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Friday, October 17, 2008

Anger Management

[This essay was originally posted to a blog on Weebly. In transferring it I have updated and made corrections where necessary.]

As a young man, I had quite a temper. But after becoming a vegetarian in 1994, despite some curveballs that life threw me, I definitely calmed down. There was a time when total strangers commented on how calm I was, how peaceful.

Not anymore.

Last year I was living in a temple. It was an idyllic situation. But a Chinese friend and his sister came to visit. "Everyone knows you," my friend said. "They knew right where your room is." "Yes," added his sister, "and they said you have a bad temper!"

This caught me off guard. Not the reputation one wants, especially as one of the few non-Chinese living in temples in China (and the only one at my temple, if you don't count a Malaysian-born Chinese speaker).

But in May, I found out that I had severe diabetes. (It's much better now, thank you.) By all accounts, Type II creeps up on you quite slowly. And some of the symptoms are fatigue, confusion, and (taa daaa) irritability.

In fact, the reason I went to the doc was extreme exhaustion. But I know that my mental acuity ain't what it used to be (far beyond the mere effects of being 53), and as for my temper: unbelievable.

I have had shouting matches in public with perfect strangers. Sometimes it's been so bad that I've sort of gone "out of body," and seen how ridiculous my rage is even while it's happening.

To be tired and confused bears no moral stigma. But Anger is one of Buddhism "Three Poisons" (along with Desire and Ignorance--the spiritual kind, not the simple dottiness I've suffered of late). To be known as an Angry Person in a Buddhist monastery? Really bad.

So now I know: there's an organic cause. Even though fatigue is no longer a problem, and my blood sugar levels are marvelous, I still dither more than I'd like, and get irritated more than I should. (Bad for the blood pressure, too; but even those numbers are looking better these days.)

What got me on this topic? Today I was skimming someone's website and saw this gem:

"He who angers you controls you."

Wow. That's powerful. Maybe contemplating this will help.

Any other suggestions (especially from those living in the wonderful-but-frustrating country where I live)?

Comment(s): 4

Mitch Lilly:

Hi James, really related to this.

A good friend of mine recently asked me, "Got a bee in your bonnet, bro?"

I told him "yes," there were bees in my bonnet all the time.

He later wrote, "Get something for those bees."

I've tried a few of the mood enhancers, from Prozac to Paxil, but haven't used them for about two years now.

For me, exercise is the key, especially when it's cardio-based like riding my exercise bike or hiking a mountain.

When I exercise I always feel better.

Keep writing, my American expat amigo!


My Reply:

Thanks for reading (and commenting, and appreciating), Mitch. I think the Buddhists nailed it when they said the "Big Three" problems are Greed (Desire), Anger (Hatred), and Ignorance (lack of awareness). Every problem I have traces back to Desire and Anger, both of which arise from Ignorance. The antidote? Wisdom. Which partly comes from intelligent exchange with others on the path.

So thanks again.





To paraphrase the Dalai Lama:

PRACTICE Kindness!

The Operative word is: Practice. Practice. Practice. Yes?

Metta and Peace Always,





according to the gita, desire to control leads to anger. now i can understand better that quotation "he who angers you controls you." we get angry when things don't go our way. in our quest to control, we end up being controlled. by being aware (jnana) and by action (karma), we overcome anger, and learn how to "let go."

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