Anger cannot be managed or avoided; it’s futility must be understood.
I recently met a former colleague of mine after 15 years. She used to work on my team. We got chatting. Over the conversation, she enquired if I still flew into rage like I used to back then. She recounted an instance when I had flung a picture frame from my desk at her because she walked up to report a mishap that had happened to a client deliverable. She said she was saved because she ducked in the nick of time! I was undoubtedly embarrassed being reminded of my forgettable, and shameful, past. I appear to have had a serious issue dealing with my anger.
My practice of mouna – daily silence periods – helped me immensely in understanding my anger and in channelizing that energy productively. This is what I have learnt.
You get angry with someone or with a situation because you feel you are unable to control them. Anger stems from an inherent want to control everything about your Life. Awareness of the true nature of Life is really the only way you can understand the futility of anger. Your education, your ability to earn a living, your logical thinking may tell you that Life can be controlled. But only when you go through inscrutable Life experiences and realize that Life has a mind of its own, that there are things and situations in Life that are beyond your control, will you come to accept your fallibility. Only then will you see the futility of anger. Once you understand that anger is a waste of energy, you will start conserving that energy. The more aware you are, the less you get angry with stuff you can’t control. That’s how you can channelize that energy into changing what you don’t like about your Life. This is what Gandhi did – he channelized his anger against the British governing us to lead a revolution that eventually got us independence. And at the highest level of evolution, you are able to invest all your energy, that may have been frittered away as mindless anger, in loving others, in healing the world – think Mother Teresa or the Dalai Lama, and you will picture what I mean!
I have also learnt that anger cannot be managed or avoided. Anger will arise when you don’t get what you want or you get what you don’t want. You will be angered when someone disturbs your equilibrium; when someone does not fulfil a promise or lets you down. But if you are aware, you will let your anger arise and subside. You may be seized by the heat of the moment, you may start to lose your cool or grit your teeth, but you will seamlessly switch to seeing how pointless it is to hurl unchannelized energy at someone or something. This is how I have learnt to deal with my anger. I don’t try to manage or avoid it. I let it rise, whenever it does, and I let it go. And I guess I am able to do that because I understand anger – and Life – better today than I did 15 years ago.
The trigger for this post though was not my colleague recalling the angry young AVIS. It was what happened at a pharmacy this morning that led to this post. I had to buy a few medicines. And the storekeeper took awfully long. He kept attending to everyone else but me. When it finally came to payment time, my card transaction was declined even as I received an SMS from my bank saying my account had been debited. I then had to cough up precious cash to complete the purchase. When I got back home and narrated the experience to Vaani, I said something that made me realize how much I had evolved. I told her, “It’s okay. I am glad I kept my cool! Because, bade bade Life mein, aisi choti choti baatien hoti rehati hain…!” Meaning: “In a long eventful Life, such small events keep happening!”
Mindless anger is avoidable.
The CEO of a mid-size firm confessed to me that he has anger management issues. He said he gets ‘ticked off on the flimsiest pretext’ and wanted to know how he could ‘control his anger’.
This CEO reminded me of myself. I used to be this way. In fact, even now, at times, I do get angry. But, until a few years ago, my anger was mindless and would last several days. But now, my awareness, cultivated to through the practice of mouna (observing silence periods daily) helps me see the anger rising in me and encourages me to allow it to subside – because I now know that I can’t solve any problem or change any situation that I dislike by merely being mindlessly angry with it!
Let me explain how I have understood to deal with anger.
I used to have a personal assistant who would always, always, mess things up. And his behavior, his body language, his utterances, in fact, his very presence would infuriate me. One day, after another high-decibel screaming episode with him, I remarked to Vaani, in complete frustration, “You know what? I am to blame for retaining this guy with us. He’s not the source of my anger and misery. I am!”
That statement was a Eureka moment for me! Perhaps I was aided by my reflective practice of mouna, maybe I was driven to enlightenment by my frustration with myself, whatever it was, it certainly helped me see the futility of my mindless rage. Clearly. Over the following weeks, I meditated more on this understanding. I realized that whenever you get angry with someone, you have caused that anger within you first. The target of your anger is outside of you – but the anger has risen within you. There is no point working on the target. You must work on the source.
