Saturday, April 24, 2010

Seeing Red !

A king once challenged a zen master to explain the concept of heaven and hell. But the monk replied with scorn. "You're nothing but a fool. I can't waste my time with the likes of you".

The king flew into a rage and pulling his sword, yelled, "I could kill you for your words".

"That is hell" the monk replied calmly.

Startled at seeing the truth in what the master pointed out about the fury that had him in its grip, the king calmed down, sheathed his sword and bowed, thanking the monk for the insight.

"And that is heaven" said the monk.

Anger is a temporary madness which leads one to permanent hell. If someone insults you and you feel angry, always remember that you have become a slave. That man is your master; he insulted you and he manipulated your anger. Many people think thatventing anger gets rid of it. But actually expressing your anger does not reduce it and may, in fact build it again.

Anger is often inflamed by the thoughts we think when we are provoked. (Who does he think he is to treat me like that?). The longer we think about what has made us angry, the more 'good reasons' and self justifications for being angry. Because brooding fuels anger's flames.

Seeing things differently douses these flames. We must think differently to find justification for the behaviour (Eg: May be he's having a tough day). That line of thought short-circuits the build up of rage. Redford Williams, a psychiatrist at Duke University recommends use of self awareness to catch cynical or hostile thoughts as they arise and write them down. Once angry thoughts are captured this way, they can be challenged and reappraised, though this approach works better before anger has escalated to rage.

Sometimes the best thing you can do about anger is nothing. Going for a long walk, deep breathing and active exercise change the body's physiology from high arousal of anger to a low-arousal state and also these activities distract from whatever triggered the anger.

Don't be in a hurry to act when angry. Take time to think and find ways to cool down. As Aristotle said "Anyone can become angry - that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not easy".


(Published in Hindu 7-9-2001)

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