Before I begin my ultimate guide to dealing with anger issues, and before I begin to put down in words – my own transformation from an angry young man to a much calmer and a little older man, let me share with you a story:
A saint and his disciples were visiting the Ganges river, where they found a group of family members on the banks shouting in anger at each other. Turning to his disciples, the saint smiled and asked, ‘Why do people in anger shout at each other?’
His disciples thought for a while. One of them finally said, ‘Because when we lose our calm, we shout.’
‘But, why should you shout when the other person is just next to you?’ countered the saint. ‘You can just as well tell him what you have to say in a soft manner.’ His disciples thought about it some more, but could not come up with a satisfactory answer. Finally the saint explained,
‘When two people are angry at each other, their hearts distance a lot. To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other, in order to cover that great distance.
But what happens when two people fall in love? They don’t shout at each other but instead talk very softly because their hearts are very close. The distance between them is either non-existent or very small. And when they love each other even more, what happens? They do not speak, only whisper and they get even closer to each other in their love. Finally they even need not whisper, they only need to look at each other and that’s all. That is how close two people are when they love each other.
So when you argue, do not let your hearts get distant, do not say words that distance each other more, or else there will come a day when the distance is so great that you will not find the path to return.
In this small little story, lies the crux of dealing with anger issues.
If we were to define anger in better words, we could say it is:
- A game of dominance where defiance has to be dealt with aggression. You need to mark your territory with raised voices and pointed fingers.
- An act of control where you establish your LOC because maano na maano, we are all control freaks.
- A veil that shrouds the best of minds and distances the closest of hearts.
Have you ever noticed how when we are angry we generally want to kill the same person we would normally die without? Let me break down this thing called anger for our benefit into much simpler parts.
The first part of anger is – disobedience. When someone does something against our wish, or when something goes against our plans, we feel disobeyed. We are a weird race if you think about it. We always want everything to go according to our wishes and plans. And God forbid if something happens otherwise – we just lose our shit. Well, most of us do.
A disobeyed mind is the first step towards an angry mind. You will surprised – how many of us are incapable of handling defiance from situations and people. We always forget – that all of us want things to go our way. And that’s never going to happen.
And when that doesn’t happen, it hurts many a fragile ego. One very effective way to deal with this is to see people as package deals and accept them as they are: The secret art of managing people!
Now that defiance has happened (even a very “ittu sa” defiance), it’s time for reactions. The biggest problem with majority people is – they don’t react. They overreact. “Nuclear bomb ki tarah phat jaate hain hum!”
The fission and fusion reactions – that produce so much energy and often destruction – are all results of instantaneous reactions. Same goes for people. If not uranium, most of us react like sodium and potassium. Have you ever noticed that your most disastrous fights have happened when you have reacted instantly and then have failed to control the domino of overreactions that follow?
Reactions are “aag mein ghee”, not the fire extinguisher, the water you need to douse the fire. (If you too are a nuclear reactor type overreactor, you might want to read how to stop overreacting in Life).
The Fragile Ego
This is the third and final stage of breakdown. And once we reach the stage where the fragile-than-glass human ego gets hurt, dealing with anger issues becomes tougher. The distance within the hearts expands with all the disobedience and the domino of falling sensibilities.
What is Ego really? Sadhguru defines it beautifully:
“Ego is our fall guy. We say our ego did this when we need someone to blame for our actions which we know are wrong.”
ANYONE who doesn’t think like us or concur with our perceptions; How much we secretly Loveeeee to disagree with them or to tell them that I am superior & they are kind of not right .
We think reacting and responding is our right. But we mostly forget that thinking is a privilege that we ought to exercise more often. There is something very grown up yet very childish about anger. It’s like – we are consciously choosing to use our brains less. And why would you choose this for yourself when there is a way to exist in calmer state.
But why do we get angry?
I am writing this blogpost on dealing with anger issues to help you douse fire with water and not more fire. Anger is a natural reaction in us because most of us do not know otherwise. We grow up amidst angry parents, and mostly angry fathers. I too was a NA-K kinda guy; ready to blast at the slightest hint. And my work schedules as a Motivational Speaker, the constant travels and its upkeep sometimes used to take toll. Replace this Sodium / Potassium in the center of your forehead with a peaceful inert metal . Else soon the society will secretly want to keep you under Kerosene & the dumb you wouldn’t even know it that it is happening!
