Welcome to the first of a series of interviews I will be conducting with my spiritual teacher Claire Bourgein on topics pertaining to personal development. Claire is a counsellor and meditation instructor with thirty years experience. I am grateful she has agreed to share some of her teachings with us, here at Spirit my way. If you would like to learn more about Claire’s story, click here.
In this interview, we will delve into anger because there’s a lot of red hot energy going around. We regularly hear about anger in the media, reported as instances of domestic violence, road rage, king hits, terrorism and war, but anger is not always explosive, it can also simmer beneath the surface of daily life, eroding our personal relationships over time, our partnerships, families, and friendships, and adversely affecting our work and community relations.
I would like my interview with Claire today to begin with a basic evaluation of anger and how it affects you and me, the individual:
What is anger?
Anger is an emotion. There’s nothing wrong with anger, it’s what you do with it that matters. It only becomes inappropriate if it hurts another person. Anger can also hurt you. It can literally kill you if it’s not dealt with at all. If people don’t express themselves appropriately the anger boils up in them internally, then one day they become ill or an emotional volcano because they haven’t dealt with it.
We only get angry for one of two reasons:
- Someone else isn’t doing something you want them to do and that’s really about control;
- You’re not satisfied with yourself, deeply – dissatisfied with what is happening or with how things are working out, or feeling you’re not enough.
When you’re angry you’re either in the past or the future, you’re never present. You’re either angry about something that has happened or frustrated about something that hasn’t happened. We’re then in want, want, want. If our mindset is in want, then we’ll never get there, will we? So, if we dealt with those issues then the anger would lessen. And there’s a difference between anger and assertiveness. Assertiveness comes from having good boundaries.
What is assertiveness?
Assertiveness is about believing in your self-value and in what you have to contribute. It’s about speaking up and sometimes, forcefully, but without aggression. If you grow up feeling valued and accepted then you’ll probably have a high level of assertiveness. If you’re not valued, then, unfortunately, often your assertiveness is low. We’re here to learn and grow and much of this is set by the age of three. But we can change it. The more mindful we can become and the more adaptable we can become, the more choices we have. On the reverse side of that, the more we dumb down something and make it small, the less choices we have and the more self-absorbed we become. We have a great opportunity with children to teach them to become compassionate and assertive, loving, kind – teaching them love is vital. It’s a way of bringing compassion into things and humanity.
What is a good boundary?
A boundary is where you end and I begin and vice versa. It’s about your comfort zones. A boundary is a gate and not a wall. That’s very important to understand. It’s a gate that you open and close. Boundaries are incredibly important in families and workplaces, and in teaching your children to grow up. There are different measures of a good boundary: Does this make me feel good or does this make me feel bad? Am I able to be assertive? A bad boundary is when you can’t be yourself – you can’t say what you feel. An example of a good boundary can be that you sit down with your child, at the table for meals, as a family, and you see yourself as a family. Don’t see yourself as a sole parent with a child – see yourself as a family.
Is anger different from resentment?
Resentment is about blaming somebody else. You’re not taking responsibility for what part you may have played in a situation, in any way. The more you work internally, and the more you stop blaming others, the more you find your resentment goes. Forgiveness is the key to everything. What people don’t understand about forgiveness is forgiveness frees you. It’s very good to express yourself but do so appropriately. So often if we’re blaming someone else it doesn’t come out appropriately. If you work through what’s really going on and take a look at it, then you can speak up and say what you need to say but without blame.
Why do people hold to resentment?
Most people don’t want to look at themselves. They don’t want to work on their own shit. They are investing in feelings of pain and uncomfortableness, love – it is energy. It’s about control at the end of the day – it’s a power game. The more you don’t forgive and the more you are resentful, the more you are empowering that person instead of empowering yourself. You really need to work through your own shit to really forgive. Then you start to see what part you played in it.
How can you change angry or resentful behaviour?
We all come from various modes. Some people comes from an anxious mode, avoidant mode, resentful mode… Once we come to recognise our modes a little bit more, that is, become mindful, then we have opportunities to make different choices. We then have opportunities to see the gaps and realise what becomes our triggers. There are also lots of positive modes too. If we can use a positive mode when we are in a negative, it can help us out of the negative one.
Is pausing the ‘gap’ you refer to?
Yes. Without the gap, you’re stuffed. You’ve got to be able to have the gap and to see so you can make a different choice. Remember, anytime we’ve been reactive, we’ve been triggered. That trigger is about something in you, not about someone else. If you don’t know what your triggers are, you won’t be able to see what you’ve been doing and you won’t be able to make a choice: Do I need to be doing this anymore and is this appropriate for me?
What does it mean to forgive?
You don’t have to like someone to forgive them, but you have to let go of the thing that has been winding you up. Forgiveness is about letting go of something that you believe a person has transgressed towards you, in some way. You’ve worked through it enough to let go. You transform it. Forgiveness may take many years to do but if you put intent on that’s where you want to go, and you keep putting your intent on it, then the closer you will come to forgiveness. Some people’s natures are more inclined towards forgiveness and some need to work at it. There is also a great need for people to forgive themselves: I no longer punish myself. I forgive myself and move on. All is well.
How do we teach kids forgiveness?
Kids see things in black and white. If you hurt me – I’ll hurt you. But you can teach them that forgiveness is important. Everything with kids is by example. Stories that show compassion are also important. Storytelling is a good way to teach them. On the other hand, kids can hurt you one minute and love you the next.
Thanks, Claire! What did you get from her teaching today? For me, it was about the ‘gap’ and how essential it is, to making better choices. And that a boundary is a gate and not a wall. I love that!
If you would like to ask Claire a question or leave a comment, please do so in the box below or email email@example.com. We’d love to hear from you!
If you would like a private consultation with Claire, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
I will now leave you with the ‘Introduction to Meditation’ track from Claire’s first CD, With Meditation in Mind. Enjoy!
Claire Bourgein’s teachings are available on iTunes. Her first meditation CD is titled, With Meditation in Mind. This CD is useful for beginners and avid meditators. The meditation is written and spoken by Claire, the music is composed by Emma Jayakumar, and is produced and arranged by Tommaso Pollio. Emma and Tommaso have been involved with the classical music scene for over twenty years and run the Children’s Opera Company, ‘Lark Chamber Opera’. For more info, click here.