July 30, 1973

Q: How can one overcome anger and evolve?

A: Anger is one of the most common shortcomings of human behaviour. It has to be shed and when a determined effort is made by a sincere person, it is possible to overcome anger. Happily, anger, though crude, is not so difficult to get rid of as fear or jealousy. Fear is more deeply seated in human nature and jealousy or spite is inimical character, whereas anger is merely rough or coarse.

When a person wants to get rid of anger, it means he is sincere and it is a truism that a genuine desire has within it the capacity to remove the impulse. Let us examine anger.

ANGER is a power-packed, short-lived impulse issuing from the naval nervous centre. This power is originally given to living beings as a mechanism of protection in times of need. In cultural social life, anger is a hangover of the past. As every other act of man, anger too exists in different layers of intensity. In other words, if we examine an angry act, it has several contributory factors. 1) Most important of them all is the habit of being angry. The habit, though dead intrinsically, is difficult to overcome till we realise that it is a habit; 2) There are certain vulnerable points in one’s life that relate to personal honour, social honour etc. which when touched sparks off the movement through the grooves of habit; 3) There are patterns of setting in one’s mind that are associated with anger and contribute to the movement; 4) The nature that is crude and can be intense only by being angry; 5) Last of all the sense of being fooled which defies every chastening influence.

  1. Habit: To tell a person who often feels incensed for one reason or another that he has a habit of being angry and the movement has no reality, is difficult. To him the movement is all-consuming, very real, uncontrollable. Until he examines how the habit has formed and attempts to remove it by an effort of will, he will not concede that it is easy. Rather this portion of the movement of anger is easier to remove than the other factors. And habit forms the major portion!

    In an attempt to remove anger what matters most is a SINCERE desire. If one decides to get rid of anger, it means he commissions his mental will into action against a vital movement (vital means nervous and anger is a movement of the nerves). Mind is the most developed part of man and will is the most powerful part of the mind. It is natural that a higher part is effective against a lower part. Once this decision is made, the removal is a matter of time. Still one has to give a conscious cooperation to the Will in action by loosening the various threads of the knot that is anger. If one examines an act of anger and considers only the habit part of it, how the habit was formed in the early stages and later organised itself and constantly holds each bit of this gathering habit formation before the Light of the mind, i.e. his decision, it can be seen that like a pile of mud dissolving in the pouring rain, the habit gently but continuously yields. Once all the layers of habit are gone, we will feel the entire anger is gone until the next provocation. On the next occasion, when he gets angry, he can see the roots of anger, its real original force, but its volume and duration would have shrunk a great deal.

  2. Sense of Honour: This second aspect is not so easy as the first to deal with but is certainly easier than the next.

    A certain ethical idealism is necessary to concede the fact that upholding our own honour implies the upholding of another’s honour. One can teach himself though slowly that this sense of honour too is a myth in a higher context of human values. In fact, these aspects of honour creep in subtly as plausible occasions to justify an otherwise unjustifiable indulgence in honour. When these subtle tricks of the human mind are caught and held before the decision to get rid of it, they too will relent.

  3. There are social settings, family situations, personal work atmosphere which get tied with the assertion of the individual. In these settings one loses oneself. Proper examination can remove them.
  4. Crude nature: By looking deeply inwards one can see the roots of this nature and from such depths, a prayer voiced will help remove this part too. If one cannot pray, he can hold it before the mental decision.

    These steps can either be taken step by step or together. TO REMOVE ANGER IS NOT SO DIFFICULT AS TO DECIDE TO REMOVE IT AND TO MAINTAIN THAT DECISION.