What we learn growing up, we mostly believe to be true. And that’s why we subconsciously become angry people because we believe it is okay to rage. No one tells us that all we do in the process is – slow poison ourselves.
So what’s the answer?
I believe managing anger is an art that takes practice. You could do hundreds of things to calm down when you are approaching your boiling point – stress balls, counting sheep, closing eyes, deep breathing etc. But I am interested in fixing the innermost fault; your need for anger. These hacks won’t be necessary if the angry urges are dealt with at the fundamental level.
The first and most important thing while trying to control anger is to remember that – you can NEVER take back your words. There have been situations when I have said something and regretted it. Our thoughts have the power to change the patterns of our universe. And words when uttered with deep intention behind them – often find a way to become true. Be it your enraged ‘baddua’ to your ex or your deranged curses to a family member in anguish – “gussey mein galat baatein nikalti hain”.
Basically – We secretly love to bring people down. And this habit has kind of deeply sedimented into our psyches. It is THIS huge vriti (tendency) with us which is slowly, unknowingly making us permanently negative and thence burning up our nerve energy.
Just imagine — JUST IMAGINE – ‘If we were to begin to slowly undo this Vriti?? ‘. This would mean that we practically become:-
a) 10× better Listeners
b) Stop giving unnecssary advices
c) Stop killing others with emotional stories and experiences of our own life.
d) Let people ‘BE’. They will certainly not change because of YOU or according to your timing. They will when they themselves want to.
Here’s one more story for you, which I‘m sure many of you might have heard:
There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily, gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.
Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.
The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said “you have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one.” You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there. Make sure you control your temper the next time you are tempted to say something you will regret later.
When the heart is distant, there is no time and space to clear the air off misunderstandings. As we assume the worst in our loved ones, we also vomit out the worst we have ever thought of them. We think it will make us feel good but it rarely does. When the flood waters recede, it leaves behind only debris.
So what we need to practice is – not giving too much importance to the feeling of having been defied. Making the needs of your loved ones trump over your own needs, even in the intense moments of heat takes practice. Lots of it. One needs to train their mind to never let the heart go apart.
Because that’s when one becomes eligible to deal with the reactions. Once you have kept your pride in check, you start thinking more and reacting less because you realize that the destruction after the tsunami of emotions caused by angry fits takes a long time to fix. Everyone is more interested in Kamasutra, while they could benefit more from CalmSutra!
Truth Be told
It is not so much the words as much it is about raised voices. They just break something in a relationship. Because words, if chosen carefully and with discrimination between right and wrong; and words when delivered with the right mix of compassion and emotion – do have the ability to make the other person think.
But in the heat of the moment, all of these go astray. Neither do we think of right and wrong, nor care and compassion. All we think of is – getting back at the person with as many harsh truths as possible. Sometimes, at the cost of getting that person back at all!
By a plea to exercise control over the mind and tongue, I do not mean, even for a split second, that one should put up with bullshit of people. In fact, my intention is rather selfish. I want you, the reader, to think about what takes more energy – blasting like a volcano or being calm? When we are angry, and our egos are hurt, we waste a lot of energy in returning the garbage we are getting.
In all that mud-slinging, most of the times the core issues are not even discussed. Why waste so much energy? I find it a much better practice to quiet down when the other person is angry and go back to them when they are calm and in a much better position to allow your response to make sense. To an angry person, your response is like fuel to fire. Nothing more.
A cooler, much more human and grown up way is – to develop this sheer quality of thinking about what you can say in those moments. Flinging back mud is very easy. Perhaps the easiest. But talking logic and making sense in those moments of distress is the hallmark of a human being who is exercising his human qualities.
(Also read: Mayo Clinic’s 10 Tips to Tame your Temper)
It is mediocre to lose your calm because a) everyone does it. And b) being calm is a superior and much more impactful way of dealing with situations that are not in our stride. There might be catharsis in anger but it’s fire over fire. There is grace in that zen like patience and quietness; and that’s the best fire extinguisher you can possess.
Rise & Shine!