Spirituality and Aggression

emotional intelligence
i am
trauma therapy

What at first sight may seem contradictory, is in fact complementary. We all want love. We may realize, on some level, that we are all one. We try to do our share to become more wholesome beings and develop empathy and loving kindness. But why then do we still have all sorts of small quarrels (i.e. in relationships) and big fights (i.e. wars)?

In spiritual scenes, I often observe these dynamics: We meditate and do yoga together at a beautiful retreat, far from ordinary life and without stress. We get in a state of bliss and loving care. We somehow enter a love and bliss bubble (comparable to the state you get into, when you eat a bliss ball☺).

Nothing wrong with that.

But then we return home from such a beautiful retreat and somebody triggers us, maybe even on the way home; the taxi driver, a child screaming, a person you travel with, or our partner at home. And boom; all our carefully accumulated bliss goes flying out of the window. What do we do now?

In my view a sane kind of contemporary spirituality includes the dark sides, the shadow sides, and with that, aggression too.

We usually try to avoid aggression, but why would we force ourselves to do so? Etymologically the word stems from the Latin “aggredi”, which means “to approach”. Is there anything truly wrong with that?

I see it like this: We need the energy of anger or aggression to approach or the courage to approach a person to share our view, to share with them what it is that we disapprove of.

Why do we feel comfortable to share our feedback when it is positive, yet on the other hand seem very reluctant to share our feedback when it is negative? As you may agree, that is not a healthy balance.

We have become such chickens, when it comes to more complex feelings!

Psychology has taught us that emotions are not to be suppressed. When you don’t allow yourself to process your emotions, in this case aggression, it eventually may even lead to depression. Because when you suppress (Latin: “depressio”) your anger, you may end up directing it against yourself.

Instead we should accept all the feelings that occur, whether positive or negative, bring awareness to them, try to solve our problems with them and use the brain to reassess the situation.

In the contemporary Polyvagal Theory of Stephen Porges concerning trauma and trauma therapy. It explains that you first have to activate the sympathetic nervous system to activate the anger against a potential aggressor and to get out of the shock and freeze state (dorsal parasympathetic nervous system). After that,  our brain is able to activate the ventral parasympathetic nervous system, where you may build up authentic empathy and loving kindness towards yourself and others (social engagements).

Ok. I don’t want to bore you with too many science and psychology terms, but if you want to live a truly spiritual life, please try to recognise and embrace your aggression in it. If you feel anger, celebrate your anger. When you feel like giving feedback or pointing something out to a friend or family member, please feel free to do so.

If you want to change this world, use the energy which is behind anger, embrace the anger, and then create real peace. Not peace with a hidden fist in your pocket. But heartfelt inner peace with everything that comes with it.

Final remark:
Now, how we do that, is an art of being and learning that is never ending. It is surely not about going out and screaming at others or raging at your partner or child. But it is about feeling the feelings you have and learning how to navigate with them. That is true spirituality; truthful living, authenticity and I AM–ness in everyday life.

Evelyne Siddhana Vuilleumier

Evelyne Vuilleumier is a clinical psychologist, Gestalt therapist and Yoga teacher. She has spent many years with Satsang teachers. Now she gives sessions and leads a further education in Spiritual Psychotherapy. She currently teaches Silent Retreats and Meditations at the Mandali Retreat Center. Read full bio.

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