Guru Nanak Devji, the first Sikh Guru, has talked about Krodh or Anger as one of the 5 inner thieves that drain our emotional energy and impede our spiritual growth. We face circumstances in our daily lives that cause irritation, anger and usually it is up to us to best handle the situation. Sometimes I would lose my cool and make things worse, while not realizing that a lot had to do with my personality and demeanor and not as much about the particular situation I was in.
Like most other problems, first step involved full acceptance of the problem and then using few practical methods move beyond the issues. First, I needed to really understand the very nature of being angry where contrary to what is mostly believed, anger is not just prevalent in its aggressive form. It can have lots of variations, each of which is dangerous to our state of mind.
Aggressiveness or Intimidation
This would usually arise when I would be in situation where someone would confront me with either needles abuse or intimidation. It would also arise when I would expect people to behave in a certain way and they would go against my wishes. When confronted I would sometimes hit back without even fully trying to understand the situation or looking for alternatives. Similarly when forcing my ideas or wishes on others I would fail to give people the space needed to figure things out for themselves. The following quote is apt:
Farida, bure da bhala kar, gusa man na hadhae;
Dehi rogu na lagai plae, sabhu kuchu payee.
– Baba Farid, Sufi Master in Sri Guru Granth Sahib
Oh Farida, do good even to those who harm you and the mind with anger do not fill.
This way the body will stay healthy and you shall receive all you wish.
We forget that by getting angry it is ourselves that we are affecting the most. Science has proven that angry and stressful people generally have high blood pressure that leads to heart diseases. I now try to be aware in these situations and watch my heart beat. If it starts to go up, I try to take deep abdominal breaths and watch my breath flow in and out. This not only helps calm my mind by bringing the focus on to my breath, it also increases the oxygen flow to the body and helps calm it down. Even the American Medical Student Association recommends abdominal breathing exercises and saying, “Using and learning proper breathing techniques is one of the most beneficial things that can be done for both short and long-term physical and emotional health.”
The diaphragmatic breathing techniques in yoga as described by Swami Rama have been a big help to me personally. This handy graphic animation, can be used to coördinate the inhalation and exhalation or breath.
Need or Desire
The next form of anger usually arises when in desire or attachment I would want something badly or when a plan would not go as originally planned. It would lead to irritation or annoyance which is then sometimes taken out on people around causing more discomfort. Buddha talked about this for of anger at length and overcoming desire is one of the central tenants of Buddhism. By encouraging myself to let-go and not get too attached to material or emotional needs it has helped to subside the irritability aspect. I always try to remember now that if something is meant to happen, it will and even after trying my best, if things just don’t seem to go my way then its best not to chase after them.
Passive-Aggressive and Sullen Behavior
There are a lot of situations where instead of expressing our true emotions to people around us we resort to keeping them inside. To me this usually happens when I’m dealing with people in authority or when I don’t want to hurt someones feeling. However, keeping anger and irritation inside and feeling vindictive or sullen towards someone is not the solution. Overtime this could be worse as the mind is never completely at ease and one day it could result in a sudden burst of emotions. Now, I either try to handle the situation delicately and gently tell the other party without stepping on toes. If that doesn’t work and if unhelpful thoughts stay in my mind of past wrongs, then by repeating a mantra or thinking of a happy image I try to move my mind away from brooding about the past.
The reality of life is that in spite of my best intentions and efforts, I still tend to lose my cool sometimes. While I try to learn the lesson from the situation to better handle it next time, I try not to brood over it too much. Doing this could in fact lead to just more needles irritation 🙂