Restraining Our Emotions

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Anger — an example

If our minds are dominated by anger, we will lose the best part of human intelligence — wisdom, the ability to decide between right and wrong. Anger is one of the most serious problems facing the world today.

We probably can all agree that anger causes suffering.

The destructive effects of hatred are very visible, very obvious and immediate. For example, when a strong or forceful thought of hatred arises, at that very instant it overwhelms one totally and destroys one's peace and presence of mind. When that hateful thought is harbored inside, it makes one feel tense and uptight, and can cause loss of appetite, leading to loss of sleep, and so forth.

We no longer enjoy even our breakfast.

Anger causes us to cease being compassionate, loving, generous, forgiving, tolerant, and patient altogether. When angry we lose all inner peace.

And when it becomes habitual, we may be ever so learned, rich, or powerful, but others will simply avoid us. . . . Just as when a dog is always growling and showing its teeth, we are cautious of those whose hearts are disturbed by anger. Ethics for the New Millennium

But isn't some anger justified?

What about anger toward injustice or towards someone who is harmful? What about anger that is motivated by compassion or a sense of responsibility? What about the anger that causes us to go to the assistance of someone who is being attacked in the street; could this be characterized as justified anger?

An emotion like anger, if motivated by compassion, can be used as an impetus or a catalyst for a positive action. It can create a kind of energy that enables an individual to act quickly and decisively. It can be a powerful motivating factor. The Art of Happiness

Nevertheless, the Dalai Lama warns that generally speaking, anger ends in ill feeling or, worse, hatred. Hatred, we can agree, is not only never positive but is inevitably harmful. The Dalai Lama implores us to distinguish between actions which might have positive results and the emotion of anger which so easily becomes personal and transforms into enmity and hostility. Outrage at injustice is understandable and can be the impetus for positive action, but action fed by anger is unreliable.

Blinded by anger

While it is true that anger brings extra energy, if we explore the nature of this energy, we discover that it is blind: we cannot be sure whether its result will be positive or negative. This is because anger eclipses the best part of our brain: its rationality. So the energy of anger is almost always unreliable. It can cause an immense amount of destructive, unfortunate behavior.

Can you recall anger blinding you? Can you recall acting in anger and then regretting your actions?

Can you recall an argument unraveling to the point where one of the participants (you?) became verbally abusive?

More often than not, such anger is actually an indication of weakness rather than of strength.

Can you appreciate the Dalai Lama's contention that such afflictive emotions indicate fragility or weakness?

We say someone is "blinded by anger." At this moment we recognize the irrational component of the behavior. 

When we become angry or feel hatred, we tend to relate to others as if their characteristics were immutable. A person can appear to be objectionable from the crown of their head to the soles of their feet. We forget that they, like us, are merely suffering human beings with the same wish to be happy and to avoid suffering. Ethics for the New Millennium

Do you have any question about the Dalai Lama's assertion that anger is an entirely useless emotion? Does anyone ever says anger can bring happiness? Has your doctor ever prescribed anger as treatment for any disease? When you become angry, do you feel happy? Does your mind become calmer or agitated, does your our body relax or tense?