Anger is a major issue in mood disorders. When you are manic, anger is never far away. Depression and anger often go hand in hand. Addiction disorders can have anger issues. Drugs and alcohol can actually decrease your ability to handle anger. Anxiety can lead to anger. Borderline personality disorder comes with a lot of anger. And of course, the grand daddy of all angry disorders, Intermittent Explosive Disorder or IED (ha!) is all about anger.
Not only mental illnesses and disorders carry anger with them as a symptom, but life can be full of anger. Adolescents have a hard time managing their anger, there are moments in life when perfectly calm, sane people become incredibly anger.
So what does one do to handle anger? Does one try to squash it? Does one lock oneself in their room and punch a pillow? No this does not work, in fact it may make your anger stronger. Do you try to outrun it? Self medicate it away?
No. Thich Naht Hahn’s (Thay’s) advise on how to handle anger is amazing. He says the only antidote for violence, for anger is compassion. There is no other way. But how to generate the energy of compassion? The way you cultivate compassion is to recognize suffering in the person with whom you are angry. It is the suffering in this person which causes him to use words or actions which make you angry and make you suffer. Thay says the anger in him waters the anger in you. Thay says the violence in him waters the violence in you. So to breathe in and out mindfully, and to look at the other person is a victim of his own violence, his own suffering, his own misunderstanding is very important. This is the teaching of Buddha, look at suffering and understand suffering. When you can understand your own suffering, you can understand the suffering of the other person. Understanding suffering always brings compassion. Try to understand the cause of anger and suffering, the understanding always brings the energy of transformation. Also with the energy of mindfulness and attention to your anger and to the situation will also turn your anger into compassion. If you tenderly embrace the energy of anger with the energy of mindfulness, then you suffer less.
Transform anger into compassion, by looking at the suffering of the person with whom you are angry. Once you can look at the other’s suffering, your anger will vanish. Look upon yourself with compassion. Even hold your anger gently, embrace it as if it was your own child. What amazing concepts. So understanding suffering will turn the leaden anger into golden compassion. Viola alchemy!
Hope this little post and especially the accompanying video of Thich Nhat Hahn will help everyone who needs help in dealing with anger. And that is all of us at one time or another.
The video is below and it is amazing!