I found it funny that recently two people, an old friend and a well-meaning acquaintance reached out to me to ask if I had written something about anger.
You may ask what’s funny in the above scenario, Kushagra?
Well, it is funny to me because it’s like someone asking Hitler if he’s written something on equality or asking a communist about logic.
I have been working with the anger issue since a while now. I even took professional help from Miss Priyanka and her profound psychological shadow work methods. So, it wouldn’t be wrong to at least attempt to share my story.
Previously I’d written something on anger in Gates of Heaven and Hell (read it for a fantastic Zen story and some wisdom from Shri Krishna on the topic). As I went through the piece, I realised I had presented a lot of philosophy but not my realisations. As I move ahead in my life journey, I find personal realisations and experiences >>> philosophy.
Memories of Anger stem from my teens. I was bullied at home often and sometimes even at school as a kid. As I started growing, I couldn’t tolerate even a tiny caustic remark against me; neither could I accept what I perceived as injustice. While I couldn’t give it back at home, outside situations started being convenient. By my teens, I’d even lost the fear of being beaten up (I wasn’t a strong kid inside or out) and I started realising the tongue is mightier than the sword! The tongue could cause more lasting damage than a physical injury ever could. I used this knowledge to my advantage as far as possible.
There used to be an inexplicable delight in ‘giving it back’ to someone who caused trouble. Anger gave such a maddening high of power that the loss of sanity that came attached seemed like a small price to pay. Most importantly, all the years of suppression could find an outlet in anger.
NO ONE CAN EVER AGAIN SUPPRESS ME!
I REFUSE TO BE TREATED LIKE CRAP!
IF YOU ARE BAD, I AM YOUR DAD! (A Facebook page inspired this one!)
Such ‘high-end’ thoughts became the fulcrum of my thought process and life. Anger used to possess me so intensely that I now recall that on many occasions, my body would literally be shaking. My vocal cords developed wonderfully well thanks to all the shouting that came attached with the gift of anger.
Looking back, I find it miraculous how I survived not getting bashed up on so many occasions.
I remember there was a short period in 2007 when Shri Krishna found me that all these human issues ceased to matter. Only Him, His teachings mattered. Anger became a thing of the past. I remember when I joined the school after immersions into Gita and Bhagavatam, a classmate threw a paper ball towards me. Former me would not just have thrown the paper ball back at her face but would’ve followed it up with a volley of other paper balls. And perhaps even throwing water or whatever else I could lay hands upon. But, on that occasion, I picked the paper ball and returned it to her gently with a smile.
I remember my dear friend Sarvesh who observed the entire scene come up to me immediately and check if I’m in a ‘mentally healthy/stable state’. He said and I quote,
“Teri tabiyat toh theek hai…? Fever toh nahi hai.”
Well, I was feverish with the intoxication of Krishna. Shame though that this change was not permanent. I went back to my usual ways quite soon and this time added spiritual ego and bigotry to it as well.
I remember a spiritual counsellor who met me once asked me to check my anger. She narrated to me the story of Shri Krishna and Shishupal— how Krishna used to forgive Shishupal’s hundred offences each day. But, I had made up my mind. We only engage in ‘idol’ worship, ma’am. We don’t follow the path shown by Krishna. Nor we choose to learn from the way He conducted His life. Nope.
Who cares if Krishna or Rama did not get angry—they’re divine. Mortals like me who ‘worship’ deities only engage in judging others. Who drinks, who’s eating animals, who is doing drugs— that’s what we concern ourselves with and get an unabashed high by comparing my ‘piety’ with their ‘fallen’ state. Out of the eighteen chapters of Gita, one hundred and twenty-one chapters of Bhagavatam dedicated to Krishna, this is what I had learned apparently.
When a lady in my life showed me the mirror by saying what’s the point of all this if you can’t behave nicely, I went full Rowdies! (TU…TU BATAYEGI MUJHE…yaar Ranvijay, I’m done.)
Combining the power of anger with harsh words, I caused a lot of emotional damage to others. I shamelessly admit that it felt (still does) SOOOO good to inflict the damage.
What did it cost, though?
- Shattered Relationships. Often beyond repair.
- My peace of mind.
- Precious energy, I could have used more productively.
Is it even worth going through so much for anger?
Anger can have constructive uses. I’m sure Lord Sri Hanuman would have been angry when he burned Lanka (Ravan’s ego) down.
Arjuna had to be angry to shoot the millions of arrows on the Kaurava army in the war of Mahabharata.
How does it help me, though?
As far as I see, almost every unconscious expression of anger has cost me dear.
Why Does Anger Come Up?
In one of my recent therapy sessions with Miss Priyanka, we focussed on anger as I mentioned above. Without getting into the exact details, I’ll share with you what she deduced from my situation.
“You don’t define your boundaries. When someone tramples upon them, anger has become the only resort.”
