Anger is something we all experience, but it is an incredibly difficult challenge to deal with our anger in a constructive way.
That’s why it’s useful to take the time to think about your anger and how you can transform it into something more useful.
This isn’t easy to do, which is why the advice offered by the Dalai Lama below is so helpful. You would think he’s all about shifting your anger into peace, love and kindness. But he has some surprises to offer.
By the end of this article, you’ll have some practical steps to take in dealing with your anger.
Anger is just suffering that has not met with compassion
The Dalai Lama has a useful perspective to offer on how we understand what anger is:
“Anger is often just suffering that has not met with compassion. If someone is annoying you or making you angry, you can use that as an opportunity to counter your own anger with the cultivation of compassion. But if the annoyance is too powerful—if you find the person so repulsive that you cannot bear to be in his presence—it may be better to look for the exit!”
Here is the key point:
If your anger is not too strong, it’s better to meet events or people who annoy you head on. But if this kind of encounter is not possible, work on yourself on your own.
This is because anger cannot be overcome with more anger. It’s a disaster when you respond to someone’s anger with more anger of your own. In contrast, if you can meet someone’s anger with an attitude of compassion, tolerance and patience, then your anger and theirs will diminish.
The blueprint is within the mind
The Dalai Lama has this profound passage to share:
“If you look deeply into such things, the blueprint is found within—in the mind—out of which actions come. Thus, first controlling the mind is very important. I am not talking about controlling the mind in the sense of deep meditation, but rather in the sense of cultivating less anger, more respect for others’ rights, more concern for other people, more clear realization of the sameness of human beings.”
“With kindness and love, peace of mind can be achieved. No one wants mental unrest, but because of ignorance, depression and so on, these things occur. Bad attitudes arise from the power of ignorance, not of their own accord.”
The main problem with anger
The Dalai Lama says that the greatest quality of a human is our mind. We have the ability to make decisions, and this crucial quality is severely interrupted when we are feeling anger.
“Through anger we lose one of the best human qualities—the power of judgement. We have a good brain, allowing us to judge what is right and what is wrong, not only in terms of today’s concerns but considering ten, twenty, or even a hundred years into the future. Without any precognition, we can use our normal common sense to determine if something is right or wrong. We can decide that if we do such and such, it will lead to such an such effect. However, once the mind is occupied by anger, we lose this power of judgment. Once lost, it is very sad—physically you are a human being but mentally you are not complete. Given that we have this physical human form, we must safeguard our mental capacity for judgment.”
“For instance, at present you may be a person who, due to small things, gets quickly and easily irritated. With clear understanding & awareness, that can be controlled. If you usually remain angry for about ten minutes, try to reduce it to eight minutes. Next week make it five minutes and next month two minutes. Then make it zero. This is the way to develop and train our minds.”
How to transform your anger
So now that we understand anger much better, how can we transform it when we find ourselves in it.
The Dalai Lama has some practical advice:
“Often we direct our anger at another person, someone who we think has hurt us or offended us in some way. If you anger is not very forceful, you can try to look at a different aspect of the person. Every person, no matter how negative she seems to be, also has positive attributes. If you try to look at that side of her, the anger will immediately be reduced.”
This is one way. You can also try this:
“Another thing you can do is to try to find what is good or useful about the anger. Anger is really something awful. On the other hand, you can find many good things in patience, compassion, and love. Once you have that kind of genuine conviction, when anger begins to develop, you will remember its negativity and try to reduce it.”
And finally, this is what to do when the anger is particularly strong:
“But when your anger is too forceful, you can try to direct your mind elsewhere, on some other thing. Just close your eyes and concentrate fully on your breathing. Count your breaths up to about twenty or twenty-five. Then the anger will be slightly reduced, slightly cooled down. But if the anger is very, very strong, then fight! …I am just making a joke. But really, it is better to express it than to hide it inside. A very negative, hateful feeling may remain there for years. That is worse. Compared to that, it is better to say a few nasty words.”