Friday, March 23, 2007

Useless emotion

Any person with a conscience will inevitably feel guilt for the people they have hurt as a result of their anger. Even if they feel the anger is justified, guilt will arise. Guilt leads to depression. Depression is basically anger turned inwards. Nothing good can come of it.

But why are people like me prone "losing it" more often than not? Why can't we look the other way, ignore what makes us unhappy and move on. I am no psychologist so I am not going to attempt to rationalize or answer that. But I certainly need to change before I strain more relationships in my life.

"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 - this is not easy."

Aristotle said that in his book, The Nichomachean Ethics.

Anger really is a useless emotion. It solves nothing, it doesn't make you feel better, and it causes you to lose control of your behavior. And it's worse than useless, it's dangerous. When in the grip of anger, people make poor decisions, hurt themselves and others.

It has been said that better communication and the use of humour helps. Thinking before you speak and listening before you respond defensively will certainly go a long way. But how often will I remember that when I need to?

Buddhist mindfulness is another thing that I read about. It is a technique that advocates non-attachment to angry thoughts that arise. Basically, one is asked to simply observe one’s anger with disinterest and focus on breathing. In a best case scenario, the anger will dissipate.

Thoughts only acquire force, say Buddhist teachers, when we attach ourselves to these thoughts. Since our inflated egos are our own worst enemies, it pays to think of ourselves as ego-less Buddhas full of infinite compassion, even for the people we attribute our anger to.

Modern psychology borrows heavily from Buddhist mindfulness. Though we may lack the capacity to mindfully dissolve our worst thoughts, we can buy ourselves a few precious seconds before we do something irretrievably stupid. In essence, we can recognize our destructive thoughts as they occur, and then work with them.

I really need to keep a journal of what makes me angry- that would be a very long book I'm sure- perhaps a few dozen volumes. After that I need to find a way to distract myself based on mindfulness. That is my new resolution.

Anger can never be used to get your way. In fact most of the time nobody gives a shit if you are angry or not. At the end of the day you just end up hurting yourself and feeling depressed, or worse perhaps the other way around.

Control the inner beast. If you are thinking of mowing down your boss with a machine gun, for instance, it might be better to take a couple of deep breaths and resolve to take up your grievance at a later time.

If only I can heed my own advice...

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