From our e-book “We are Here to Celebrate”

man wearing white dress shirt with black necktie

Jim gets irritated very easily. He has very high expectations and is extremely judgmental about others. Everyday, he replays in his head the negative things that others have done and rehearses the tongue lashing he intends to give out. He fails to recognize that his judgmental behavior is the cause of his anger, which seems to be dominating his life.

The constant stress that he puts on his body is taking a toll on his health and his annual health check-up reflects his deteriorating health. Jim judges others but fails to see that he does the same things too. He expects perfection from others but does not see that he himself is not perfect.

All of us have this habit. It is just a question of degree. Whenever we judge others, we need to ask ourselves if we are also guilty of that behavior. In most cases, we are. The divine is in every one of us and if we truly recognize this, we will see others as our equal. The more superior we feel compared to others, the more we suffer from this habit of being judgmental and easily angered.

Being angry and judgmental is a habit. We think that if we remove the person causing the anger from our life, we would be free from anger. But our past tells us that this is very far from the truth. Even if the person goes away, pretty soon, we will find a new target to feed our habit. It is a never ending cycle.

There is a school of thought that says we cannot bottle up our anger and we need to release it. Some take this as an excuse to lash out at others. If we clearly see that all thought patterns are habits, we will know that this cannot be true. If anger dominates us in the office, it will also dominate us at home.  Patience is also a habit. We increase our ability to be patient by increasing our level of awareness. Anger follows a certain pattern.

External or internal stimuli will induce negative thoughts, which in turn stimulate negative emotions. An external stimulus may be the face of an enemy and an internal stimulus may be a memory of a hurtful event.

When negative emotions increase in intensity, we can feel our chest tightening and our breathing becoming shallow and quick. If we are unaware of our anger-stimulating thoughts when they arise, be aware when they manifest in our breath or the feeling in our chest area. Truly feel it and analyse the feeling of anger; and watch it fade away.

This can be easily taught to young children as well. I thought this to my daughter when she was five years old and she could apply it easily. When she was feeling sad or angry, I told her to observe the feeling in her heart. I told her that there is a monster there when she is sad or angry but by observing the feeling, the monster gets smaller and smaller until it disappears. As she observes the feeling in her heart, I will ask her if the monster is getting smaller (in other words, is the negative emotion reducing) and she would say yes. Eventually, when I ask her if the monster is still there, she would say no and her mood will be better.

One of the conditions for anger to arise is the perception that the other person has ill will against us. I will illustrate this with a true story; Jim was waiting in a restaurant and another couple walked in. The waiter immediately brought towels to their table. Jim looked around and noticed that he has not been given any towel. If Jim saw this as a mere oversight by the waiter and ask for it, there would be no problem. However, Jim perceived that the waiter was giving special attention to the couple. He got angry and made a big fuss out of the situation.

Our perception of the mistakes our direct reports make is also a good  example. If we perceive their mistakes as mere mistakes which is common, anger will not arise. If we add our own conditioning into the mistakes for example, if we perceive that our direct reports are being lazy and selfish, then anger will arise.

A friend shared his experience with me which also illustrate the force of perception, “I have been having a different perspective with a coworker on how a product has been priced. I have been making arguments in my mind; sometimes with a feeling of frustration as to why my point is not seen or the other person does not understand the issues enough. Then suddenly, I realized that I owe a lot to the other person. He is in part why I am sitting in my position now. Then I had a feeling of gratefulness and love. The subsequent discussions with that person were not disagreements at all – it was easy and we were finding that we were focusing on common views rather than differences. It is easier to argue your case if you share it with the feeling of love.” His awareness of his frustration created understanding, which loosened the hold of the negative emotion on him. This enabled him to change his perspective of things and turned his negative emotion into a positive one; that of gratitude and love.

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