Author's Note: If you have a problem with anger management, please be sure to see your doctor or other appropriate and licensed professional. This blog is not meant to provide you with medical, psychiatric or psychological advice. I am merely expressing what I believe to be true from my own experiences and learning.
I tend to hold my anger inside, so as to avoid potential arguments and the resulting unpleasantness. I don't like to hurt people, and I find it unbearable to see anyone suffer - which is why I prefer to hide my pique. I regret those times where someone managed push me to the limit and I completely lost my temper. I also greatly regret the time I wasted suffering inside due to this terrible affliction.
Having been a lifetime student on the subject of anger, I am only recently beginning to understand its nature, and how troublesome this emotion can be to the bearer as well as the recipient of same. The good news is I rarely get angry anymore. So how did I learn to tame the beast?
First I had to understand where anger comes from:
1. Anger is a reaction to being denied what we want. Whether we are denied love, a raise, respect, our place in line, the level of customer service we feel we deserve, possession of the remote control, are held up in traffic, our desire to have what we want draws us into a cycle of anger when we are thwarted. Attachment is one-sided, narrow minded, completely self absorbed behavior. The more you succumb to this unreasonableness, the worse you become, until even the littlest things cause you to become angry.
2. Anger is NOT innate. In other words, we are not born angry - when we are born our mind is pure. Anger is generated through our ignorant misconception that our attachment to people (getting them to do and act as we want them to) and things (having the things we want) will bring us happiness. These perceptions are spoon fed to us through the media constantly and learned from the ignorance of the people around us. We learn to become angry when we don't get what we want, to be jealous in our relationships, to cease being happy with what we do have and to constantly crave more. We become demanding of our friends, spouses, children, and even complete strangers. Anger is a vicious cycle, which feeds on itself. The more often you allow yourself to become angry, the more prone to it you will become.
Don't get me wrong, there is a difference between useful desire and afflictive desire. It makes sense for you to want food, clothing, shelter and other useful things in order to live comfortably. We all want our significant other to keep their promise of fidelity to us. I am talking about the unreasonable attachment to people and things that causes us to be discontent - for instance if that hot chick isn't interested in you dude and it makes you mad, its not her fault, its yours. Often, when we do get what we want, we find that it is only a temporary fix because tomorrow, or next year there is going to be something else that we want that we cannot have, such as an even hotter chick, that new iPhone, or for someone to give up the perfect parking spot. There is no limit to this unreasonable type of desire.
For some great articles that expand on the subject of afflictive attachment, check out Zen Habits. I particularly recommend reading this awesome guest post on Zen Habits, by Lori Deschene of Tiny Buddha.
How anger keeps you from living your extraordinary life:
1. Anger is counterproductive. Whether held in, or let out, anger interferes with our focus and productivity. Ever had a business meeting blow up in your face? Your lover walk out the door and head for the nearest bar? A member of your band, committee, softball team, storm off? Have you ever been so angry at someone you couldn't think of anything else for hours, days, or perhaps never even forgiven them? There is a great article on the life freeing nature of forgiveness by Joshua Becker, on his blog Becoming Minimalist.
2. Anger is a self-defeating. Whether internalized or externalized, it causes us to suffer. Have you ever gotten so angry at someone that it ruined a special occasion, your entire day, a personal relationship or got you fired from your job? Are you still burdened with hostility and anger right now due to a long ago event? You might want to check out my own article on Uncluttering Forgiveness.
3.Anger is hurtful and ugly as well. People engage in all manner of harmful actions out of anger and resentment, from nasty comments to world wars causing suffering for themselves and others. Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror when you are angry, your face contorted, eyes blazing - sorry honey, you are not beautiful when you are angry.
4. Anger only makes things worse. Although you may be temporary relieved to get something that has been festering on the inside off of your chest, to spread vicious gossip about someone who spread vicious gossip about you, or to punch someone in the nose in the heat of the moment, these angry actions are only going to cause you further difficulties, damage your reputation, or you might possibly even end up in the hospital or jail.
So what can we do about it?
1. Don't lose your cool, make your escape. Whether it is to step out of the situation for a moment in order to reflect on what is causing you discomfort and how to appropriately address same, or to run away as far and as fast as you can from potential emotional and/or physical harm, just leave. It takes two to tango, baby!
