Monday, September 16, 2013

Redefining your 'self' is the key to anger management

Most people love themselves more than others. It is entirely understandable, though it is self centred and egoistic. Human nature perhaps. Is it possible then, that if the concept of self is widen to include others, then the self centreness will be morphed into compassion and empathy for others? By changing the paradigm of "me against others", to "us against others", onward to "we against you", and finally just "everyone against no one", is it possible to change selfishness to selflessness?

I was very angry with someone recently. For the sake of this conversation, let's just call him Ajit. I felt that Ajit is the one at fault here because he is being selfish and irresponsible. I've been doing my share of work but he didn't and the fact that he's constantly sick, and therefore can't be healthy enough to do his fair share of work is just ridiculous to me. I always think that if you don't mind, it doesn't matter. For me, duty and responsibility is paramount, but apparently Ajit didn't share my philosophy here. Nevertheless, the underlying point is that I'm angry with him. Very angry.

I went to shower fuming. Ten thousand evil thoughts flickered through my mind. You know, when you're angry with someone, you'll replay 'the' conversation again and again, with each subsequent iterations punctured by remarks more poisonous and hurtful than the last. It certainly makes my heart pound faster and faster as I replayed those fantastical conversation with Ajit again and again in my mind, complete with all the mean things I'll say and all the counter points I'll make. Soap opera at its best, except that I'm the lead and the director and the script writer.

I remembered something that I read, essentially that's the first paragraph of this article. If I can extend my definition of self to include Ajit, then his failure is my failure and suddenly all became clear to me. There's no me against Ajit; simply put, there's just me thinking about Ajit making me angry. Since Ajit is an extension of myself (actually it's all in my mind because I'm just imagining how he reacted. I 'conversed' with him through whatsapp), I'm angry with myself. This notion is ridiculous, hence I stopped the anger and become (more) at peace.


Thus, instead of following the poisonous script in my mind when I was showering, I changed my tack to something more inclusive and ultimately more useful in solving the problem at hand.


Singapore Man of Leisure said...

This is high level awareness stuff!

la papillion said...


I can only hope that whenever I'm not at peace, I can remember to use this method to calm my heart :)

Money Honey said...

Most people unable to control anger so we see many cases of road bully, obstructing law enforcement officer when they are just carrying their duty. bickering neighbors, couples in heated divorce cases etc etc It's never easy to stop for a moment to rationalize over it as the heart rules over the mind most times. Anger "healing" takes time; we are after all human.

la papillion said...

Hi money honey,

That's true. When anger strikes, usually you're just go along with it and didn't even realize you are angry. I think the moment we realise we're in fact, angry, will calm us down immediately. It did for me, at least.

I feel that Singaporeans are getting more and more angry these days. Easily angered, easily boil off over seemingly small matters.