The air in Sacramento is a smoke-filled haze from wildfires ringing the area. The smoke does seem to bring the temperatures down a little, but it also causes a scratchy throat and is even causing worse problems for those with respiratory conditions.
I'm reminded by all this smoke of the recent torching of a local children's playground and of what I wrote and of what others commented about what I wrote recently. In short, I said that a part of me would like to kill the arsonist, but another part of me realized that this would be worse than the arson itself, and I wondered how best to deal with my angry and vengeful thoughts and emotions. Should I express them openly or keep them to myself? Should I accept them as a natural, albeit misguided, response to the arson, or should I try to find a wholesome way to dispel them?
One person, a psychoanalytic, spiritually-oriented clinical psychologist, commented that I should not only not hold back these feelings and my expression of them, but that I should actually "amplify" them. He suggested that these thoughts and feelings were the most "normal" and "noble" part of my otherwise abnormal psychological makeup (and, perhaps, ignoble character). Of course, he added, I shouldn't act out these feelings, but, as long as I didn't, it was good for me to nurture these homicidal thoughts and hate-filled emotions toward evil deeds and evildoers. This would help me to become psychologically healthier and, perhaps, even progress more rapidly and completely along the spiritual path.
But is this person right? Should we cultivate hatred toward those who harm or would harm us and "amplify" our desire to harm or kill them? Is this psychologically wholesome and spiritually uplifting?
I don't understand how it could be. I think I do understand how suppressing anger and violent thoughts toward evildoers could be harmful psychologically and spiritually. I think Ken Wilber and others are correct in pointing out that the insights of modern psychology can combine with those of traditional spirituality to create spiritual paths unobstructed by our "shadows."
Yet, it seems to me that there's a vast and much more wholesome middle ground between forceful suppression or repression of this kind on the one hand and trying to foster these violent reactions on the other. It seems to me that this desirable middle ground involves acknowledging one's reactive anger and hatred and even openly admitting them to others without either feeling ashamed of them or stoking them. One can then seek to understand why someone would or would even want to torch a children's playground or commit any other harmful act and then strive to feel empathy, compassion, and concern for that misguided individual while, at the same time, condemning the act he or she committed or wants to commit.
I suspect that the person who urged me to "amplify" my homicidal thoughts and hateful emotions would be inclined to shake his head at what I've just written and say, "Steve, you may well be a hopeless case."
And maybe I am. At least until someone can cogently explain to me how hating and wanting to kill evildoers stops them or us from doing evil or raises our minds, hearts, and souls to where we want them to be.
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