I remember the first time – well over two years ago now – that my lovely Jem tentatively suggested I might have an anger problem. He was cushioned on the bed with several pillows between him and me and I was outraged. (Clue?!)
I hollered my denial at him: “I DO NOT!” My blood boiled. 🙂
But of course it gave me food for thought.
And it wasn’t long before I realised that my mother and father have always categorised me as angry. Of course, I had never thought of myself as an angry person. And I could go through whole days and weeks without betraying any overt anger. But it was there, bubbling away beneath the surface, racking up injustices, seething with resentment, oozing out in covert ways, while on the outside I smiled benignly and worked very hard at persuading everyone to love me.
I have spent a long time meditating on the causes of that anger, the roots of it, and I now know it has always been there. I do not intend to go into my personal reasons for it here. I am no longer in the business of blame or recrimination, of dragging through the dirt. I have learned, as I have said before, that the buck stops with me. If I feel angry, then it is not because anybody has made me angry but because I have allowed external events to affect me. Not letting them affect me is something that I have only learned relatively recently in the grand scheme of my life. In fact, I’m still working on it – practice, practice, practice. The only person with any power over me, after all, is me. Learning this was a revelation because I have spent an awfully large part of my life feeling hard done by, at the mercy of other people and events, as helpless and impotent (and out of control) as tumbleweed in a bad Spaghetti Western.
Anyway, my point (I usually get there in the end) is this: I am reading (yet another) very good book.
This morning, I read the following paragraph, which made perfect sense to me. You know when you’re really, really cross; the object of your anger has left the room and you stomp after him / her with the clear intention of prolonging the argument and expressing your fury?
“And another thing…” you spit…
“If your house is on fire, the most urgent thing to do is to go back and try to put out the fire, not to run after the person you believe to be the arsonist. If you run after the person you suspect has burned your house, your house will burn down while you are chasing him or her. That is not wise. You must go back and put out the fire. So when you are angry, if you continue to interact with or argue with the other person, if you try to punish her, you are acting exactly like someone who runs after the arsonist while everything goes up in flames.”
Anger: Buddhist Wisdom for Putting Out the Flames by Thich Nhat Hanh