Dear Uncle [5] – How do I conquer Anger?

Dear Uncle,

One of the things I noticed as I was self-introspecting is that I tend to get angry often. Why is this so and how should I go about circumventing this problem of mine?

Yours lovingly,

Vishya

Dear Vishya,

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from celebquote.com

Let me start off this letter by saying that Auntie had sauteed some pieces of paneer and they are so yummy that I ate quite a few of them and am feeling guilty. I will need to compensate for this somehow 🙂 – a rather relatively good thing to compensate for.

However, getting angry is something one cannot compensate for as easily. But, you have already taken a HUGE step in overcoming a shortness of yours and that is recognizing what it is. Sometimes people don’t even realize that they have a particular weakness and they don’t progress as far as evolving and they get stuck due to that.

A lot of factors can influence one’s behavior and environmental factors are one of them. Other factors can be internal to a person – such as phases in one’s life or  lack of education/training. When I was growing up, I would see anger as a common reaction. At school, if a student made a mistake or noise, I had seen teachers getting angry rather than helping him or her out in identifying the cause and dealing with it. Elders would get angry as younger children for the same reasons at home. Anger wasn’t something that was effectively addressed in the society as a whole. You can say a lack of discussion of the topic in public and schools was a good reason. Then one would see so much injustice but there was no constructive way to express anger except get violent and destroy. But the common person is someone who doesn’t express in such a way and the same young child cannot express anger at an elder or a teacher for fear of more punishment. Thus anger would be contained. This containment isn’t good for one’s soul and will have to come out in some way or other, either right away or much later. Recurrences of such causes would compound the amount of anger within. Thus when one gets a chance to express anger – say when you see someone making a mistake or just cutting off another person, this would become one’s first reaction.

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Whatever the reasons behind it, it is good to know how to deal with anger. I learnt this the hard way and it took me a lot of time. There is a term called knee-jerk reaction – when you are visiting your physician he will tap your knee with a small hammer and the leg shoots up in reaction. Our minds are unknowing trained to express such knee-jerk reactions in situations. We must learn to add filters to these reactions. Filters are something that keep stuff from passing through. For example, you can add a sieve to the top of a cup while pouring water with particles and the filter keeps the particles from falling into the cup. Likewise, we should train our mind to add filter before we put into action whatever comes to our minds.  What are these filters? Let’s take a specific situation where one is getting angry at another person in the course of a discussion.

1) Respect for the other individual. You have to train your mind to always be cognizant of the other human being. Treating the other person with respect stops you from knee-jerking. Knowing a person well enough will help develop respect for his or her abilities and what he or she is for you. In the heat of moment, one tends to forget respecting. It helps to treat the other person as someone new all the time as this helps to remind us to be respectful. Each individual deserves respect as much as you expect to be treated respectfully.

2) Listening intently: You want to listen intently what the other person is trying to say. Sometime we tend to hear what we want to hear. This is true even with reading an email. After re-reading it thoroughly, you get to understand the other person’s intent more clearly.

3) Develop tolerance: Being tolerant in general is a very good thing. A wise man will always communicate and get done what he wants to get done. He knows to overcome the challenges and/or obstacles. So you have to wait till you find the opportunity to communicate what you want to. Just putting a message as part of some conversation isn’t going to be effective. Being tolerant is knowing both of your positions. You might be expecting perfection off the other – you will need to relax that policy and be accepting of the other’s shortcomings in communication. If you aren’t clear, you should question and make sure you understand what the objective of the other person in the dialogue before responding. A large part of knee jerk reactions is due to misunderstanding and miscommunication. Knowing you are a better communicator of the two, it is your responsibility to shoulder the burden of clearing things up. Once you take this point of view of tolerance, you will feel a greater sense of providing help and easing any unnecessary tensions.

4) Learning to let-go is a great trait to cultivate. Many times, one gets angry on unimportant things. Remember that you can’t win every war. If you win the key ones you get to go where you want to. Harping on a win on every argument or war is akin to getting stuck in mud when you see the much clearer, dry road ahead – you just have to let go of this one to get there.

5) Most of all the key thing to do is to offer a different reaction than anger itself and feel how much different the outcome was. This is the key to training yourself to respond better the next time. I have a 5-in-a-row rule. Do something five times in a row and it becomes a  clear-cut habit. If you falter after, say, the fourth successful attempt, you have to start from count one again. By the time you reach a fifth successful attempt, you will have experienced a better outcome and felt good yourself how you dealt with the situation. This is very additive and builds up your confidence that you are doing things right.

Hope this helps,

Lovingly,

Uncle

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