We live in an age where it is encouraged to express our anger, but Buddhist teachings will disagree. Acting angry makes it easier to repeat the offense in the future, leading to a never-ending cycle.
The Buddha broke all attachments so that sentient beings could attain no-self
Buddha advises us not to harden and not to let our emotions run wild, but to examine them and understand the wrong thinking behind anger.
Buddhists can talk a lot about love, compassion and tolerance, but when even great teachers like the Dalai Lama admit to getting angry at times, will we Subjective someone exception it? Science may say that feeling angry is completely normal, psychologists advise us to express our anger, and some religions may even have legitimate anger. However, Buddhism says that anger is always harmful.
The 8th century Buddhist scholar Shantideva described anger as the most extreme negative force, capable of destroying the good we have worked so hard to create. Think about that. A single moment of anger combined with access to a weapon can completely change someone’s future from a life of freedom to a life behind bars. An everyday real-life example would be how anger can destroy friendships and trusts that take decades to build. In the end, anger is more dangerous than all the bombs, guns and swords in the world put together.
We know that anger is not a happy state of mind, but what can we do about it? Buddhism offers a series of simple methods to help us transform our minds. It takes a lot of sanity – there is no magic pill! However, Buddhism still has eight top tips for dealing with anger:
1. Life is reincarnation
The first teaching of Buddha 2,500 years ago gets straight to the point: life is unsatisfying. Guess what? Our lives will never be satisfied.
We are born, we die. Between good times and bad times, we may not even feel much: this never-ending cycle is what Buddhism calls “samsara”. When we came into this world, no one said that life would be good, easy, or fun all the time, and that we would always have everything turn out exactly the way we wanted it to. When we understand our own situation in samsara, it allows us to understand all the problems of others.
We are all in this together. Getting angry at situations, other people, or ourselves won’t make anything better. Other people say and do things that we might not like because – yes – their lives are crap too.
This mindset can completely transform our perspective. Even if each of us seems to be at the center of our own universe, that doesn’t mean that things must – or never will – go exactly the way we want them to.
2. Be a hero of patience
Disturbing emotions are best overcome through their opponents; The antidote to rage is simply not to retaliate. Why? Our mind cannot hold two opposing emotions at the same time. You can’t yell at someone and be patient with them at the same time – that doesn’t work. Patience is often seen by many as a sign of weakness, when you let others take over and take whatever they want. However, the reality could not be more different. When frustrated, how easily do we scream and scream? And how hard is it to stay calm and control our emotions? Following our emotions wherever they lead doesn’t make us heroes – it makes us weak. So the next time you’re about to scream, draw your sword of patience and sever your own anger instead.
How? We can try deep breathing – a direct antidote to short, quick breaths when angry – if we find ourselves getting tense. We can slow down to 100 to avoid saying things we’ll regret later. Or, if we’re in direct confrontation, we can expect to get ourselves out of the situation before things get worse. Every situation is different, so you’ll need to use your brain to see which situation works best for you.
3. Perception: Situation Analysis
When we are angry, our rage emerges as some kind of protection, like our best friend taking care of our interests, helping us on the battlefield. This illusion allows us to think that anger is justified. But if we consider it carefully, anger is not our friend, but our enemy.
Anger causes us stress, suffering, insomnia and… cravings. If we continue to be angry with someone, it creates a lasting prejudice against the other person. Let’s face it: who wants to surround an angry person?
When we are accused of something and feel that the knot of defense begins to tighten in our stomach, we should stop and think rationally. There are only two choices: either the accusation is true, or it is false. If that’s true, then why should we be angry? If we want to be adults, we should admit it, learn from it, and move forward with our lives. If that’s not true, then again, why should we be angry? That person made a mistake – is that something we have never done in our lives?
Learning from the Buddha’s example
4. Practice mindfulness
Practicing meditation and mindfulness can be extremely beneficial in fighting anger. Many people might consider meditation a waste of time – why spend 20 minutes sitting on a cushion when we can make the most of the day, right? Others think that meditation is a nice escape from real life where we can spend time away from our kids/email/husband/wife…
But meditation is much more than that – it is preparation for real life. It wouldn’t do us any good to meditate on compassion every morning, but as soon as we get to work, we yell at our employees and complain about our co-workers.
Meditation helps our minds to think positive thoughts – patience, love, compassion – and that is something we can do anytime, anywhere. If we spend half an hour on our morning commute listening to our favorite tunes, the least we can do is spend ten minutes of that time generating thoughts of compassion for others. – something that is effective in reducing anger and making us someone others want to be around.
5. Humility: Learn from your “enemies”
Buddhism often teaches us to do the opposite of what we normally do. When we are angry with someone, our urge is to get revenge. Result? We take it, if not more miserable than before. It seems paradoxical, but doing the opposite gives the opposite result: the path to happiness.
It sounds crazy, but think about making the object of your anger your teacher. If we want to be better – more patient, more loving, kinder, happier – then we need to practice. We all know that becoming a world-class soccer player or violinist takes time and effort, so why should our mental training be any different? If we are always surrounded by people who do and agree to everything we want, we will never face any challenges.
In this way, the person we are angry with becomes extremely valuable, giving us the opportunity to really practice patience. This immediately sparks a wave of angry emotions, because it shifts our perspective from what they’ve done to us to what they’re doing to us.
6. Thinking about death: Impermanence
You are about to die. I will die. All of us will die. So when that person we can’t stand does something that really upsets us, stop and think, “When I’m in my hospital bed, will I still care?” The answer, unless we know that the person really wants to take over and destroy the world, will probably be a resounding “no”. This tip is very simple but helps to reduce many small annoyances in life.
We all know we’re going to die, but that’s clearly not something we really know. Death is a distant, abstract concept that happens to other people – the elderly, the sick, those involved in monstrous accidents. But that is not the reality. The young die before the old, the healthy die before the sick.
When we focus on our future certain death (tomorrow? In a year? In 50 years?), a lot of things that would normally make us let go, literally, into becoming. nothingness. It’s not that they won’t bother us anymore, it’s that we’ll realize that there’s no point in wasting our precious time, our breath, or our energy on…