2. Practice kindness and mindfulness. When anger arises, even our best friend can suddenly appear to grow devil horns out of their head. Anger is the great destroyer of relationships, the cause of violence and war. Do you want to ruin the relationship? Do you aspire to have a long standing feud with your next door neighbor? How are you going to feel about having cussed out that supermarket checker next time you go into that store? Ever been in a bar fight or had someone pull a knife on you? Choose your words and actions wisely so you don't regret it later. Through self awareness and self discipline as well as an understanding of the terrible effects of anger, you can develop kindness, mindfulness and achieve peace.
3. Use patience and tolerance. No matter how you choose to identify yourself, no matter how proud you are of your race, your nationality, your profession, social status, or education, you are first and foremost a human being, and not of superior status to anyone else. Put yourself in the shoes of the human being who just cut in front of you in traffic for instance - which do you prefer - the person who blasted their horn at you and flipped you off, or the person who kindly let you go in front of them with a wave and a smile? As with anything, the more you practice patience and tolerance, the better you get at it and eventually you won't even think about it at all and you will find that you don't get angry as much as you used to. Through patience and tolerance we learn to open our eyes a little wider and eventually . . .
4. Develop greater awareness. Have you ever noticed that when someone blasts their horn in traffic (back to the horn again, Ro doesn't like it when people honk their horns), it causes everyone around them to jump? Not only does it raise the overall tension of the situation, but the momentary distraction to others could result in accident - all of that just so one extremely rude person could let someone know they are hopping mad at them for getting in their way! By developing respect for and awareness of the world around us, problems such as this can be avoided, and the overall situation (such as the traffic jam) can be more easily dealt with by everyone concerned.
5. Generate love and compassion. All of us want to be happy, and none of us wants to suffer. These are the two things that each and every human being in this world has in common - each and every one of us wants the same thing - go figure! Cultivating understanding that we are all equal is the first step on the path to love and compassion towards others. Some people are never happy, no matter how hard they try. Why is this? Because they believe that true happiness is found through their attachment to people (getting what they want from them) and things. The path to true happiness actually lies on the inside and even the smallest act of compassion towards another, will bring you inner peace and closer to finding it. All acts of loving compassion lead you towards enlightenment and true happiness - including acts of loving compassion towards loved ones, strangers and even our enemies.
6. Be happy with what you have. Ask yourself if you really need whatever it is that you don't have that is making you angry. So your husband wants to watch Die Hard and you want to watch Pride & Prejudice. You both become irritated. Do you really need to watch that movie right now? Is it really ruining your evening? Well . . . if you let it it will, and then you only have yourself to blame (yes I know you want to blame him, but seriously it is within your control). Can you rent it another time, record it, or even better simply read the book? What will make you happier in the long run, having your Jane Austin fix, or practicing love and compassion towards him. What will really bring you inner peace?
7. Understand that there is no need to worry. Back to that traffic jam (what can I say, I live in L.A.). You have possible choices here, and neither of them involve honking your horn or flipping someone off. If possible, find a solution - such as kindly and mindfully making your way to an exit and finding an alternate route, or you can accept that this is simply the way things, so what's the point in worrying? This too shall pass.
One totally awesome book that I personally found truly enlightening is his Holiness the Dalai Lama's book How to Expand Love. The Dalai Lama is a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Many of the elementary concepts set forth here, are discussed in greater and more spiritual detail there. No, I don't get a commission from books written by the Dalai Lama that I recommend to you. I recommend them to you because what he has to say rocks my world. Anyway, I found the book an easy read, extremely insightful, and there are some great meditations that you can practice that will help you. In closing I am going to quote from the cover of his book, in that what he says is both simple and true:
Love and compassion are beneficial both for you and for others. Through your kindness towards others, your mind and heart will open to peace.
Expanding peace to the larger community around you will bring unity, harmony and cooperation.
Expanding peace further still to nations and then to the world will bring mutual trust, mutual respect, sincere communication, and finally successful joint efforts to solve the world's problems.
All of this is possible once you learn How to Expand Love.
Now go forth and live your extraordinary life. Try to be less angry today - start by not sweating the small stuff and then work your way up to world peace!