How can I control anger when I am continuously provoked?
Transcription by: Shanu Gupta
Question: I don’t know how to control my emotions and anger when provoked repeatedly?
Answer: Yes, if someone is continuously being provoked, nobody can control themselves. What can we do in such a situation?
Tolerance is a virtue but then assertiveness is also a virtue. In BG 2.14, Krishna tells Arjuna, “tāṁs titikṣasva bhārata” (just try to tolerate). However, at the same time Krishna also speaks the Bhagvad-gita to inspire Arjuna to do his duty of fighting a war. Krishna tells Arjuna that Kauravas has done many atrocities and those are not tolerable. The atrocities have crossed their limits and therefore now you must respond aggressively. Therefore, it is not that infinite tolerance is always a virtue. It can be that sometime some people may have to be dealt with in an appropriate way so that they get the message.
At the same time, we should also know that impulsive action always has counter-reactions. Impulsive actions are usually not the best course of action, so it is good to deliberate sufficiently before making such a decision.
Now specifically addressing the question on how to deal with anger when provoked repeatedly. Basically, in such situation we have three alternatives – (i) we try to change the person (ii) we try to change ourselves (iii) we walk away from the situation.
When we find ourselves becoming unbearably angry, it is best to get out of the situation. It is best not to act impulsively at that time because that will make things worse. Instead, we just wait for some time, let ourselves become calm, let the other person become calm, then we may have a balance conversation with the other person. At that time, we may point out what is making us irritable and then we can try to see what can be done to avoid that irritation. Sometimes, the other person may not realize the extent of inconvenience or irritation they are causing to us. If they realize it (via our communication), they may minimize it, but if they still do not minimize it, then we may have to change ourselves.
Basically, we have to choose which of the options we can work on. We either try to change the circumstances, or we try to change the other person (generally quite difficult), or we change ourselves (in other words tolerate), or we walk away from the situation.
Here, it is important to understand that walking away is not running away. It is not cowardice. Walking away could be a wise or a well-thought choice. It will depend on recognizing which battle is worth fighting and which battle is not. If we are in a situation where we can’t walk away, then we must find out either a way to boost our tolerance or a way to make our communication more effective.
Boosting our tolerance is possible by practice of bhakti, which gives us the strength by which we know that we have Krishna with us. Usually, whenever we become angry with someone, that anger can have many specific causes. Generally, the main cause is that we feel that somebody is not giving us the due respect, or not treating us properly. In such situations, we should know that Krishna is with us and Krishna is observing how we are behaving. Materialistic people generally say, “This is between you and me.” However, the devotee say, “It is not between you and me, it is between me and Krishna. How I deal with you is also between me and Krishna.”
If we have an attitude that Krishna is a third person in any interaction we are having with anyone, we will focus on trying to please Krishna and not on trying to get back at that person. Even if the other person has done wrongly, still we can tolerate the provocation by remembering that my purpose is not to please this person, but to please Krishna. Sometimes just being kind and gentle to other devotees in a provocative situation will be the best way to please Krishna.