What’s the most effective way to combat anger?
Transcriber: Suresh Gupta
Question: What is the most effective way to combat anger?
Answer: Combating anger happens at three broad levels – the spiritual, psychological and physical.
At a spiritual level, if we do not have spiritual awareness, we think that we are meant to be the controllers, and everything should work according to our plans. When we are unable to exert our control, anger is just a natural response. With spiritual wisdom, we can understand that in the broader scheme of things we are not the controllers but we are co-operators. There is a higher plan in which we are meant to play our part. If things are not happening according our plan, we need to recalibrate how to function. Redefining ourselves as co-operators and not controllers substantially decreases anger.
Anger depends on how we process what has happened. And that depends on how we conceive ourselves. For example, if somebody shouts at us, naturally we feel hurt. If that person is someone whom we have a good relationship with, we do not expect them to act in that way. Suppose the person who shouts at us is a stranger, who is under the influence of drugs. More often than not, we do not care because they are lost in their own world. Therefore, while the event of shouting is the same, how we react to somebody yelling at us is dependent on how we are processing it. How we process it, depends on how we conceive ourselves in relationship to the other person.
Spiritual practices help us instil the belief that we are not the controllers. The more we do spiritual practices the more our anger will go down both at the conscious and sub conscious levels. Consciously, we start to understand that we are not the controllers. At the sub conscious level, if we do meditation, regularly come to spiritual association, we will find that within few months of practice those situations which would have provoked us earlier, are not affecting us so much.
At the psychological level, all of us need to express ourselves in some way. We deal with our emotions in two ways: express or repress. With spiritual knowledge, we open a third option – process. Processing means that we care about our anger. Let me explain using my own example.
Earlier I used to get angry very much. Even now I get angry. When I am angry on someone, I write an e-mail to the person. However, I have a policy that if I have written a mail in anger, I will not press the send button for twenty-four hours. By writing email, I vent my anger out. If I do not write, the anger will burn me. If I write and send it, anger will burn the other person. Hence, I follow an intermediate option – I express it by writing but do not send it. Whenever anger and thoughts are held inside us, they congest and choke us. Writing down releases the inner pressure. Many times, it happens that within twenty-four hours the other person clarifies, and the situation is resolved. However, after twenty-four hours if the situation is not yet resolved then I revisit it. I am much calmer and able to see things clearly. I analyse and see that I have made certain reasonable points, but I am expressing it harshly or that I may be making a lot of assumption about the other person’s motive. In that way, I go over the whole email. Almost every time I would edit the email. When I do so, I find that things move towards resolution much better. What is happening here is that there is expressing, but within a finite range and to myself, or on a computer. Then there is processing. When I process my emotions, I know how to deal with them. Sometimes, I may decide that this whole issue is not a big deal and I will talk with the person when I meet him in person.
At physical level, all of us have certain triggers or things which make us angry. We have to learn to be cautious about this. Sometimes, when two people come together, they bring out the best within each other. That relationship is symbiotic. However, when some people come together they bring out the worst in each other. Just being in their presence makes each other angry. They may be doing something to provoke us consciously or unconsciously, but just being with them agitates us. Therefore, if we have to work with such people, we have to prepare. We just cannot rush into a meeting with them.
If we have had a long and difficult day with things are continuously going wrong and we come in touch with this person on such a day, then, even if there was a small issue, there will be a big explosion from our side. Hence, when we are aware of our triggers, then we can be cautious. At a physical level not giving ourselves the opportunity to express the anger by keeping ourselves at a distance from the stimuli that trigger anger, that helps quite a bit. Having things or having objects by which we can express our anger can make things much worse.
In America, quite a few school shootings have happened in the recent past. I was giving a talk at a college in America and suddenly someone entered and asked all of us to duck under the desk. When I enquired what happened, they told that there was a shooter in the school and urged everyone to duck under their desks. Finally, they clarified that this was a drill to train everyone. In many of these occasions, such shooters end up killing themselves also. The shooters after killing, feel extremely horrible about their actions. Under the spell of anger, they become very cold blooded, but after the anger has been expressed, they are so horrified that they end up killing themselves.
Anger is an emotion which everyone has, but if the angry person has a gun then it makes things much worse. If we could minimise our access to the trigger of our anger or minimise our access to the channels by which we express our anger, then we will decrease the consequences of the anger.
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