The path of self-development is definitely not the easiest one to pursue. There are literally hundreds and thousands of things that should be changed within us. We realise that to be successful we should be more confident, brave, productive, etc. But what about the deeper self that we might have missed out on? What about all of those thoughts that confuse, irritate and anger us at others? Do they not slow down our development? In fact, when we go down the path of success and virtue, we may easily be misled into thinking that we are better than others. We begin to separate people into those that are with us, and those that are against us. Anger or hate becomes a common state of mind. And because I find this to be such a harmful quality to have, in this post I will talk about how to control anger and hate towards other people.
I have already once written a text about awareness and happiness, which you may find here. This time, I won’t be talking about something so general, but rather something very distinctive and intrinsic to human nature, that we sometimes forget to realise. Here I want to draw your attention towards your mind, your thoughts, your awareness and the ability to judge others. And while thinking on such a deep level cannot be changed in an instance, it nevertheless can be altered with time, and can bring happiness that no material belongings will ever be able to. This is why it is worth trying and worth going for.
Before I continue, I must say that most of what I will be sharing with you comes from Buddhism. In fact, most of it comes from one single book: 8 Steps to Happiness: The Buddhist Way of Loving Kindness. No-no, I’m not a Buddhist by any means, but Buddhism has always been of a lot of interest to me, and has influenced me tremendously. While I don’t consider myself to be a part of any religion (or Buddhist philosophy), I try to consume that which can benefit me. In this case, this book turned out to be one of the best sources of wisdom that I have ever encountered.
I found this book to be so beneficial, that I read it three times. There is no other book in my life that I have read this many times. I am not at all the type of person that would read something more than once, but this book simply has so much value, that it was impossible for me to grasp everything from a single read. Moreover, I think I’m going to need to read it over again quite soon. I very much recommend it.
That being said, let’s try to unveil the reasons why we have anger towards other people, and why it is so destructive for us.
How to control anger and hate – delusions
In Buddhism, thoughts that disturb our peace and cause our suffering are referred to as delusions. Delusions are our inner enemies, and can take many different forms. Desirous attachments, anger, pride, jealousy, ignorance, etc. – are all delusions. It is said that delusions distort our reality, and the way we look at people. Because a delusion is affecting us, we may see someone to be intrinsically bad (inherently).
In reality though, no matter how much “bad” a person has done, there is no such thing as intrinsic bad. For example, we may know someone for the bad actions that they have committed. Whenever we think of them or talk to them, we can have a negative emotion arise. Therefore, the person is considered to be bad. However, that same person may be a wonderful husband, wife, mother or father to someone else. They may have done so much good for their friends, and maybe even saved someone’s life; we can never know for sure. In this case, other people may think of this person with only positive and loving feelings. So is this person then bad or good? The answer is – neither one.
Because everything in this world is relative, and everything that we think of in our life is based solely on experience and our subjective mind, there is no such thing as intrinsic bad or intrinsic good. This needs to be remembered at all times, and especially when we feel that we are about to judge someone.
Let’s look at it with an example given in the book. Have your ever wanted to eat chocolate so badly that when you finally ate a whole bar of it, you felt sick? At that moment you probably didn’t want to have any chocolate anymore, ever again (at least it feels like that)! Here I know many of us can relate to this. How is it possible to want to eat chocolate so much, and then ten minutes later to almost hate it? We eat what we really want, and after that our desire to eat more of it suddenly fades away.
As you can see from the previous example, our mind is not exactly stable. Nor it is stable when we think of others. One moment our neighbour is horrible and mean, and the next moment, after they have held the door open for us coming from the grocery store, they become a warm and caring person. This is the power of delusion.
How to control anger exercise:
Try to identify those moments that cause delusions to emerge. When you begin to feel something negative inside of your mind about someone else, try to be aware and ask yourself, why am I feeling this? Are these feelings genuine? Is the person in front of me really like this? When you begin to question your thinking like that, judging others becomes a lot harder. You can always continue feeling that anger and find reasons to justify it, but it definitely won’t feel as satisfying.
How to control anger and hate – cherishing others
Another practice that Eight Steps to Happiness Teaches about how to control anger and hate towards other people, is to cherish them. What does this mean? Simply put, the universe does not revolve around us. Don’t always think about yourself first. Don’t exaggerate your importance, and don’t think that you are better than others. Here I must warn you, whenever we try to pursue the path of self-development, our ego has the capacity to grow exponentially. We begin to set goals, we want to achieve and we know that by taking action and becoming more organised, we become stronger physically and mentally. We may feel like we are doing something that others are not capable of. And if we are completely unaware of this process, our ego may outgrow us. As you can probably guess, this is not good.
Ideally, we would need to be aware of the process of our transformation in order not to become egocentric and self-absorbed. On the other hand, if we are aware, and we understand that we are just like anyone else, we will be able to attract more people to us and help a bigger amount of people as well. Helping others, by the way, should always be something that we do, regardless of where we are at in life.
When we cherish others, we truly want them to succeed as well and to have a good life. When we experience this, we don’t have the reasons to be jealous, greedy or angry at these people. We enjoy our own growth, and we love to see others become happy as well. Why wouldn’t we? Everybody, no matter what they do in life, wish to be happy and loved. When we realise this, the question of how to control anger should cross our mind a lot less.
Consider another example: you walk down the street, and you see an amazing car pull up. A person gets out of the car, and no
matter how they look, you maybe feel negative emotions rise. Why? Often it is simply because the person has something that you don’t.
