‘Kali’, Dulquer Salmaan, me and the futility of unchannelized anger

Feeling frustrated is a part of everyday living; but it is such a waste of personal energy!

I am just coming out a short spell of being frustrated with my internet connectivity and resultant poor bandwidth-led transactional issues! It was an extremely short spell of frustration lasting barely a few minutes. Just some years ago, I would have been grumpy and pissed off for a whole day. Had it been more human-induced frustration – like the behavior of people around me – I may have even been angry and vengeful, back then, for days on end. Thankfully, mercifully, I have evolved.

Kali-Dulquer-Salmaan-New-Poster-Latest-Malayalam-Movie-2016Interestingly, just yesterday I watched the latest Dulquer Salmaan-starrer Kali. It is a beautiful Malayalam film. Kali, as I understand, means rage. And Salmaan plays Siddhu, an angry young man who blows his fuse over anyone – and anything – that frustrates him. His uncontrolled rage often lands him in messy situations. Watching Salman on screen, it was both uncomfortable and, strangely, gratifying. It was uncomfortable because as I went back 15 years in time, I thought to myself: “Gosh, is this how I used to look and behave?” It was also gratifying because I felt I have made phenomenal progress, I have evolved over these years, learning to channelize my anger constructively.

I have done bizarre things when angry. I have broken a TV, flung my spectacles out of the window, hurt myself banging my head against the wall, yelled at people and even smashed a new phone to smithereens. Apart from the initial burst of temper, I would carry my anger in me – against people and circumstances – for days on end. Of course I tried reasoning with myself why I was angry and, over time, I concluded that I lost my temper when people behaved unethically with me or when they questioned my intelligence. I also succumbed – yes that’s the word! – to frustration whenever events and circumstances held me hostage. By nature I was a man in a hurry and so anyone or anything that came in my way made me angry!

And then started a phase in 2002~2003, when nothing really went according to a plan that I wove or crafted myself. That phase, almost 14 years later, still continues. In this time, I have understood that you cannot control Life and you can’t control other people. So, I have come to believe that anger is an energy that runs amock when it is allowed to run free. When channelized – and I used the practice of mouna, daily silence periods, to achieve this – anger can bring about great progress. India, for instance, would not have got Independence had one man not got angry over being pushed out of a train in South Africa! When I realized the futility of unharnessed anger, I learnt the value of living intelligent. From being angry, I went on to simply being – in the moment, calm and peaceful!

This doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated. I do. Like the way I was hopping mad a while ago over my internet connectivity! But my awareness helps me immensely here. I soon move from subject-mode to witness-mode. As a subject you are involved. As a witness you are detached. And therein lies the key to avoid the temptation to be provoked by every small aberration or taunter in your Life.

This is what I have learnt from my anger and from Life: don’t waste precious personal energy being angry or frustrated at everything that comes at you! Start by stopping to giving your anger (or frustration) attention. If you can avoid it, let it go. If you can’t avoid it, you go away from the source that makes you angry or frustrates you! Over time, when you learn to give your anger (or frustration) no attention, it will simply dissolve! Then, you can pick and choose which fights to fight in Life!

Weed out expectations to free yourself from anger

You have a right to be angry with people, circumstances and Life itself! But don’t let your anger consume you. For, as the Buddha has said, “You will not be punished for your anger. You will be punished by it!”

How many of us enjoy being angry? No one, in fact, does. Anger is one of the most wasteful emotions. It makes you lose your equilibrium and leaves you hurt, bruised, injured and grumpy. Yet we all succumb to anger almost all the time. Clearly, anger is our quickest, easiest reaction to an expectation not being fulfilled.

To deal with anger, understand its anatomy carefully. Go to its root. If you work on the periphery, at the symptoms, you will not be able to get over anger. By getting angry with someone or something, you are only transferring the energy released by your anger to someone else. Then that someone releases it on someone else. And so the ruinous chain continues. So, go beyond the periphery if you want to halt this chain reaction. You have to go to the cause of what’s making you angry with people and situations. When you go down to the cause, you will find that despite the contexts being different, all causes boil down to being the same __ you got angry with someone or something because what you expected was not done, delivered or did not happen. So, whether it was coffee being served cold at a restaurant or the long queues at security at the airport or a distasteful meeting at work or a showdown with your companion at home, at the bottom of all of these is the common thread of your expectations remaining unfulfilled. And this cause is what makes you angry in a myriad situations.

So learn get to the cause, the bottom, of your anger. Expunge all expectations from your Life. Understand this well. Wishing is not wrong. But the expectation that your wish will be fulfilled, simply because you wished it, is what is ruinous. Some of our wishes in Life will still remain unfulfilled when we die. Accept this reality. Then when the coffee arrives cold, your mind does not rush to think of a conspiracy by the restaurant. Or being in a long queue becomes an opportunity to drop anchor and meditate than to crib and lament. A distasteful meeting then becomes an opportunity to decide not to attend such timewasters in the future. And the showdown at home will never be because you will be more compassionate than complicated!

Don’t try to avoid anger though. That will be equally disastrous. Because anger is, interestingly, a natural response to and in Life. It is also an incredible amount of energy released and available for productive use. Avoiding it therefore will not help. Channelizing it well will instead result in bringing out lasting changes that make the world a better place__that’s what Gandhi did with his anger at being thrown out of that first class compartment in Pietermaritzburg in South Africa in June, 1893. At a deeply personal and everyday level, getting to anger’s root though, and weeding out the expectations that cause anger, is what will help us live more peacefully despite the people and circumstances in our lives. If we can use some of that energy available to make this world a better place, great. But even if we manage to make ourselves better, a wee bit, every single day, won’t the world already be a lot better than it is?