Overcoming anger

How do we deal with anger?

Anger can be explosive and destructive. It destroys relationships and ourselves. We need to be able to understand why anger arises in order to deal with it.

Anger is usually a secondary emotion. That is, there is always a deeper underlying emotion that triggers anger. This is usually the feeling of hurt. We first get hurt at what somebody does or says and anger is triggered as a result of our inability to accept this hurt. The key word here is the inability to accept that we are hurt. This calls for openness, honesty, and vulnerability to oneself.

People who tend to get angry easily are usually very sensitive people. They are perfectionists, perhaps even fastidious about small things. They pay great attention to detail. When people around them don’t match up to their standards, irritation wells up in them, which when persisted results in full-blown anger. Such people have high standards, because they can easily discriminate between what is right and wrong, good and bad, aesthetic and downright ugly. This sensitive disposition makes them highly intelligent, dynamic and observant. The problem though is that they expect the world around them to live up to this mark. This expectation, hides the fact that they expect very highly of themselves, and, naturally extend this to the world around them. When they disappoint themselves, they are harsh. When the world disappoints them, they respond in anger.

High expectations are not the problem. Our reactions to disappointments are. Angry people cannot handle disappointments. This could be perhaps as children they were told that in order to be loved they had to be perfect. They strongly associate love with being perfect. They need to learn that it isn’t the end of the world when they fail. They are still lovable.

In order to do this, we must begin to become vulnerable to our sadness, our let-downs, our disappointments. This openness to sadness, prevents the pressure from building within us. This in turn prevents anger.

But how do we become vulnerable to our let downs?

Start by becoming self aware. This is really tough when we have already blown our fuse. However, once the strorm of anger has blown away, introspect. Go to the root of the emotion. What was the underlying feeling of disappointment. How does this feel? We need to open ourselves fully to this emotion and allow it to exist within us. This loving acceptance of disappointment helps us to resolve it internally. This resolution prevents the projection of this disappointment as anger onto others.

Having said that, we can express our disappointment in a dignified and effective way. But the emotion and the words that come out of us sound very different. Instead of an accusation – “I can’t believe you are so stupid. Don’t you realize ….”, we can rephrase it as “You let me down. I expected that you would have completed this by now”. The difference is obvious and a world apart.

Use the power of introspection to understand the root emotions that preceed anger. Accept them. And over time we can transcend storms of anger.

A Yogi in Lolasana (swinging pose). Vidyashankar Temple. Sringeri. Feb’ 2022.

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