Anger Management – tame it,dissolve it.

There is no enemy as powerful as anger

naasti krodha samo ripuh

I use the doors in my house to keep out unwanted guests, thieves and robbers. I’m obsessed with safety and security and have installed a security system with automatic alarm to the police.  I also keep the valuables in a safety deposit box in a bank, and do fasten my safety belts while travelling in a plane or a car.  I look at both sides before crossing the road. And yes, I carry life insurance too.

home securityHome security  [Source]

In spite of all the safety and security arrangements I surround myself with, I do not have peace of mind. You see, thieves and robbers have entered through the open doors of my mind and have taken up residence in me. Six of them, in fact. They rob me of peace and happiness. They are worse than live snakes inside my house. They are my internal enemies bent on harming my well-being.

They appear, disappear and appear again in the forms of desire, anger, attachment, pride, miserliness, jealousy [kaamam, krodham, moham, madam, lobham, maatsaryam]  Each one is powerful in its own way. The last four depend  on the first two for their existence – desire and anger. Anger itself  depends  on desire for its existence.

Anger springs up only in an unsettled mind. It makes me forget the presence of God. In a fit of rage I hurt others and myself. “Causing hurt” is not the real me. So, I feel sad, miserable and remorseful that I got angry. I wish I don’t get angry anymore and wonder how I can avoid it in the future.

I say  “I got mad” when I get angry. This phrase describes precisely what happens to me when I get angry. I really become mad in the true sense of the word “mad”. I lose control of myself, do not remember anything during that moment, blabber and shout meaningless words and act most irrationally, not at all like a human being but as a demon or as an animal.

amygdala-prefrontal-cortex

Prefrontal cortex (the reasoning “me”) and Amygdala (the angry “me”) [Source]

When I begin to get angry, my body perceives it as some wrong done against it and goes into a “fight or flight” mode. It produces chemicals like adrenaline and noradrenaline in huge amounts.  Amygdala, the part of my brain that deals with emotion starts going crazy. Within a quarter of a second, I really become “mad” and start a crazy behavior on the path of destruction. But nature, in its infinite kindness, has built a soothing mechanism to handle these uncontrollable crazy happemings in me.  As my “madness” is exploding, blood flow is increasing to my frontal lobe at the same time, specifically the part of the brain that’s over my left eye. This is my “reasoning” part. With increased blood-flow, it is able to balance out the craziness rap of the amygdala, saving me from the intense push to destroy things. This neurological balancing act takes about two seconds or less.  

Anger is a mental agitation that damages physical health considerably. My teeth grind. Fists clench.I flush and pale. I get prickly sensations over my body. I become numb, hot and I sweat. My muscles tense up. [If only I look myself in a mirror at this time!] My arteries harden, heart weakens, cholesterol level increases. I could actually develop kidney and liver malfunctions with prolonged angry behavior also! My risk of heart-attack increases. Continued company of anger takes me on a shorter path to death than smoking and obesity do.

ANGER_Render

 The angry “me”! [Source]

People get angry in many ways. Some explode in a momentary rage. Some are slow to anger. Some others fester and nourish anger in their mind, go to sleep with it and get up in the morning with it, intent on getting even one day with that someone who hurt them. Whether it is a “volcanic eruption” or “a hurt nursed and revenge plotted”, anger is contra-health and contra-peace.

Thiruvalluvar

[Source]

Thiruvalluvar, a noble sage from Tamil Nadu, says in Thirukkural

To protect yourself, curb your anger. Otherwise, anger will destroy you. {thannaith thaan kaakkil chinam kaakka kaavaakkaal thannaiye kollum chinam} [Kural 305]

Even a person of compassionate and charitable character is not immune from the clasps of anger. But his anger, materializing for the benefit of others,  lasts shorter than the blink of an eye, says the sage.

The anger of the man at the pinnacle of character lasts not even a moment. {Gunam enum kundru eri nindraar  veguli kanameyum kaahthal arithu.}[Kural 29]

Anger is definitely not a good thing. It gives no benefit whatsoever in life. It gives no peace, no happiness to anyone. It is not healthy physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. It only harms.

So, how do I escape from this worst enemy of mine? How do I throw away this snake that has coiled around my legs? How do I not become angry? How can I decouple from it?

I turn to anger management. Anger management is a concept-term coined by psychologist Raymond Novaco in 1975 .There are numerous anger management books, courses, and classes available worldwide. A few examples are here,  here,  here, There are also on-line classes, anger management exercises etc.  Anger management business is exploding per this report, report.

