How does one overcome frustration and vexation? This is the perennial question of our age — of any age, for that matter. We are taught in Western tradition to be loving, caring creatures, but we seemingly mostly fail. Why is this? Recorded history is replete with a plethora of tomes that promote tenderness and the understanding of our fellow man. Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, (1) for one, is a well-known moral guide. But when challenged, humanity does not pass the test of peace and respect. Is this just the way it is — we are just aggressive by nature? I hope not.
I include myself in this for I too in the past have been unsuccessful in controlling my temper with my students, my family, my business associates, and the list goes on. The only thing that can be said in our defense is that we all know that anger — eventually leading to violence and war — has no place in human development. No civilization can mature to its zenith by continuing a form of militarization, of physically expressed anger. This was true of the Roman Empire and it is true of our own. (2)
But we must guard against smugness, against hypocrisy. Yes, at times, we are all subject to overwhelming emotion. It is here that we must strengthen our resolve. I recently moved into a new apartment. I was putting up paintings on a Sunday afternoon. I heard a strident screaming in the hallway. I thought someone had been injured, so I quickly opened the door — only to find my newly minted neighbor shouting at the top of his voice.
It was, unbeknownst to me, not allowed to put up paintings on a Saturday and Sunday. Why such anger? He wouldn’t stop hollering. I apologized. Finally, he calmed down and returned to his flat. It was then that I noticed a religious affirmation over his door extolling the virtues of his peaceful religion. I truly hope his sanctimoniousness (3) was reflected on.
So what can I do to be in more control of this moral blight? The most straightforward way is to realize that all emotions, both good and bad, extend from within myself. If I do not accept the exterior stimuli, they have no power over me. Viktor Frankl (4) tells us “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
There are many ways to achieve inner peace: these include prayer, meditation, exercise, and a walk in a park. Whatever method one chooses, it is to be noted that anger is a cancer that will eventually kill us, (5) while love will allow a blossoming of our gifts and a fulfillment of our life mission. Mark Twain leaves us with a thought: Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.
A closing thought: It would serve us all well to control our emotions. In the end, nothing truly has the capacity to make us angry. It is self-created. All wrath extends from within. This is why rhetoric and its expression through the art of oratory are essential skill sets that all educated beings must possess.
To sum up: This week, we spoke about anger and how and by what method it must be controlled.
To be noted: From Confucius — When anger rises, think of the consequences.
Just for fun:
This week, on your introspective walk, please ponder how you can control your own anger.
Every day look for something magical and beautiful.
Don’t be a wage slave – critical thinking is great!
Quote: Live your life in a state of wonder and imagination.