No more Hatred and Anger

By Desmond Yeoh SC

It is important to differentiate between hatred and anger because we need to apply different antidotes for them. Hatred is directed at a certain individual or group of individuals because they have seriously hurt us or harmed us in the past; or the hatred could have been conditioned into us by our elders such as the hatred towards others of different races or religions. Hatred is a prolonged negative emotion like a pot of boiling water that never cools down. Hatred destroys our peace of mind and mental health. A person filled with hatred is like a person who is taking poison and hoping that the person he hates dies from the poison. It is a silly notion.

We should constantly remind ourselves that harbouring hatred in our hearts only harm ourselves. We cannot have peace of mind if we are filled with hatred because we will be constantly recalling how our enemies have hurt us; replaying the negative incidents in our mind over and over again. We then waste time plotting and scheming to take revenge. Clearly, hatred is also a major obstacle to our spiritual practice. A true spiritual practitioner seeks inner-peace and must learn to let go of hatred, big or small. If we have true conviction in the law of karma, then we can easily let go of hatred because we know (and not only believe) that the universe is fair. There is no need to hit back at our enemies because the law of karma will be their teacher. The law of karma is humanity’s greatest Guru or Spiritual Master.

MatchstickAnger on the other hand is not prolonged like hatred. It is like a matchstick which gives a small burst of fire and then fades away. How long it lasts depends on the length of the matchstick.

There are a few factors which affects our temper. Our health is one factor. We are more easily angered when we are tired and not feeling well. Therefore, at the basic level, it is important to get enough rest and exercise. It is a good to get up early and exercise 20 to 40 minutes before going to work. Exercise can remove stress hormones and stimulate the production of happy hormones in our body. Medical research has shown that exercise is as effective as the most powerful anti-depressant drugs and there is less likelihood of a relapse into depression.

Our expectations can also determine our temperament. If we expect everything to go perfectly, then we are bound to be disappointed and easily angered. Expectation of a perfect day is really not reasonable and is akin to carrying a leaking tank of highly flammable gas everywhere we go. It will only just be a matter of time before we encounter something that can set the gas on fire. Therefore, if we have unreasonable expectations of how the world should be, we need to re-evaluate and adjust them. We should be thankful if we only encountered a few obstacles during the day.

In addition, our expectations must match the situation. If we go into a packed restaurant, we should expect some delays and a drop in the service levels. Perhaps we should also do the same every time we visit a government office. Therefore, we need observe our expectations in various situations every time we get angry and see if it is our unreasonable expectations that is the true cause of our anger.

Having unreasonably high expectations of others can also become a trigger for anger. Parents who expects their children to achieve high results in their examinations and gets disappointed when they do not come home with a string of aces, may fail to see their children’s true talents. Our unreasonable expectations of our children can pollute our love for them and prevents from helping them to achieve their full potential. Instead of motivating them towards their goals, we discourage them by expressing our anger.

Our perception or interpretation of a situation can also determine if we get angry or not. Very often, we assume that our interpretation is correct when it may not reflect the actual situation. An innocent remark may be erroneously interpreted as an insult or disrespectful statement and trigger our anger. Before reacting, it is very useful to step back and remind ourselves that our perception of the situation may be incorrect and there may be many other explanations. We may get angry if a friend scolds us for a small mistake because we may think that he does not value our friendship. However, if for example, we knew that he/she had just lost his job, then would not have gotten angry. In this example, the event is the same for both scenarios but only our interpretation of the event changed.

Whenever we get angry, there is a gap between the triggering event and our reaction. If we are observant enough, we can feel our anger rising and the tightening in our chest area. At that point, if our mind is well-trained, we can focus on the feeling of our anger within ourselves and choose not react. By doing this, we prevent the anger from rising further and avoid expressing our anger in a manner that we may later regret. Actions taken and decisions made when a person is emotionally charged is often unwise. When we do get angry, we should remind ourselves that problems can never be resolved in a fiery argument because both parties will cling on tightly to their views. It is better to just find an excuse to walk away from the argument so that we can some back to discuss the matter in a calm manner.

When we get angry, it is useful to observe the kind of thoughts that triggered the anger. These thoughts are often habitual and we will replay them over and over again. By observing and analysing these thoughts, we take away their power over us so that the thoughts are less capable of overpowering us the next time. Every time we let go of our anger, we increase our self-confidence and ability to quickly let go of anger as soon as it arises. This is how we can purify our karma. Our match stick will become shorter and the types of situations that can get to us will reduce.

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