Anger management techniques provide several options for me – drink a glass of water, count up to ten (this gives enough time for the reasoning part of my brain to balance out the amygdala agitation that we call anger), move to another room, hold my tongue, look at myself in the mirror immediately, repeat God’s name, say something funny etc

veda-vyasa-maharshi-web

Sage Simi (possibly looked like this?)[Source]

In Bhagavatam, Sage Simi advises about the evil consequences of anger and exhorts me to overcome it. “One’s wealth and prosperity will be destroyed by anger. It will destroy whatever honor and reputation one has. It will separate him from his own people. By pride and anger, everything will be destroyed and one who has anger will not be able to achieve anything. He will be humiliated. He will always be committing sin and everyone will admonish him. Anger will promote sin…It is quite natural that you lost your control at a weak moment, but it is necessary to attempt to overcome your anger and behave in a responsible manner”[Source pp 67].

To overcome my anger, I must

  1. Sincerely want to overcome it
  2. Be committed to overcome it
  3. Understand clearly and precisely why I become angry
  4. Understand clearly and precisely where my anger springs up from
  5. Practice nipping it even before it buds
  6. Become better at this practice

Bhagavad Gita explains why I become angry and where my anger comes from.

When a person focuses on an item (an object, a thought or whatever), he connects with it. This connection – sticking together – gives birth to desire. Desire leads to anger. Anger gives rise to confusion, and confusion to loss of understanding. Unable to understand, he loses his discrimination and perishes.

dhyaayato vishyaan pumsah sangasteshu upajaayate | sangaat sajjaayate kaamah kaamaat krodha abhijaayate|| krodhaat bhavati sammohah sammohaat smrutivibhramah | smrutibhramsaat buddhi naasah budhdhi naasaat pranasyati|| [ 2.62,63]

burning-desire

Burning desire [Source]

Desire is the root cause of anger, explains the Gita. A certain thing must go my way, the way I desire it; a certain thing I want, I must have it , for me – these sort of desires are at the root of anger. From the root of such desires, the weed of anger grows fed by fear that the desire will not be fulfilled or has not been fulfilled. The anger trigger point is the fear of this possible or real “non-fulfillment” of desire.

When I reduce my desires, my anger also reduces. This happens as surely as night follows the day. This is something that I experience very facilely  on a personal level. I nip my anger at its root, at the desired level. For this, I plan and prepare well ahead before my amygdala goes into action next time. I tell myself instantly and immediately as I start to become angry (remember I have less than a quarter of a second to do this!) that whatever is not happening my way is not important. Not important at all. This way I rise over my anger even before it rears its ugly head. The first time I did this, trust me, I felt a strength I have never felt before. I do not succeed at this every time. But I don’t give up practicing. With practice, it does get easier. It has become not a big deal anymore.

Another teaching from the Bhagavad Gita that I find very helpful is the attitude of prasaada buddhi, the attitude of accepting the wondrous and amazing possibilities of happenings in life and receiving them in worship, humility and joy. Anger simply runs away without even leaving its address when I arm myself with this attitude.

There is even an easier method that the vedas teach. It is the simple Truth, prema eva, God is Love only.

wrath supreme

Donning anger [Source]

Vishnu Sahasranamam says  God appears as anger and also as the creating act of anger, Krodhah krodhakrut. Even if I don’t prepare well beforehand and even when anger rises in me most unexpectedly and suddenly, I can look at it as a temporary appearance and disappearance of prema eva, Love only. I can embrace it with all the love I can muster. I don’t fight it. I don’t run away from it. I don’t hate it. I don’t run after it to manage it, to tame it or to conquer it. I just think that my favorite form of God is appearing as anger. Just as the dew drop dissolves in the sunlight, the anger then instantly dissolves and disappears. This is what Hanuman teaches in the Ramayana when he says “He is called a ‘man’ who, when anger rises forcibly within, is able to subdue and cast it out as a snake casts away its slough with ease,” [Source]

To be able to think of God at the moment when anger is exploding from within or is festering at my sinews is not easy in the beginning. No, not easy at all. But it does becomes easier as I develop a loving disposition, keeping the company of Love.

Ultimately, all said and done, Love is the only cure for anger.

Dhammapada

[Source]

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2 thoughts on “Anger Management – tame it,dissolve it.

  1. A gem of a Post! Thank you so much.
    “For this, I plan and prepare well ahead before my amygdala goes into action next time. I tell myself instantly and immediately as I start to become angry (remember I have less than a quarter of a second to do this!) that whatever is not happening my way is not important. Not important at all. This way I rise over my anger even before it rears its ugly head. ” I am going to try this . How nice to stand apart from undesirable happenings which make us feel we are not in control.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks so much for your comment. With Bhagavan’s Grace, you’ll definitely succeed. Not getting angry, when I become angry is a great feeling. Btw, I’m waiting for your next post, whenever you get the chance to write it.

    Like

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