Here are some really stereotypical examples, but please bear with me. If you are a guy, maybe you have always wanted that sports car, and if yo are a girl, maybe you’ve always wanted that dream wedding and honeymoon somewhere in the cearribiean. It may feel like it is completely normal to be jealous in these situations, when in reality it is not. These are once again our inner enemies taking part.
We should never be jealous of other people. Instead, if the other person has something that we would want to have as well, we should look up to that person. It will be a lot more beneficial for us to get inspired by that person and to try to achieve the same, as opposed to just being jealous. Our thoughts should be something like this: if they could do it, so can we. There is no point thinking that someone was just really lucky, born rich, is a thief, or anything else. We can never know for sure. People often work extremely hard their whole life so that they could finally be able to afford the things that we see. Therefore, switch jealousy into admiration. This approach in life will get you a lot further.
How to control anger and hate – 4 things to think about
1. “All living beings deserve to be cherished because of the tremendous kindness they have shown us.”
We have no right to hate anyone around us. The fact that we were born is already a miracle. The fact that we have always had food to eat, clothes to wear, a house with warmth and running water, electricity, laws, schools, shops, Internet, etc., are all reasons to never think ill of anyone. Humanity has worked so hard together as one big family to make your life possible, and this should never be forgotten.
Please don’t spend time thinking that others have jobs and that they do what they do for money. None of this is relevant. You have directly been blessed with all the things that have been given to you, regardless of what others had thought while doing it.
2. Nobody in this world owes you anything.
As soon as I understood this, my life became so much easier. Before it used to be so that when someone would not show up to a meeting on time, or wouldn’t do the things they promised, I would get very upset. But when I finally understood that nobody owes me anything, I stopped expecting things from people, and therefore stopped being upset.
As soon as you have expectations, especially high ones, you are going to get upset, and as a result, angry. It is impossible for people to always please you and do the things you want them to do. Instead, do as much as you can yourself, and don’t be dependant on others. And if someone does something good for you, consider that person as a blessing in your life; be grateful that that person exists.
In any case, when I realises that nobody owes you anything, questions regarding how to control anger became less common.
3. Your enemy is your best teacher.
This is a very Buddhist approach to the issue, but I just find it to be so amazing and useful. It very well teaches how to control anger and exchange it for wisdom.
Here whenever somebody does to you something that you consider as bad or evil, see it as an opportunity to grow. This world is far from perfect, and each negative experience should be a lesson to you. It should motivate you to become better and to give more happiness into the world.
For example, whenever a person on the street would act negatively towards me for basically no reason (it happens on the streets sometimes), I could just smile back. I can smile back because I understand that others, just like me, have delusions that are interfering with the true mind. These people should actually be our best teachers, that once again can remind us that this world is imperfect. We should strive to make it a better place. Think of it like this, if all the negative experiences would never exist, how would we grow? What would motivate us to become better? Obviously, if no “evil” would exist, it would be a lot better. But we don’t live in such a world, so the best that we can do is to try to understand the lessons that the world offers us.
4. Meditation on others.
Finally, one thing you can do to really take your self-control to a new level is to meditate on others. I don’t mean mediation in the most common sense, as you would do during yoga practice or in Buddhism, but more in the sense that you sit and you deeply think about the person that is causing you to feel some kind of discomfort. This practice is also given in the book, and it has really benefited me. It is especially great if you have some person in particular that you have to be around a lot, but you have difficulties relating to them.
Even though this is not the typical meditation, it nevertheless helps to sit down and to be in a setting where no one can distract you. You can dim the lights, and as you are sitting, you begin to feel calm. You can concentrate on your breath just to empty your mind a little of all the unnecessary thoughts. Once you feel that you are calm enough, you begin thinking of that person. The goal is not to just think about that person as you would normally do, but to be that person. You basically try to experience life from the perspective of that person. Take everything into consideration, the sex and age of the person, the family and the setting that the person was raised in. You should really get to the roots of why that person acts the way they do. Here you should be sensitive and feel that person on the level, where you no longer are yourself, but you are them.
Because you experience life from the perspective of another person, taking into consideration all of the problems that they may have had or still have, you will feel a deeper connection with them in reality as well. We are not angered and we don’t usually hate ourselves. So by being somebody else, we learn not to by angry or hate them as well.
This practice takes some time, but if you decide do it, you will feel immediate results. I found this to be a very valuable technique on how to control anger and hate towards other people.
As I already mentioned, nobody in this world is intrinsically bad. Sure, there are people that murder and rape, but are they really the only ones causing you to wonder how to control anger? Or on the other hand, have these people never done anything good in life to others? I think that we should avoid judging difficult cases, especially when we haven’t yet mastered the basics.
Furthermore, remember that no matter who the person is or how they act in public, they all wish to be happy. When we clearly see this, we should have no reason to be angry or hateful at them. Don’t focus on their flaws, but rather on their good sides. None of us are perfect.
Always keep in mind that our emotions are often just delusions, and so is everyone else’s. When you take that into consideration, you will be more aware of your thoughts and therefore have less anger. Something that you should be practicing every single day is taming your thoughts, understanding what causes your delusions, and stopping them before they have manifested themselves. All of this will greatly help you on your path on understanding how to control anger.
And finally, remember, each single person can be at one moment your best friend, and in the next, someone you hate. Your goal is to make that person to be your life teacher, life coach if you will. If you realise this, your world will become to be a wonderful place.
“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows” – Helen Keller