Triggers, Anger and Ego

Have you heard of the Puffer Fish? Its a tiny fish species that has a peculiar defense mechanism when it perceives a threat. It Puffs up! To protects itself, it menacingly increases its size, almost instantly. Now just keep this in mind as you read further.

I come from a long line of Angry Men, my grandfather had a quick temper, my father used to get angry at the slightest of triggers and I was a Angry Young Man, now trying to be a not so angry man entering his middle years. Growing up I saw angry uncles, angry cousins, angry neighbors, all ready to pick a fight at the slightest provocation. Anger, was almost a badge of honor, if one didn’t stand up and yell on top of their voices, they were considered meek, and not in a good way. Naturally, I assimilated and embraced this completely.

It didn’t help that I was a quiet child with a small frame. I was bullied a lot by the neighborhood kids, to the point where I stopped going out of play until I was much older. In school, I was the only Sikh boy in my class, and one of the few in a large school. Though most of my classmates were nice guys, there were a few who regularly mocked me for my appearance. As I would get triggered and use anger as my defense mechanism, they mocked me more for my quick temper. Ironically, the quick trigger anger runs so much among Sikh men, that there is a whole lexicon of jokes in Indian culture that mock this behavior.

Ya, I’ll Blow Up if you touch me!

Anyways, enough of the origin story, lets get to the present. I have a habit of taking things personally at the slightest questioning of my actions or suggestions. It triggers me, I tend to get irritated and over time if pressed further, get belligerent. It has always been a handicap, no matter how much I’ve tried to keep myself calm, its like a puffer fish. I can’t help but blow up! In a professional or public setting, I have largely learnt to control it, though my Boss may feel otherwise 🙂 He has been so patient and understanding, that I have tried to emulate him over time.

But, I still get triggered, sometimes at the slightest provocation. The meditation practice has helped bring awareness to this emotion. Mental training and preparation have helped recognize and plan for situations that I know could possibly push my buttons. I’ve tried to delve deeper into this and some recent events have highlighted this issue further.

Farida jo tai maran mukheaa, tina na mare ghum.
Aapne ghar jae, pair tina te choom.

Farid, do not turn around and strike those who strike you with their firsts.
Kiss their feet and return to your home.

Baba Farid, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji (Sikh Holy Book, also now the Living Guru)

This verse hit me like a lightning bolt when I heard them through Bhai Satpal Singh who runs an excellent initiative, Nanak Naam. I never realized that the anger, the triggers and the defense mechanism could be because of Haume, my Ego-Mind. We are taught about ego in a whole different context, usually related to physical or intellectual possessions. As a oft persecuted tribe, Sikhs, especially men were trained to be warriors, if not physically then at least through mental conditioning. We are quick to stand up and “defend our honor” and the fight for righteousness.

But somewhere we have lost the other half of the teachings, that anger, that violence is the last course of defense against aggression. When all other means have been exhausted, and if the persecution has breached its boundaries, only then and only then are you allowed to take up arms, whether physically or verbally. Otherwise, we are perhaps spurning the divinity, the light in each soul around us, that is trying to send us a learning from the Guru. We are being tested, and we keep failing this test over and over again, and keep harming the divinity in us further.

So I asked my Inner Guru, please, I’m lost, please tell me what am I to do? And here was the reply –

Jaleea sab sansaar hai, par lagee hai agg appne ang.
Paane pa tu aapne, sab jagea so jai bujh.

On fire is the whole world, but the flames are inside of you.
You put water on yourself, and everyone will get doused.

I’d like to end today with a song I have been listening over and over again for the last couple of days.

Hor Vi Neevan Ho – by the band Noori, with their mother on Sagar Veena

English Translation:

Hor vi neevan ho
Bow your head even further down in humility

Uccha saroon hai gharoor mein
There is great pleasure in holding the head high in arrogance

Kadhi naa phall paiye, fakira
But, that pleasure will never be fulfilling

Paiye gaa deedar sahib da
One day you will be bestowed with the Lord’s presence

Ho rabba koi meray dil diyan kadraan pachanay
ord, if only someone could understand the deliberations of my heart

Mein sawali jinna naeen koi sawal
I am a seeker who seeks nothing

Mein jogan ban dar dar phir diye
I am a wanderer, roaming from one land to another

Koi na meriyan, ramzaan pachanay
No one can unravel the secrets within me

Mein jogan ban dar day phiriyaan way
I am a wanderer, roaming from one land to another

Koi na meriyan, ramzaan pachanay
No one can unravel the secrets within me

Mein jogan
I am a wanderer

Chal meray naal
Come along, come with me

Hor vi neevan ho
Bow your head down further down in humility

3 thoughts on “Triggers, Anger and Ego

Add yours

  1. Brijdeep,
    It takes huge courage to write about any shortcoming about one self and the way you had accepted one such is commendable.

    I believe that accepting one’s exact status is the first step towards its growth and you are definitely in the right path. Yes there are circumstances, people around us, our upbringing etc all influence us in shaping our thought process, our nature and temperament. But the good news is that they can be moulded and changed with concious decision and efforts.

    I relate to you in carrying exactly the same trait within me which had sometimes been an obstacle in my career but on other times been my strength too which made me fearless and allowed to take a stand for the things I believe in. Probably that has also made me stand apart from others some times and helped me to grow as well.

    Anger or for that matter of well directed can be useful too. Being aggressive and charged up may not necessarily be physical or demonstrative but can light a fire within and push you to give your best and go beyond your self created glass ceilings and achieve the unthinkable. But remember ANYTHING IN ACCESS IS POISON.

    Yes I agree that meditation helps in controlling the anger within you and channeling it to the right direction. This had helped me in the most difficult of times in my life. Ego or Haume had also helped me to never give up or surrender to the circumstances but made me stronger and resilient to believe I can face it and I am bigger than the challenges in front. Probably that’s my way of looking at it. I may not sound correct to many but that’s what I believe.

    But I am also not shamed to accept that this anger and ego hinders the personal equations with the family too sometimes. This is one very important sphere which I am working on and need to overcome. I believe here I lack a lot and must put more efforts because it’s family who make us complete and are the true extension of ourselves. They deserve better and I am trying to be a better version of myself for them.

    1. Dear Jasmeet,

      I’m glad that you identified with the sentiments and also recognize that similar emotions have been a hinderance in your personal journey as well.

      I understand your sentiment that Anger and Ego can be useful at times as well, especially when building the courage to achieve ones goals. However, may I suggest that those emotions be recognized as Passion and Determination. Being passionate builds that fire in the belly and quiet determination builds resilience. When applied in extreme, they will reach your Anger and Ego, which I also believe could be useful in certain situations.

      There are times when I have to discipline my child to protect them or correct harmful behavioral patterns and show that I’m angry or about to get there. But I’m trying to use it as a tool, keeping my heart and mind in full-control. There is a simple physical exercise, next time you can sense you are about to get “Angry”, recognize it and try to keep an even heart beat, do it without your pulse increasing at all. If you can remove your mind from the emotion, then you may have conquered this Thief as Guruji calls it – Krodh.

      Guru Nanak Dev ji has given us a weapon for this. Its called “Santok” or Contentment. If after your “Anger or Ego” episode you can look towards your Inner Guru and feel contentment, then you know you have defeated the thief in that particular battle. And you move on, a step closer to defeating them all 5.


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