“Anger can be replaced by assertiveness. Being assertive about what is significant for you is not unreasonable. Choose assertiveness when you can.”
Adding to the above nuggets of wisdom, I’d add that anger has also often arisen when I’ve had preconceived notions about people and how they should behave.
“How can my girlfriend act contrary to how I imagined her to be?”
“How can my friend not notice all good vibes I share and not reciprocate even a tiny bit?”
“How can that driver cut me off?”
“Why won’t anybody mind queues in this country?”
“Why can’t China eat sensibly?”
In all of the above circumstance, you notice how anger is stemming from control issues. In a brazen display of profound stupidity, I’m trying to control something that is usually beyond me.
Sadhguru emphasises on an incredible concept of responsibility that while you can respond to everything, your action remains limited. Response stems from consciousness, while reactive states of anger stem from an unorganised mindset.
In the above scenarios, I cannot control how my friend, girlfriend, fellow driver on the road, people in public places behave. I can, at best, take care of my ‘response-ability’ in any given situation.
Is there a way out?
Yes, there is.
It can take time and patience. May even take a lifetime. However, it is worth it.
I’ve been trying to embrace this angry child within me who is still upset the mean world that feels it’s okay to be rude and pull others down without rhyme or reason. I use the word embrace carefully because you cannot fight something as powerful as anger. You cannot wake up in the morning and say, ‘Hey, today, I’m not going to get angry.’ The chances are high that you would.
Last week when I was sitting in meditation, I felt an immense surge of anger and hate boiling up within me. The experience of it left me anxious for a while. How can this experience surface when I’m supposed to be engaged in a spiritual practice?
Wisdom entails that a proper spiritual process is about pulling forth your darkest sides from within for you to witness and transform.
Upon reflection, I realise the anger surfaced because I have been trying to move away from the destructive use of this energy. But, the energy is very much a part of me. I can’t disown it altogether.
Are there any practical steps one can take to manage anger?
Yes. Practical steps for sure. Not just spiritual and philosophical woo-woo. Below let me enunciate a few ideas.
Run when you’re angry. Like literally if it is possible. It is better to burn some calories than burn a relationship down. It is also advised by some people to leave the place where the anger arose. Go to another room. In ancient times there used to ba कोप भवन, i.e. a particular space to vent out. They recognised it isn’t safe to let out the potent energy of anger just about anywhere.
Punch a pillow/Boxing bag
Again. We are recognising and giving a place to our anger to find expression. Think of Captain America in the Avengers movie. Punch, punch, punch away the energy that is rising within you. If not a punching bag than a pillow. As Osho said, the pillow is a Buddha. It doesn’t react to you. Bare your emotions there.
If it is possible—test out your vocal cords and shake off that rising energy within you. However, you need to ensure you’re not in public vicinity lest you scare someone. Not being in the vicinity of a human in a country like India is extremely hard. So we move on to the next option.
Record an audio note
Express yourself. Why are you angry? Curse, criticise, vent out, read out the charges. Say whatever you would say to the person (in case it is a person you’re angry with) in the audio. Just don’t send that audio to anyone. 🙈 Listen to it after recording. Would you be proud of expressing this a few days or say even a few hours down the line? You will not only expel some energy but also gain perspective as to what may be the wise choice of words in expressing yourself with assertiveness and not angry outbursts.
This is a technical term we use in hypnotherapy. The purpose of Hypno-drama is to create imaginary scenarios in our head, wherein we are safely able to process and express our anger towards someone or something. This can be hugely beneficial in expurgating traumatic experiences from the mind and heart. I’ve found it extremely useful on a personal level to play out specific jarring experiences and reprogramming my mind with life-supporting thoughts. You can book a Hypno-drama session with yours truly. 😌
A fantastic technique that I picked up from a book I read this year is to write out a letter expressing anguish to someone who’s affronted us. We don’t need to send that letter. Just write your heart out. Now, this is basic, and you may have even heard of this technique that writing/journaling helps you to process your feelings better. However, the catch is to imagine now the kind of response you would ideally like to receive and write that down as if the person who offended you is writing a letter of apology. Once again, no involvement of another— you retain the power in your world. Quite magnificent and safe.
Action and Reaction
The laws of the universe are absolute. It’s a no brainer that what we give out comes back. And hence, one has to ask themselves what kind of energy am I willing to put out there in the universe?
Would I be comfortable receiving it back for when it arrives?
If you are okay with the consequences, feel free to choose your reactions the way you like. As for me, I’m now seriously reviewing the pros and cons of spending this precious and intense energy of anger randomly. I additionally am feeling the pain of what my unconscious reactions have cost me.
If you have any suggestions on the topic, please do enlighten me. 🙏🏼
I leave you with a ‘secret’ podcast episode I recorded just for this blog. I call it secret because I haven’t ‘publicised’ the episode yet. My reader gets to listen to it first. 😎
God bless you.