I employed this learning sincerely over the months that followed. In fact, after some years of diligent practice, I still believe this awareness is something you must sustain continuously. You must work on being aware in each moment.
So, every time I get angry with someone or something, I remind myself that just getting angry mindlessly is a waste. Trying to control anger doesn’t work either. Because when you control anger, you are repressing it – which is why you are often not even “seeing” that you are angry, whenever you are angry! You are resisting a natural human response. And whatever you resist, persists. Instead, go to the root cause of your anger. And always, every single time, you will find that your anger is born out of what you expect, out of what you desire. And when you see your desire clearly, ask yourself if you are capable of changing a current reality into an aspirational reality? If you think you can do this, then channelize the energy from your anger to achieve that aspirational state. Employ your anger for a Higher Purpose. (That’s what Gandhi did with the Indian Freedom Movement.) If you can’t, simply let go of your anger.
Anger is like any other emotion – it will rise like a wave in you, as a natural human response to a situation. If you are aware of it you can either use the energy for a constructive outcome or you can let it go. If you are not aware of it, in extreme cases, it can even consume you. But more often than not it makes you feel helpless and miserable! Why would you want to cause your own suffering?
A good starting point to deal with anger is to work on yourself – so begin with letting go of all expectations. Do your best, each time, and don’t set any conditions on the outcome of your efforts. Let whatever will happen, happen. In fact, whether you like it or not, whatever is due to happen will only happen. So, have an open mind, this awareness, all the time. That way, when anger arises within you, as it naturally will when what you don’t like, want or expect happens to you, you will see how pointless it is to get mindlessly angry. See if your anger can be employed to achieve a Higher Purpose. If you see that it can’t be, simply let it go. This is the only way to avoid being mindlessly angry!
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Jealousy is as wasteful as worrying is. It can’t touch you and it can’t get you anywhere either!
A friend is launching a new business. He consulted me and Vaani on the idea and his launch strategy. At the end of the conversation, he thanked us profusely for our time and requested us to keep it under wraps. Of course, any new idea must be protected and preserved until it is launched. But his reasoning was different: “I am very wary of professional and personal jealousy. I don’t want anyone to cast an evil eye on my idea.”
Somehow, I can’t wrap my head around this ‘evil eye’ concept. Just thinking that it exists and that it can affect you is so regressive. No, I am not being dismissive about jealousy. I am only suggesting that we develop a mature response to it.
Let us understand jealousy first. Someone is said to be jealous of you when they wish or want what you have or they want to be who you are. So, essentially, it is in the eye of the beholder. Now, this is something very normal, very human.
You see someone having a nice phone or a beautiful car and you wish or want that phone or car. You think of it and say to yourself that it will be great if you owned them too. This happens to all of us, all the time. So just accept jealousy as a normal response to Life as it happens around you. In some cases, jealousy is accompanied by anger, resentment and insecurity. So, some people feel jealous more intensely than others. Some talk openly about it. Others cook within themselves feeling wretched that they don’t have what someone else has. Again it is only in the eye of the beholder. It is only what, and how, the person who is jealous is feeling. Now, if this person examines this feeling of jealousy closely, they will see the futility of it. Surely, wishing and wanting never got anyone anything – or anywhere! So, when they see the futility of being jealous, they will stop being jealous. Simple. And as long as they don’t understand its futility, they will keep cooking in it. Just as they will cook in fear or anxiety or worry. So, ultimately, the choice to cook or to let go, to be free, is the individual’s.
