes, want to make a difference and want to feel and be seen as being a good person. We also share another common trait i.e. we don’t always know the right way to go about it. This is probably due to the fact that none of us came with an instruction manual although many scholars and religious leaders have written down a number of rules and laws designed to give us at least some direction even though they aren’t often read or followed when we’re being threatened.

___________________________

1The Noble Eightfold Path right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

2vengeance, retribution, retaliation, reprisal, eye for an eye.