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Anger > A Skillful Approach to Anger

In The Dance of Anger, Harriet Goldhor Lerner's thesis is that the energy of anger can be used to inspire one to change one's own behavior that causes the problem.

The book is in many ways mindfulness training—mindfulness for the specific situation of when a woman's anger arises. What to observe, how to back off from identification with the feeling, how to see through the illusion of blaming the other person and trying to change them. (She shows no hint of Buddhist background; this is all in Western terms.)

Although her methods seem to me consonant with a Buddhist approach, she departs strikingly from Buddhist theory in saying that anger is a signal that the self is not being given proper attention. (In my understanding Buddhism teaches that anger is the illusory self defending itself, and the answer is to let go of the illusion and focus on compassion for the other.)

But we know that however illusory the normal concept of self is, everyone still needs one to function in the everyday world. It's too easy when interpreting Buddhist theory, to confuse the teaching about essential reality, where we are all one, with the idea that therefore we don't need a day-to-day self.

There is a lot of controversy and confusion over the various meanings of "self" or "ego" in Buddhist texts, versus those in Western psychology.) Lerner inspires me to a conviction that there is a proper way to do the dance of ego. I think her book is good training for it.

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© Copyright 1999, 2004, 2006 Catherine Holmes Clark. Last Updated 8 November 2006