Now, if you are the subject of someone’s envy, you can see and you know for sure that you are only the subject. It is all happening to the other person, in the other person. Until such time that you don’t invite yourself to the party, you are free. But the moment you start imagining that the other person’s feelings will impact you, you are entrapped. That’s when you too will start cooking within – ‘Are things going wrong because so-and-so has cast an evil eye?’, ‘Will I lose what I have because someone’s envious of me?’, ‘How can I protect myself from jealousy?’…. – and lose your inner peace. Pause and reflect. How is such thinking productive? Is it serving any purpose? When you hold someone’s jealous attitude towards you and examine it, you too will realize its futility. Until you started giving it any attention, you were free. But now you are fearful, insecure, worried and anxious. Do you need to be this way? Isn’t all this avoidable?
Clearly, you can’t possibly do anything about what other people are thinking. But can’t you at least change your thinking and be free from wasteful emotions?
I don’t deny jealousy exists or wish that it doesn’t arise. It is a natural human response to, and in, Life. Like any other emotion it will rise. But if you understand that it can’t touch you or that it can’t get you anywhere, you will recognize its futility. So, when you don’t give jealousy any attention, it will slink away. Quietly. I let jealousy simply be. Whether it is arising in me or for me. I don’t give it any attention. So it doesn’t touch me or affect me. And I can tell you that Life is really beautiful, awesome in fact, without that wasteful emotion!
Being silent is an art that is worth exploring, learning and practicing.
In response to my blogpost yesterday on living in a WhatsApp Group-ridden world, a reader pinged me to ask: Is silence a virtue or is it a sign of weakness?
Good question, I thought.
The normal human tendency is to rush to speak, be heard, clarify, demand attention or defend – as the situation or context may warrant. So, when people choose to remain silent, either not making use of an opportunity to speak up or not responding to a provocation, the popular inference is that the person choosing silence is weak or has something to hide. Well, to be sure, it may mean neither. Perhaps the person has nothing to say or believes that being silent is an answer or sufficient response in itself or recognizes the futility in speaking at that point in time.
I have learned the value of remaining silent, over retorting, defending, clarifying or expressing, through experience. There was a time when I would rush to offer my point of view – either in defense or to justify – in all contexts. I used to imagine then that if something had to be said, it had better be expressed then and there, loud and clear. Over time though, I have learned to believe otherwise.
In fact, I now revere, and am inspired by my own father’s ability to choose silence as a response each time that he could have spoken. I remember, with a huge sense of shame, once, many years ago, when there was a raging issue in my family, how I demanded to know from my Dad whether he was spineless. I asked that question brusquely – my tone was uncouth, violent and unbecoming of a son. We sat in a hotel lobby (because we could not speak in private at his home) when I asked him the hugely provocative and embarrassing question: “Why are you not speaking up for what is right, Dad? Are you spineless?” My Dad, much to my shock, and infuriating me no end, responded with a blank look on his face. He simply, yet again, said nothing, choosing to be silent. I came back from that meeting with my father disillusioned and angry. But today, perhaps wiser from learning from Life, I completely agree with my Dad’s choice with reference to the context we were all dealing with then – and now! I don’t think there could have been or can be a better response to situations that we are faced with as a family. And it is not just with my family or with a specific situation. In several situations in Life, remaining silent is perhaps the best response.
I am still learning this art though. And it isn’t always easy. Here’s what I have learned:
- Whatever be the course our lives take, based on decisions and choices we make, people will have opinions. They may cast aspersions on you. They may demand explanations. Or simply provoke you wantonly.
- Wherever you see no value being added with your expressing yourself, and of course when you think your speaking (up) will only confound the situation, it is best to remain silent.
- No matter what people say, remember, at the end of the day you have your Life to live. And if you can avoid potential, wasteful conflicts by choosing to be silent, why not go about your Life and business silently?
Of course, sometimes speaking up becomes a necessity, not an option. And in all such cases, a conflict normally becomes unavoidable. But such conflict is constructive and never destructive. How then do you decide when to speak up and when to be silent? A good rule of thumb is to make the choice of remaining silent not so much to avoid conflict__but so that you don’t end up creating one!
Silence is a great force. Because silence always speaks when words can’t or when words fail! It will ultimately lead you to a great, unimpeachable inner peace.
|Mahamaham – Kumbakonam
Picture Courtesy: Internet